Freddie Returns From Life in Suburbia

By George WhiteApril 28, 2003, 4:00 pm
Fred Couples won again, proving that nothing in life is sure-fire, dead-set, for-certain.
We all thought Fred was content to live the life of the suburban gentleman, doing what most middle-aged gents do when they advance into their 40s enjoy the wife and kids, enjoy the California thing of driving the mini-van to the kids soccer practices, live life a little slower while raking in the fruits of all thse W's in years gone by.
What a surprise, then, that Mr. Couples would win again, long after he was presumed to have put it in coast. The kids have gotten older, wife Thais has gotten used to seeing him lounge around on the couch, the sitcoms have all been memorized. Perhaps he has had plenty of time to reflect back on 1991 and 92 when he won five times worldwide in a six-month period. Hmmm, that wasnt too bad maybe Ill do it again
Freddie is 43 now, and its entirely fitting that he wins again this year. Its the year of the elders ' around the top of the leaderboard Sunday in Houston were Couples (43), Mark Calcavecchia (43), Jay Haas (49), Jeff Maggert (39), Peter Jacobsen (49) graybeards all. The kids have had the door slammed in their faces this year. Old is in, youth is out.
In all honesty, Couples has had a rocky road this past decade. Hes had a terrible back. He had some serious personal problems with a failed past marriage and a tragic end to his ex-wife. He had another failed romance. Both parents have passed away.
Such difficulties would have consigned far lesser people to a life in the easy chair. To his credit, Freddie worked past them all, capped by his journey all the way back to one glorious Sunday in Houston.
He last won in 1998. In 99, he still had six top-10 finishes. In 2000, that number was down to five. In 2001 he struggled along with his high finish a tie for 11th and he was 131st on the money list. In 2002 he had a tie for ninth and a tie for second, but he was 103rd in money. And he had dropped all the way to 157th on the World Rankings.
That was when Couples said enough. He went to see Butch Harmon in Las Vegas this year during the AT&T Pebble Beach in February. The next week, at San Diego, he finished in a tie for 13th. One week later, at LA, he finished seventh. He was 10th at the Players Championship. Then, finally, he broke through in Houston once again.
It was different, Couples said of that first visit to Harmon, hitting balls with a 9-iron and having him say your swing is pretty bad with a 9-iron. As we went to an 8 and then a 7, it didnt get a whole lot better that day. But I started to catch on a little bit
Freddie talks in stream-of-consciousness style, and he finished the sentence with several clauses and prepositional phrases. But you understand what he meant ' he couldnt even hit a short-iron correctly when he went to see Butch. Slowly, however, he began to come around.
Everyone knows that he really wasnt caught up with the whole golf thing when he was winning all those tournaments the first half of the 90s. He enjoyed lots of sports, but he himself was really a reluctant golf star. He was short with autograph seekers, just couldnt see himself as the idol of grown men and women. Many of his peers believe that is why he never quite became the best, simply because he just couldnt tolerate the demands of stardom.
Now, though, hes ready to tackle it again.
I appreciate golf a lot more than I did, he says. I have more fun playing than in the 80s and 90s. There is no doubt.
It's a simple answer - when I played really, really well, I expected to play well. I wanted to win, I won enough. I didn't win a lot, but I won enough (14 times) and seemed to win a few times. But you know, now, I didn't have any goal when I was trying to change this thought process of working with somebody different than Paul (Marchand, his former coach.)
But what happened with Butch is that I knew if I went there, I would continue to go because I didn't want to shame him into working with me two or three times and then - you know - say, Thanks, and I feel better and bye. I want to work with him a lot. And I used to do that with Paul. I had great, great, great success, so the triumphant part of it is that I know I can play.
The jaw-dropping moment in golf this year came in the post-game interview, when Fred broke down in the television interview and couldnt continue. Fred Couples ' crying on television ' at a golf tournament? Slowly, the importance of the moment on Couples began to sink in to the television audience.
I saw (interviewer) Peter Kostis come up. I mumbled a couple of things; then basically wanted to get the hell out of there. I needed to regroup a little bit, said Couples.
As I told (writer) Melanie (Hauser), it's fun to win, but, you know, it's different. I haven't won in five years. I haven't played really well in five years. And I worked hard on my game, and it meshed. And to win, it's a great bonus for Joey (caddie LaCava) and myself and my wife and his family. But, you know, I have a lot of people to thank. That's kind what was going through my mind. Didn't get it out very well.
In truth, not many people who were present Sunday know this Fred Couples. Where hes been the past five years, not many people want to go there. But Sunday he showed that he still has the desire. And hes willing to do the hard work. Maybe theres hope for him, after all.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the Shell Houston Open
  • Bio - Fred Couples
  • Getty Images

    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

    Getty Images

    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

    Getty Images

    Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

    The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

    Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

    McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

    McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

    Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

    “When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

    And that was an offseason event.

    “They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

    As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

    So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

    “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

    Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

    His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

    It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

    There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

    There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

    While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

    There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

    Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

    Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

    He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

    Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

    Getty Images

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

    The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

    Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

    Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

    Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

    Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

    Notables in the field

    Phil Mickelson

    * This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

    * For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

    * He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

    * This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

    Jon Rahm

    * Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    * In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

    * Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

    Adam Hadwin

    * Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

    * In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

    Brian Harman

    * Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

    * Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

    * Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    Brandt Snedeker

    * Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

    * This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

    * Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

    Patrick Reed

    * Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

    * This is his first start of 2018.

    * Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

    (Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)