Still Got Game

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2011, 8:51 am

Northern Trust Open

LOS ANGELES – Fred Couples has more gray hair now.

More aches and pains, too.

His distinctive saunter down the fairways is still cool, but he reminds you what time’s doing to his gait the way he uses that long putter like a walking stick as he approaches the greens.

He reminds you the wear and tear the years have brought his body the way he’s always trying to keep that rickety back loose, the way he hoisted his leg up onto the top of his golf bag to stretch at the seventh tee, the way he’s always pulling a knee up to his chest to loosen up his lower back, the way he'll bend over, hands on knees, through his round.

Yes, Couples, 51, is showing his age at the Northern Trust Open, but only between shots.

When he was over the ball in Thursday’s first round, you could swear he was 30 years old again. His swing still mesmerizes. It’s still as powerful as it is effortless. He’s still got one of the sweetest moves in the game. He showed that time and time again with giant drives in his run onto the leaderboard.

Freddie Couples
Fred Couples looks for his third victory at Riviera in 30 years (Getty Images).

Couples loves Riviera Country Club, and it’s loving him back.

With a 3-under-par 68, Couples is one shot off the lead in the suspended first round. His ball striking was so crisp, he could have fared even better. He missed short birdie chances at his 15th and 16th holes.

Couples was paired with Anthony Kim and Bubba Watson, and he made them look like the old men in the group.

Watson shot 76 and then withdrew, citing a pulled or strained oblique muscle. Kim shot 73. They were spraying shots all over the course while Couples gave a clinic on how to attack Rivera in a tournament he’s won twice (1990, ’92).

“I know this course so well,” Couples said.

So well that a rickety back might not stop him from making a run at winning here for a third time.

“I can swing a club, I just can’t sleep,” Couples said of his chronic back trouble. “It’s like the biggest toothache ever, all day long. I’ve had enough, to be quite honest. So I’m going to see if I can do a couple things to take the pain away.”

Couples piqued the interest of media with that strong statement and others like it. He says he has some special treatment lined up beginning Monday, but he refused to elaborate when prodded.

“There’s a couple things that may happen,” Couples said. “It’s pretty drastic.”

Surgery, however, doesn’t sound like one of the options.

“I would say it’s non-evasive,” Couples said.

Whatever Couples has planned, he says it shouldn’t stop him from playing in the Masters in April.

“It’ll be fun for me to do,” Couples said. “It’ll be different. I’m not even going to tell you because I’d have to take a drug test after I do it.”

Couples found a short-term remedy for what’s ailing his back at Riviera. Birdies. He made five of them against two bogeys.

“This is my 30th year I’ve played this tournament,” Couples said.

Couples tied for third here just two years ago. He was fourth at Riviera four years ago. In a five-year run here in the ‘90s, he won twice and finished second twice.

There’s lots of love for “Freddie” at Riviera, with the galleries rooting him at every turn. The fans can’t get close enough to him. After he hit a shot out of the trees at the eighth hole, a woman rushed out and laid a hand on his back. It seemed to spook Couples a little, but not for long. After hitting the shot to 4 feet, he holed the putt for his final birdie.

Couples looked like he was enjoying a chance to show the younger Watson and Kim that he’s still got game.

“It was fun to play with those guys,” he said.

Couples will be looking to extend the fun deep into the weekend, or as long as his rickety back holds up.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

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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.

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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.

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