Notes Couples Misses First Cut

By Associated PressApril 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Couples has to come up with something else to do on this Masters weekend.
 
The 1992 champion missed the cut at Augusta National for the first time Friday, ending his consecutive cuts streak at 23. His streak, interrupted only when he didnt play in 1987 and 1994, had tied a record set by Gary Player from 1959-82.
 
Its been a long time, he said. Its been fun.
 
Couples, who had been the only Masters champion never to miss a cut, came to No. 18 needing a birdie to make the weekend, and he gave himself a great chance with a 10-footer above the hole. But he missed it by inches, and immediately looked skyward as the crowd groaned.
 
When I hit it, I thought Id made it, he said.
 
Instead, his even-par 72 put him at 4-over 148 and one stroke above the cut line. The top 44 and ties play the weekend, and he tied for 46th.
 
I thought if I could birdie a few holes, itd be close, Couples said. I needed one more.
 
Couples wasnt the only big name to miss the cut. Sergio Garcia wont be shedding the best player to never win a major tag this week, finishing at 4-over with Couples, three-time major champion Ernie Els, Luke Donald and Augusta native Charles Howell III. Rory Sabbatini kept the Par 3 Contest curse going, finishing at 5-over 149.
 
Steve Stricker (150), and former champions Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal (151) and Ben Crenshaw (152) went home early, too.
 
Couples had to scramble to make the cut last year, but that was when his back was aching so badly hed played only two competitive rounds coming into the Masters and was practically doing yoga between shots to keep himself loose. He arrived in far better shape this year, fresh from a tie for fourth at the Houston Open last weekend that was his best finish since tying for third at the 2006 Masters.
 
But he got off to an ugly start Thursday with a bogey on No. 1, and things never really improved. He shot a 4-over 40 on the front nine and finished with a 76, leaving him too much work to do Friday.
 
As well as I played last week, I think I set my sights a little high yesterday, he said. I went out and I struggled and I tried to hit better shots than I could, and I went from 2-over to 3-over to 4-over, and youre kind of done.
 
Couples was greeted with cheers of Go, Freddie! and Have a good one, Freddie! after he teed off on No. 1 Friday. But he could never get anything going, not making a birdie until the par-5 13th.
 
Youre not going to shoot good scores if youre not making a few birdies out there, he said. Theres a lot of hard holes and youre going to make bogeys.
 
He wont be making anything this weekend. For the first time in two-plus decades, Couples wont be around.
 
Im kind of disappointed in that. But Im really disappointed with the way I played, he said. The streak is part of the deal. But now its gone.
 
NOT ME: Jose Maria Olazabal wants to play in the 2010 Ryder Cup, not make out the lineup.
 
Olazabal denied a report Friday that hed been asked to be the European captain in 2010. He said he did discuss the job a few weeks ago with Henrik Stenson, who is on the players committee. But it hasnt been offered and Olazabal certainly hasnt accepted it.
 
We just had a little chat, nothing serious. The job was not on the line, the two-time Masters champion said after missing the cut by four strokes.
 
Im 42 years old. If I didnt think I could play in two years, I should not be here, Olazabal added. If I get healthy, I still feel I can play some golf. The captaincy can wait.
 
Olazabal has played in seven Ryder Cups, including in 2006 when he made the team after a seven-year absence. Nick Faldo made him an assistant captain for this years Ryder Cup, which will be played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky'provided Olazabal doesnt make the team as a player, which isnt likely to happen.
 
He missed much of last year because of a back injury, and is slowly working himself back into shape. He shot a 76-75 at Augusta National, and said hell now take the next few weeks off.
 
I feel tired, to be honest, he said. Im going to go home, take a few weeks rest and see how I feel, see if I get any stronger.
 
Europe has won the last three Ryder Cups, winning by record margins the last two times.
 
HONORABLE AMATEUR: Michael Thompson did the right thing, even though it might have cost him a chance to make the cut at the Masters.
 
The amateur called a one-stroke penalty on himself on the 15th hole after he saw his ball move after he had already addressed it. He wound up taking a bogey, then followed with bogeys on the next two holes to end any chance he had of making the cut.
 
It really turned my round, turned the momentum against me, said Thompson, the U.S. Amateur runner-up. It was very unfortunate, but Im sure its happened many a time before here.
 
Thompson might have gotten away with not saying a word. The ball moved so slightly his playing partners didnt notice, and the rules official wasnt close enough to tell.
 
It was his word and his word only'and he turned himself in.
 
He handled himself beautifully, said two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, one of Thompsons playing partners. He claimed that he grounded the club. I didnt see that, but my back was turned, I guess. And it was at a very critical juncture too. Hes looking at birdie and he knows hes right on the cut line, too.
 
You know, when the greens get this fast, a little gust of wind can move the ball. I didnt see him ground the club, but he said he did.
 
The bogey also cost Thompson the low-amateur title. He finished at 7-over 151, a stroke behind Trip Kuehne.
 
But Thompson said hed do the same thing if it happened again.
 
You just have to follow the rules. It doesnt matter how youre playing or whats going on, Thompson said. Stuff like that that happens, but its unfortunate that it happened for me this week because I really wanted to stay for the weekend.
 
PLUCKED ROSE: Justin Roses chances for a green jacket are all wet.
 
The Englishman did his traditional Masters swoon Friday, falling out of contention when he went in the water on 15 on his way to a triple bogey. With a 6-over 78, Rose went from a share of the lead to 10 strokes back.
 
Theres plenty to play for sometimes, even if youre not meant to win, Rose said. But yeah, obviously, its not going to be the exciting weekend I was looking forward to'exciting Saturday, anyway, I was looking forward to.
 
Rose wasnt having a great day to begin with, playing the front nine in 2 over. But it was the par-5 15th that ruined him. He laid up short of the pond on the 530-yard hole'and still put his third shot in the water. He flew the green with his fifth shot and that ball looked like it might go in the water, too, but it stopped short.
 
He finally got on the green with his sixth shot, then two-putted for an 8.
 
A 20-second lapse in concentration. In hindsight, I should have gone for the green, Rose said. I struggled with my concentration today. It was such a long round. Coming in last is tough, and theres a lot of noise going on. Thats what I found really tough coming in. I dont know if I didnt quite work my way around, but I was struggling out there. It was a tough finish.
 
This isnt the first time Rose has blown up when hes been at or near the top of the leaderboard. Leading after the first two rounds in 2004, he shot an 81 on Saturday that matched Lee Trevino for the worst third round ever by the 36-hole leader at the Masters.
 
Oh, and that 78 Friday? It tied 72-year-old Gary Player.
 
PLAYING IT AGAIN: Gary Player wont settle for just one tee shot next year.
 
The 72-year-old didnt come close to making the cut at the Masters on Friday. But he made his own cut with a 78.
 
I said if I break 80, Ill come back next year, said the three-time champion, who bent down and kissed the green as he came off 18.
 
This was Players 51st Masters, topping the record for most played that hed shared with Arnold Palmer. He hasnt been a threat here in years, making the cut only twice in the last 17 years. But he feels as if he can still play, and he loves this tournament.
 
But the fitness fanatic said he will make one change before next years tournament.
 
Im going to increase my weight training, the diminutive South African said. Its really irritating when I cant reach these par 4s.
 
DIVOTS: Defending champion Zach Johnson finally went for a par-5 in two Friday. He had gone the entire tournament'and Thursdays first round'without even trying to reach the longest holes in two. That wasnt my point, going for it. It was just the way I played, Johnson said. It worked. He made birdie. Johnson Wagner, the last person to make the Masters field after winning in Houston last weekend, made the cut. Hes at 2-over after a 76 Friday.
 
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  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: For some, the struggle is real

    By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    They all have stories.

    Tales about the time that they went toe to toe with a future major champ, or maybe even clipped him by a shot. Memories of walking the range just a few short years ago and viewing some of golf’s brightest stars simply as peers.

    The Class of 2011 continues to expand its collective footprint on the national stage, but it extends beyond names like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. In almost every field at every level of professional golf, there are players from that prodigious class, each still straddling the divide between memories of the past and dreams for the future.

    Once junior competitors, they are now young men entrenched in their mid-20s. And while some of their former classmates have already piled up long lists of achievements, dozens more are still fighting for status on the various echelons of golf’s meritocracy.

    Their common goal remains a simple one: join former classmates on the big stage as soon as possible.


    Michael Johnson at the 2016 Barbasol Championship (Getty Images)


    Michael Johnson gets asked about it a couple times per year.

    When The Players Championship rolls around in mid-May, his phone lights up with calls or texts about the time that he topped an elite field on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

    It was the 2010 AJGA Junior Players Championship, and its leaderboard could pass for a current-day PGA Tour event. Spieth was a runner-up alongside Emiliano Grillo, while Patrick Rodgers was seventh. Daniel Berger and Ollie Schniederjans tied for eighth.

    But the man with the trophy was Johnson, who also ended up sixth in the final AJGA/Polo recruiting rankings for the Class of 2011 – ahead of the likes of Grillo, Berger and Schniederjans.

    “Obviously that Junior Players is something I look back on, and it puts a smile on my face,” Johnson said.

    He went on to have a successful career at Auburn, including first-team All-American honors his senior year. A hip injury led to a redshirt season and dropped him a year behind his classmates, but he graduated in the summer of 2016 and quickly turned pro.

    Johnson’s PGA Tour debut revealed just how thin the margin can be between the fast track to stardom and a more arduous battle. Playing on a sponsor invite at the Barbasol Championship, he finished third.

    Officials told him that based on the non-member FedExCup points he earned, Johnson could expect a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals that fall and a chance to play for a PGA Tour card. At worst, he’d lock up Web.com status for 2017.

    But the numbers didn’t pan out as expected, and even after Monday qualifying for the season-ending Wyndham Championship, Johnson knew he had work to do. But he missed the cut by a shot.

    With the top 200 in points qualifying for the Finals, Johnson finished 201st.

    “It was pretty tough, honestly,” he said. “I was on such a high that whole summer and came crashing down pretty quickly.”

    Instead of a shot at the PGA Tour, Johnson tumbled all the way down to the ground floor: the first stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    “It was kind of funny,” he said. “I’d be on the range and my friends would be like, ‘Why are you here?’ I’d be like, ‘Well, I’ve got to go through Q-School, just the same as you.’”

    Johnson played his way up, one level at a time, before ultimately earning his Web.com card for 2017 and retaining it for the upcoming season. This fall he watched on TV as several of the players he beat that memorable week at TPC Sawgrass competed at the Presidents Cup.

    Johnson still awaits his next opportunity, and the confidence that he’ll soon join former classmates on a full-time basis hasn’t wavered.

    “I would say that people, they don’t know how hard it is,” Johnson said. “People are just confused, thinking golf is just a recreational sport and you’re out there having fun. But it’s just like any other sport in that it’s so hard to get into the big leagues.”


    Morgan Hoffmann, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Byron Meth at the 2015 Masters (Getty Images)


    For Byron Meth, the questions always trace back to the 2015 Masters.

    That’s when the winner of the final U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship made his Augusta National debut. As he soaked in the azaleas, Meth asked to join Morgan Hoffmann for a Tuesday practice round. Hoffmann told him simply to turn up to the 10th tee to see who they were facing.

    Their opponents for the day turned out to be Spieth and Brooks Koepka.

    “It was a little reminiscent of our AJGA days, but more so our college practice rounds,” Meth recalled. “We were just hitting shots and telling stories. Just kind of hung out and embraced the day.”

    Five days later, Meth watched the kid from Texas he had known for years slip into a green jacket. Inevitably, reporters wanted to know what sort of spark he had seen from Spieth in their practice round together.

    “Jordan didn’t look any different that day than he did when we were kids,” Meth explained. “But the confidence was definitely way higher because of his success.”

    Growing up in Southern California, Meth’s duels with reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele date back to their high school days. Meth was 26th in the final recruiting rankings, one spot ahead of current PGA Tour player C.T. Pan, and it was qualifying for the Masters that convinced Meth that his game was strong enough to compete on an elite level.

    That belief was quickly reinforced in his first event as a pro, a pre-qualifier for the 2016 Sony Open. He advanced, then went on to Monday qualify for the main event.

    It was success beyond anything that he could have anticipated, but it’s a result that now elicits a sigh.

    “It kind of sounds strange, but Monday-ing into the Sony might have been one of the worst things that happened to me in 2016,” he said. “I made the mistake of having expectations. I thought it was going to happen like that all the time.”

    As many other pros can attest, easy success is either fleeting or entirely non-existent. Meth quickly learned that lesson, and like Johnson became the victim of razor-thin margins. He missed the cut in the first stage of Web.com Q-School by a shot last year, and fell short by the same number this year. In between, he spent his months toiling on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and now faces a similarly uncertain future in the spring.

    The rigors of Q-School do not show favor to former major participants, nor do they offer midseason reprieves for those who fail to advance. Meth is back to the drawing board, fully aware of the uphill battle that awaits.

    But he remains imbued with confidence from his week at Augusta National, a brief stint alongside the game’s best where he had a front-row seat for the pinnacle of Spieth’s career.

    “I asked him that day, ‘It doesn’t look like you’re doing anything different physically than you did when we were kids,’” Meth said. “He goes, ‘I just had an opportunity to play, and I took advantage of it.’”


    Joseph Winslow competing on the 2017 Latinoamerica Tour (Getty Images)


    As one of the top junior golfers in the Kansas City area, Joseph Winslow had a keen eye for other Midwest names on the leaderboard. One, in particular, continued to stand out.

    “I would look at the standings and saw this kid from Avon, Indiana,” Winslow said. “And I was just wondering like, ‘What’s his deal? Why is he winning, what’s he doing?’”

    That kid turned out to be Rodgers, who went on to a decorated career at Stanford and has won more than $4 million on Tour. As the No. 18 recruit in the Class of 2011, according to AJGA/Polo rankings, Winslow saw plenty of Rodgers growing up. But he also ventured south to challenge elite fields that featured Spieth, Thomas and Grillo.

    “I think if you look at the invitationals from late 2010 into 2011, those were probably some of the strongest fields ever in AJGA, junior golf history, when you look at current players today,” Winslow said.

    He committed to Iowa, and as freshman tied for 13th alongside Rodgers at the 2012 NCAAs. Days later, Spieth edged Thomas in a memorable match at Riviera while helping Texas win a team national title.

    The chilly winter weather led him to transfer to the University of South Florida, and Winslow’s first move after turning pro was to qualify for the Asian Tour. But the status he earned didn’t make the extensive travel worthwhile, so he opted to spend his first summer scratching out checks closer to home on the Adams Pro Tour.

    “It was a little bit of culture shock starting out, turning up to golf courses and seeing greens with weeds on them,” he said. “Just stuff that you’ve never experienced before, and that’s part of the life.”

    This year Winslow gained a foothold with status on PGA Tour LatinoAmerica, and he’s been giving his passport a workout ever since. A pro for less than three years, he estimates that he’s already teed it up in 21 different countries in search of a path that will earn him another tee time next to Rodgers.

    “My goal is to be out there on the PGA Tour, playing with the guys I’ve been playing with my whole life,” he said. “We’re just working our way back up, putting in the time that you have to, and take advantage of your opportunities when you get them.”


    Stephen Behr at the 2017 Amateur Championship. (courtesy: Stephen Behr)


    Stephen Behr knew that the sound was just different.

    It was at the 2010 AJGA Polo Golf Classic that Behr, No. 11 in the Class of 2011, looked around him on the driving range and found all the usual suspects: Spieth, Thomas, Grillo, Schniederjans.

    “Berger wasn’t even that good back then,” Behr recalled. “And now he’s a stud.”

    Going through his own warm-up routine, Behr took in the sights. But he listened even more intently, focusing on the sounds of future major champions making crisp contact each and every time. Whoosh. Whoosh.

    And it was the sound that gave him pause, even at age 17.

    “It was just like, it almost made you feel bad about your game,” he said. “You’d watch them hit it and it was like, I’ve got training wheels on and they’re in Ferraris.”

    That realization is a big reason why Behr, an accomplished player who earned All-American honors during his senior year at Clemson, now works as a risk consultant with Ernst & Young. His battles with the stars from his graduating class are now entirely in the rear-view mirror, a wistful recollection of time spent in the arena.

    “I don’t think I ever beat Spieth,” he said. “I think my record against him is like 0-52. I never beat him because his off weeks, I feel like he still finished third.”

    While Behr didn’t turn pro after graduation, his clubs aren’t exactly collecting dust. His amateur ranking based on his final days at Clemson was good enough to gain entry into the British Amateur this summer, and these days the self-described “weekend warrior” carries a plus-3.2 handicap.

    “I can still get it around, man,” Behr said. “I’m just not quite as sharp as I used to be.”

    Behr excelled both in the classroom and on the course at Clemson. Afforded the option of a promising gig in finance with ample on-course networking opportunities, he happily headed for corporate America while some of his former peers were busy racking up trophies.

    “A lot of people, when I tell them that I played with those guys, they think that maybe I just played like in one tournament against them,” he said. “But like, no. I actually played in the same group with them, and competed with them.”

    Behr explained that while his time against such top-tier talent created great memories, it also affected his career choice. Perhaps, he admitted, he might have tried the pro golf circuit had he been a member of the Class of 2010 or 2012.

    Instead, he was constantly flanked on the range by Ferraris.

    Behr still plans to remain active in amateur golf, and next year will take his first crack at the U.S. Mid-Amateur. A win there would earn him a spot in two majors, and perhaps a chance to improve his record against Spieth.

    Until then, he’s able to reflect fondly from an office chair on memorable days gone by.

    “I’m glad I got into those AJGAs and got to compete against them, and see first-hand how impressive they were,” he said. “I think this 2011 class, I’ll look back when I’m a granddad and be telling my grandkids about some of these guys that I got to play with.”