Couples still hanging around golfs youngsters

By Associated PressDecember 19, 2008, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. ' In an elite field at the Chevron World Challenge, which is loaded with players from the top 50 in the world ranking, Fred Couples can claim he belongs because of his age.
 
Hes still only 49.
 
The oldest player at Sherwood Country Club, whose world ranking has fallen to No. 175, the ageless Couples continues to hang around some guys half his age. Even with a mud-ball bogey on the final hole Friday, he had a 3-under 69 to finish three shots behind Jim Furyk and keep in the mix going into the weekend of Tiger Woods event.
 
I can hang around anybody, Couples said. Playing well is a shock.
 
Some might consider Furyks play to be surprising, given his lack of competition. Taking a break from his four-month vacation, Furyk wasnt nearly as crisp but didnt make any mistakes until the final hole on his way to a 71.
 
Furyk was at 5-under 139, two shots clear of Anthony Kim (70), Camilo Villegas (67) and K.J. Choi (71). Couples and Steve Stricker (71) were another shot behind.
 
I hung in there today, Furyk said. Thats the best I can say.
 
Couples has been doing that longer than most. He was a PGA Tour rookie the year before Villegas was born, and he won the first of his 15 tour titles two years before Kim showed up on earth.
 
Couples was No. 1 in the world until his career was slowed dramatically by back problems, and it got so bad last year that he managed to play only three times. Through it all, his raw talent has kept him in the picture.
 
Even playing only 18 times this year, he nearly made $1 million and easily kept his card.
 
I wouldnt consider myself to be a threat too much anymore, Couples said. But I know I can go around this course because of old habit, and Ive played here and I like the course. So that certainly helps me.
 
If there is such a thing as pressure in the silly season, this is it.
 
Woods lobbied to get official world ranking points for his Chevron World Challenge, but he had to make concessions. Starting next year, the sponsor exemptions must be ranked inside the top 50.
 
Ive played so many times on a sponsors exemption, and Tiger came up the other day and he said, Ive got to tell you something, Couples said. I go, Oh my God, what did I do wrong? He said, You cannot play my tournament next year unless youre in the top 50.
 
What am I, 400th right now?
 
With Couples, its never as bad as it seems it should be.
 
He zipped along still soggy Sherwood with an approach to a foot on the fourth, a two-putt birdie on the fifth, a 5-foot birdie on the difficult ninth hole and was climbing the leaderboard until he found a splotch of mud on his ball at the 18th. It squirted to the right, losing velocity along the way, and he was lucky to escape with bogey.
 
For all the free money being handed out this week from the $5.75 million purse, there was still some grumbling.
 
Villegas got into an animated discussion with a rules official Thursday after getting mud on his ball, and he still coped with it Friday even as he fired off three straight birdies, lost his momentum, then put it back in gear with an approach to 8 feet for an eagle on the par-5 11th. He wound up with the lowest score this week, but was still perplexed by the decision to play the ball down.
 
I dont really get what were trying to prove here, Villegas said. I mean, its 16 guys, the end of the year. Its a fun tournament. Youre trying to show them some good shots, some birdies, and sometimes they dont understand when we hit it 50, 60 yards off target. And its just because of the mud.
 
So what was the difference between a 74 and a 67?
 
I was able to judge a little bit better, he said.
 
The good news for Furyk is that he finally made a birdie on a par 5' Sherwood has five of them. It came on the 16th hole, which he reached in two and lagged nicely to tap-in range to reach 6 under.
 
It only took me 10 tries, he said.
 
His lone bogey came with a pulled 5-iron into a bunker, leaving him a lot of green but a long distance away. He blasted out to a ridge that fed the ball 10 feet by the hole, but he missed the par putt.
 
The only complaint Couples has had this week was getting tested for drugs for the first time this year. He was notified after his round Thursday, and having relieved himself on the 14th hole, it took him two hours to complete the test.
 
I told him I thought at that age it wasnt an issue, Furyk said. But I guess it was.
 

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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''