By REX HOGGARD
Freddie Couples will win the Northern Trust Open at 51 years young because after Tom Watson in Scotland and . . . well, Couples at Augusta National, no other venue on the PGA Tour transcends age like Riviera Country Club.
At 7,219 yards, Riviera is one of the few Tour layouts that rewards experience over power, not that Couples is wanting for distance even at his advanced age.
At the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago, he ranked 23rd in the field with a 301-yard driving average.
No, the man who led the over-50 tour last year in putting average has the power and putter to turn back the clock. But what will fuel Couples’ timeless triumph will be his extended resume at equally timeless Riviera.
This week is Couples’ 29th start at the Los Angeles gem – 105 rounds, 19 top-15 finishes, two victories, albeit 18 years ago, and just two missed cuts.
For “Boom Boom” the Riv is every bit the friendly confines and through three rounds he’s just one shot off the lead.
On his way to the golf course on Thursday, Couples told longtime caddie Joe LaCava that he was “playing well.” It was just the third time in his career he’d said that.
Maybe he knew that neither the golf course, nor the game cares how old he is.
By JAY COFFIN
In journalism we’re taught to cheer for no one, cheer against no one but to always root for the best story.
Fred Couples winning the Northern Trust Open at 51 years old would easily be the best story of the week, if not the whole year so far. I hope Couples finds the Fountain of Youth Sunday and wins at his beloved Riviera.
But don’t get your hopes up, because I don’t believe Couples will win. For starters, the odds are stacked against him. His longtime caddie Joe LaCava told reporters earlier this week that Couples' back hurts more than people realize. To think it’ll feel great another day is unreasonable.
There are also 11 others players within five shots of leader Aaron Baddeley, who is at 10 under. That gaggle of players doesn’t include any heavy hitters but it does include several who could be dangerous.
Baddeley has already won twice on Tour and is no slouch. Kevin Na is tied with Couples at 9-under. Na is often thrown into the infamous group of best players on the PGA Tour without a victory. Vijay Singh is a shot behind Couples and Na and, at 47, realistically may not have too many more chances to win. He hasn’t won since 2008. Robert Allenby, Stewart Cink, J.B. Holmes and Justin Rose are all Tour winners and capable of collecting another on Sunday.
My heart hopes Couples does the unthinkable, but my gut tells me it won’t happen.
Can 51-year-old Fred Couples win the Northern Trust Open
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president