Couples Easing Back into Career

By Associated PressNovember 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
For the first time in five years, a week in November will go by without any tournament sanctioned by the PGA TOUR.
Not to worry.
The new FedExCup did not kill off the silly season, which arrives later this month when the LG Skins Game celebrates its 25th anniversary and marks the return of Fred Couples to competition.
Couples is the undisputed king of the silly season, a title he doesn't mind as long as it's mentioned in November instead of March. He has earned more money in his career at the Skins Game ($3.9 million) than the four majors combined ($3.5 million).
Since 2002, he has played 91 times on the PGA TOUR and earned $6.4 million, then played 14 times when the season was over and collected $3.3 million.
Only this year, the silly season has never been more meaningful to him.
Couples, one of the most popular players on the PGA TOUR, has been coping with a faulty back the last 13 years, but this was the first time he wondered if his career might be over.
'I thought it wouldn't be the end of the world,' he said. 'Playing golf is great, and I've done it for 26 years. But the last three years have been horrible.'
Even with a back that could go out at any moment, Couples has managed to play at least 15 times a year (regular season), and five of his 15 victories since he first hurt his back in 1994 have included THE PLAYERS Championship and the Memorial.
This year was different.
He missed the cut at the FBR Open in Phoenix, noteworthy only because he has made the cut 82 percent of the time in his career.
Warming up for the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, his back went out on the first tee at Poppy Hills, and he got the caddie for his pro-am partner -- who happened to be a club pro from New Jersey -- to fill in for him.
He had to withdraw from the Nissan Open, a tournament he had played every year since 1981 and won twice. It was a struggle to get to Augusta National, and a minor miracle that he made the cut on the number, but only because the course was so difficult. Couples shot 76-76 and made it to the weekend through the 10-shot rule. He remains the only Masters champion to have never missed the cut.
Stretching, twisting and massaging his back at every turn, he closed with a 71 and tied for 30th.
That was April 8. And that was his last competitive round.
It got so bad that Couples contemplated surgery, and only after he sought more opinions did he decide against it.
'Other years, I've missed some events,' he said. 'But the last few years, I would go to my knees, I can't move, I'm locked up. I'm somebody you see when they're crunched over. It gets to be a week before you walk around, a week or two to get feeling decent, then practice, then go to Bay Hill and play horrible. It stinks.'
It seems odd that no one has seen Couples since the Masters.
Even when he's not contending, he has a presence on the golf course that endears him to fans and players around the world.
Maybe this was just a coincidence, but at the British Open one year, the practice range was divided with European players on the right side and American players on the left. Couples sauntered onto the range and took a spot in the middle of the Europeans, and the chatter and laughter picked up immediately.
'It's been strange not to see him. He's a blast. Rocks are flying when he's around,' Justin Leonard said. 'But it's not like you can pick up the phone and call him.'
That was a reference to when Couples famously said that he doesn't answer the phone because 'I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.'
He called last week while driving back from Waco, Texas, where he has been seeing John Patterson, a back specialist whose clientele includes Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and Houston Rockets guard Tracy McGrady.
'I wasn't horrible, just a little crooked,' Couples said. 'He loosened me up and I'm heading back to practice and start playing. You want to talk about the Skins Games? I hope with two weeks of good practice, I won't embarrass myself. But I haven't play any golf.'
That he's even practicing is good news.
He went to Hawaii with his family in June, tried to hit balls and his back went out. He tried again in July, got excited about how he was playing, then went to Arizona to try to prepare for the PGA Championship.
'I went out in the heat of the day and lasted only a handful of holes,' he said.
There has been progress, however small. He played a corporate outing at The Olympic Club in August. He played a member-guest at Gozzer Ranch in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, five nine-hole matches over three days, and finished second behind Andrew Magee.
'This might be my last hurrah,' Couples said. 'If this doesn't work, I'll set it down and try to not worry about it.'
The LG Skins Game will be played over Thanksgiving weekend at the new Celebrity Course at Indian Wells, and Couples will be going up against defending champion Stephen Ames, Masters champion Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich.
This will be the 14th time Couples has played. He has won it five times. And this was almost the first year he turned down the offer, not comfortable with taking the invitation after playing so infrequently.
Now he's thrilled to be there, even if he has no clue what to expect.
'I'm sure I'll slap around a few good shots,' he said. 'I'm not going to hit fat shots and snap hooks. But I'm a little concerned about trying to hit the right shot. In the Skins Game, there are shots you have to hit it in there 4 feet to have a chance. I don't think I can pull that off. But if I can compete, I'll be OK with that.'
Related Links:
  • News, photos and more for Fred Couples
  • Full Coverage - LG Skins Game
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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.