Couples Past His Prime But Win Was Sweet

By George WhiteJanuary 24, 2003, 5:00 pm
It was just 10 years ago, in 1992, that Fred Couples was perhaps the best player in the world. He won the Nissan Los Angeles Open. He won at Bay Hill and he won his only major, the Masters. He was No. 1 on the PGA Tour money list. Only Nick Faldo and Greg Norman could legitimately challenge him.
So much has happened in these 10 years. Freddie blew out his back. It happened on the driving range at Doral. Poof ' and it was gone, leaving Couples writhing in pain where before he was lobbing balls in the Florida sunshine. That same year, 1994, his mother died, then his father. He got a divorce which cost him $52,000 a month. In 1997, girlfriend Thais Bren underwent surgery for breast cancer.
And on top of it all, he finally suffered burn-out. He still had a pretty decent golf game, but years and years of playing finally caught up with his psyche. Sometime around the year 2000, he cut his schedule down to the barest and began living the life of husband to Thais and father to her two children.
Fred, now 43, has come full circle. He is just as attentive a husband and father, but he again is an attentive golfer. If only he could go back to 1998, when he won for the final two times in his career.
One of them was the 1998 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, when he roared up from behind to catch Bruce Lietzke on the last hole of regulation, then got the win on the first hole of overtime. Couples went on to win The Memorial that season also, but there never was anything like his win at the Bob Hope.
Lietzke was 46 years old and long into his reduced schedule at the 98 Hope. But he played flawlessly, as he nearly always did when he reached his 40s. He and Andrew Magee traded outstanding round after outstanding round, and at the end of 72 holes, they were tied for the lead at 25-under par.
Couples was three shots back but tied for third place, doing just well enough to get in the final threesome. And when he three-putted the third hole he was five shots behind. I figured I was about done there, he said.
Something happened at the ninth hole, however, which was an omen for what was to come three hours later. A Couples drive was heading out-of-bounds, burying him with finality, when it suddenly bonked into a cart driven by announcer Roger Maltbie. And from there Fred was able to make birdie, saving himself three shots. Then he came out of a backyard on 14 to birdie again. Now he was tied with Magee, one shot behind Lietzke.
He was still trailing by a shot when they got to the 90th hole. But it was there that Couples hammered a 3-wood onto the putting surface at the par-5 hole while Lietzke came up short. Couples two-putted for the tying birdie, while Lietzke missed a 12-footer, taking a par and then heading back to 18 for the playoff.
Back they went to the 18th tee, with very nearly identical results as the final hole of regulation. Again Lietzke couldnt reach the green. Couples put his second close to the green ' this time from 250 yards with a 3-wood.
Lietzke came up to within 15 feet with his fourth shot. Freddie had gone into the bleachers near 18 on the second shot but got a free drop. With his third, he lobbed the ball to within three feet.
Lietzke missed the 15-footer, leaving Couples the potential birdie. Fred rammed home the short one, making him the winner.
Related Link:
  • Fred Couples' Bio
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.