Fan favorite Freddie back
If a 53-year old Greg Norman can contend at the British Open and draw the superlatives of fans around the globe, then perhaps, the most significant entry into the field at this weeks RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey is fan favorite Fred Couples.
Like the Shark last weekend, Couples, 48, will need to catch the galleries off-guard with his play, but being able to contend is not that outrageous since he has three top-10 finishes in 12 starts this year, including a tie for fourth at the Shell Houston Open in April.
The last PGA TOUR victory for Couples, who has missed just two cuts in 2008, came five years ago at the Houston Open, but no matter what happens during this soggy Canadian Open, Couples is likely to spark a few Fredd-ie, Fredd-ie chants just like old times.
I grew up in Seattle, so Ive been to Vancouver a lot. I think the people, they all make the event and the galleries are huge at the Canadian Open, said the 1992 Masters champ.
Its nice to see that theyre moving it. They played at Shaughnessy (in Vancouver) -- I wish I would have played. I hear (2005 champion Mark Calcavecchia) calling it one of the greatest courses hes ever played.
So familiarity does not breed contempt in Couples relationship with this country, but success has also softened him after winning the Canadian Skins Game five times and pocketing a cool $1,140,000 in nine appearances.
There are other fond memories, too.
One of my first years playing up here, playing with (Jack) Nicklaus, which was amazing early in my career and then, obviously, some good Skins Games and winning those, he said.
With that in mind, Couples says nothing should be read into the fact that he has been absent from the Canadian Open since 1995, when he tied for 34th at Glen Abbey. He has played nine Canadian Opens with his best performance a second-place finish in 1993.
I like the Canadian Open, he said. Oddly enough, Ive never played the Canadian Open outside of this golf course. Ive had great memories here and Ive never really done well with a chance of winning, but Ive usually played pretty decent here.
I think were here again next year, so Ive got one more year to play in this thing and then, maybe theyll have a Champions (Tour) event here.'
Over the past couple of seasons, Couples has been plagued by health problems. In late 2006, he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his right arm that hospitalized him after tying for third at the Masters that year.
Last year, back problems limited Couples to just three official events and he didnt play a tournament after the Masters.
The Champions Tour is on the horizon, but Couples will make one more whirl around the PGA Tour next year before serving as captain of the American team at the Presidents Cup in San Francisco.
I dont want to look past being the captain, he said of his immediate future.
Ill be on the Tour next year, so Ill be playing and seeing some of the guys and doing that. I think towards the end, Ill look forward to the (Champions Tour), but I dont want to look past playing and then, being the captain, he said.
My (50th) birthday is in October, so as soon as the Presidents Cup is over, on Monday, Ill go to Houston and play my first senior event, if I can do it. I dont really want to take a lot of time off and go play poorly in my first one.'
Wherever he ends up on the leaderboard, fans are usually following him and any kind of excitement is good news these days for a Tiger-less Tour.
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Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker
John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.
The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.
That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.
He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.
Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
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.