Love Affair Couples and Augusta

By Randall MellApril 8, 2011, 11:55 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – You get the feeling every time Fred Couples steps over a shot, his caddie holds his breath.

Joe LaCava can practically hear vertebrae straining when Couples moves over the ball at the Masters this week.

How bad is Couples’ ailing back?

Asked if he arrives at Augusta National in the mornings wondering whether Couples will show up, LaCava says it’s worse than that. He wonders through a round whether Couples’ back will give out.

“I wonder over every shot,” LaCava said. “He still may not make it over the weekend. I’ve seen it happen. Sometimes just leaning over, it explodes and he’s done.”

Fred Couples
Fred Couples acknowledges the patrons Friday at the Masters. (Getty Images)
Couples has found a remedy better than the medicinal injections he took to get ready for this Masters. At 51 and halfway through the competition, Couples is giving himself a chance to become the oldest winner of a major championship. The endorphins that possibility sent throttling through his body left him beaming after Friday’s 4-under-par 68.

“Could I win?” Couples said. “Of course.

“Today was a great round to make it a thrill-seeking Saturday for me.”

But with his age and back working against him, Couples knows the odds are steep.

Couples hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since the 2003 Shell Houston Open. Still, he is dreaming big.

“It would be the biggest upset in golf history,” he said. “Are you kidding me?”

Julius Boros is the oldest winner of a major. He was 48 when he won the PGA Championship in 1968.

With 21-year-old Rory McIlroy leading the Masters, Couples is reminded the challenge ahead every time he looks at the leaderboard. McIlroy was 2 years old when Couples won the Masters.

If Couples pulls the upset . . .

“It might mean everything to him,” LaCava said. “You might never see him again if he wins, but there’s a long way to go.”

LaCava might not be kidding.

Asked how monumental winning would be, Couples said it might launch him into retirement.

“I would be gone,” Couples said.

Just watching Couples make his way around Augusta National can make your back hurt. He looks like he’s doing rehab between shots. The way he is always twisting his torso, pulling a knee to his chest, plopping a leg up on his golf bag, you can see him desperate for relief.

When he's pegging his ball at a tee box, or leaning over to pluck it out of the cup, he looks more like he's 81 than 51.

“It’s been pretty much a toothache,” Couples said.

But over shots, even the short irons that most hurt him, Couples is transformed. He still posses one of the sweetest, smoothest swings in the game.

Walking Augusta National’s fairways, he’s still got that movie star’s saunter, the coolest walk in golf.

He’s still got that winner’s swagger.

“It’s not out of the realm of possibilities,” Tom Watson said of a Couples victory. “It can work. Freddie knows the golf course very well.”

The challenge, Watson hints, will be putting without a young man’s nerve.

“Jack [Nicklaus] said it right,” Watson said. “He said this is a young man's golf course, as far as nerves, on putting. Length has its advantage, though. And it makes some of the par-5s into par-4s. Freddie's got that advantage.”

Steve Stricker will attest to that. He said Couples was blowing drives past him and Luke Donald.

“It would be scary if he were healthy,” Stricker said. “He hit a couple shots where he groaned.”

LaCava was there the day in 1994 when Couples was first stricken with back problems. He watched Couples crumple on the driving range before the Doral-Ryder Open. Couples has battled back pain on and off ever since.

At last week’s Shell Houston Open, Couples looked questionable for the Masters. But he received some injections before the event that were designed to kick in this week. He’s also downing doses of Aleve.

“Here, I would be playing even as a cripple,” Couples said. “I love this place.”

The love affair reaches new heights if Couples makes history slipping on another green jacket on Sunday.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

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.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

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

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

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.

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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.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm