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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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”