Putter Fails Couples in Bid for History

By Associated PressApril 9, 2006, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Couples was tied for the lead and chasing Masters history when he stood above a little 4-foot birdie putt at the second hole.
 
He drew the club back, then propelled it forward. The blade tilted ever so slightly before striking the ball. It never had a chance, skidding past the cup on the right side by a good inch or two -- a push, they call it, and a bad one at that.
 
Fred Couples
Fred Couples couldn't make putts when it mattered most Sunday.
A sign of things to come.
 
Time and time again, Couples put himself in position to challenge Jack Nicklaus' 20-year-old record as the oldest champion in Augusta National history. At 46, he had no trouble keeping up with the young guys off the tee. His iron shots were just as accurate. But things went awry when his caddie pulled that putter out of the bag.
 
He began the afternoon just one stroke behind third-round leader Phil Mickelson. Couples was three shots back at the end, shaking his head after a 1-under-par 71 that could have been so much better.
 
All he could do was watch coming up No. 18, a mere spectator in the final group as Mickelson lumbered away with his second green jacket. Couples remains stuck on one, an increasingly distant memory from way back in 1992.
 
Considering his age and bad back, who knows how many more chances he'll get.
 
'I didn't hit the ball like I was 46,' Couples said, sounding optimistic. Then, back to reality. 'I putted like I was 66,' he added.
 
Couples missed at least five putts from inside 10 feet on the icy, dicey greens of Augusta National. He three-putted three times. Despite all his experience on the hallowed course -- this was his 22nd Masters and he's never missed a cut -- he never figured out all the subtleties of the most treacherous short grass in the game.
 
'I felt like at least from tee to green, I was close if not maybe a little better today than these guys,' Couples said. 'But to win this thing, you've got to putt well. I wasn't horrible, but I was just mediocre. I just couldn't get one to go in the hole to get any momentum. That was disappointing. Otherwise, I liked the way I played.'
 
He trailed Mickelson by a mere stroke when they came to Amen Corner. Couples reached the green in two at the tricky 11th, though he still had 40 feet of work to do. He lagged the putt down to within 4 feet and waited for Mickelson to go.
 
The leader had a longer putt and the nagging thoughts of three straight bogeys on that hole. But Mickelson put it right in the hole, then stepped back to watch Couples. His ball caught the left edge, spun all the way around the back of the cup and rolled back toward him.
 
Couples poked at the green with his balky club, as if trying to find something -- anything -- that might have knocked the ball off line. Then he swept it across the grass, knowing all too well who was to blame.
 
'That took a lot of the steam out,' he said.
 
Mickelson had a two-stroke lead and Couples never got any closer, though he wasn't truly done until two holes later -- oddly enough, as he was coming off his best putt of the day, a 15-foot birdie after a great save out of the creek at the par-5 13th.
 
Couples had 4 feet for birdie and a chance to put some heat on the leader, who parred the hole. But he struck his putt much too hard, the ball skidding across the lip of the cup. He had 5 feet coming back -- and missed that one, too.
 
Then, in a rare mea culpa for a golfer, Couples admitted he couldn't handle the pressure of such a big putt. He no longer has the mental edge he did when he subjected himself to the week-to-week heat of the PGA Tour.
 
'I felt like I needed to hit it firm at 14. I was nervous and I got a little jumpy. I hit right through the break,' he said matter-of-factly. 'That was pretty much the ballgame for me.'
 
Couples had to use his putter for nearly half his shots -- 34 out of 71. Only Darren Clarke did worse on the green, putting 37 times on his way to a 77.
 
If Couples had been more accurate with the short stick, he surely would have given himself a lead on the front side. After missing his birdie chance at the second hole, Couples put himself back in position to grab the lead for himself with an uphill 10-footer at No. 3 -- about as easy a chance as one gets on these greens.
 
It missed.
 
Couples reached the green in two at the par-5 eighth, but couldn't take advantage. He misjudged the speed on a 50-footer over a ridge, the ball stopping 12 feet short of the cup. Naturally, it didn't fall, forcing him to settle for a disappointing par.
 
Mickelson made a birdie on that hole and never looked back.
 
'There were just so many good shots on the front nine,' Couples said. 'I could have done a lot to separate myself and get ahead of Phil. Anytime you're ahead, it's a heck of a lot easier. But I never did that. We were tied most of the time.'
 
At the end of a long, long day, Couples was stuck in a five-way tie for third.
 
There wasn't much more to say.
 
'You cannot miss putts,' he said, 'and win tournaments.'
 
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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.