Coupling up in Ponte Vedra

By Golf Channel NewsroomMarch 18, 2002, 5:00 pm
Fred Couples has been in the news lately, but its not been because of his golf game. Instead, the 42-year-old from Santa Barbara, Calif., has been busy trying to launch the proposed Majors Tour.
 
He's been shaking things up in a big way. It wasnt that long ago, however, that Couples was shaking things up with his sticks.
 
He won twice in 1998, at the Hope and the Memorial, and his last win before that season came in 1996 at this weeks event, the PLAYERS Championship. Couples fired a final-round 64 on that occasion to better one of golfs strongest fields by four shots. He became the first player to ever win the event twice at the TPC at Sawgrass (his first victory came in 1984).
 
This was Couples at his finest, playing phenomenal golf over one of the worlds best tracks. He had done it many times before in his career and this time was no different.
 
Neither was his performance at Muirfield two years later ' again, it was Couples by four at the end of the show.
 
There hasn't been much since, however. He was 56th on the money list in 99 and 47th in 00, and last year had a really tough time of it. Couples finished 2001 with no top 10 finishes and he missed five cuts of the 19 events he played. He wound up with just $386,000 in earnings to finish 131st on the money list.
 
Couples has done OK for himself in recent times, however. No, hes not tearing up the charts as he once did, but he is showing signs of improvement.
 
So far, Couples has played in six events in 2002, and so far he has made six cuts. In those six tournaments, Couples has been outside the top 22 finishers on just two occasions. At the Nissan, he scorched Riviera with a final-round 66 to finish ninth. Overall, he has made $230,000, his rank hovering around 50th.
 
It would seem a funny time for Fred Couples to be advocating a new tour for players his age and with his major credentials. Seems like his game is coming around fine. And with a swing like his and his length off the tee, you would think that he of all people could hang with the young guns.
 
The following is a list of players who won at least one tournament on the PGA Tour in 2001. They are all in their 40s: Mark Calcavecchia, Scott Hoch, Hal Sutton, Kenny Perry, John Cook, Tom Pernice, Jr. and Joel Edwards.
 
Does anyone think for a second that Fred Couples cant hang with these fellows? Does anyone think for a second that the only way Couples can win these days is on a tour with a select field?
 
Probably not. Chances are, hes still perfectly capable on any tour.
Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

<
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.