Notes Verplank May Skip Next Month

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KILKENNY, Ireland -- Tiger Woods isn't the only guy coping with an injury at Mount Juliet. Scott Verplank has been battling a severe foot problem since April. He has been grinding it out all year, and some weeks he can get by just fine. This isn't one of those weeks.
 
Verplank shot an 82 in the second round. Walking with a noticeable limp Saturday, he showed plenty of grit with an even-par 72 that still left him 65th in a 68-man field at 9-over 225 at the American Express Championship.
 
'After yesterday, if I wasn't in Ireland, I'd have gone home,' Verplank said. 'I'm just beating my head against the wall here. But I'll tell you why I'm playing. I wake up every day hoping I'm going to be better.'
 
But Verplank might not be playing much longer.
 
He decided not to play next week in Las Vegas, and might not play the rest of the year until the Tour Championship.
 
'I called my wife and said Vegas was not looking good,' Verplank said. 'She said, 'Can't you just come home and get a cortisone shot?' That's her favorite tournament of the year.'
 
But the Tour Championship means a lot, and that was another reason for Verplank to keep grinding.
 
He is 22nd on the money list with just over $2 million, which might be right around the cutoff for top 30 to make the Tour Championship. Verplank stands to earn about $32,000 this week. If he were to withdraw, money from the no-cut tournament would not count toward his official earnings.
 
'Last-place money here might be enough to get me in the Tour Championship,' Verplank said. 'It could be a mistake. But I want to play.'
 
Just his luck, Verplank found out he might be eligible for the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in two weeks, a tradition-rich tournament he has always wanted to play.
 
'I have a history of bad timing, bad breaks,' said Verplank, a diabetic since he was a kid. 'I don't know if it's bad breaks, just bad health. But it just knocks you down.'
 
Still, Verplank manages to keep getting up.
 
FREDDIE AND THE KIDS
Fred Couples can work an autograph line better than anyone.
 
After a 2-under 70, Couples walked over to the iron fence and started signing, looked down a 100-yard row of fans and realized his day was far from over. But instead of walking briskly past the crowd, he bantered with the kids, treating them like long-lost nephews.
 
One of them asked Couples for his visor.
 
'I'll trade you for this one,' Couples replied as he signed the boy's New York Yankees cap. 'This is cool.'
 
A few yards away, he spotted another Yankees cap and asked how many New York fans grew up in Ireland.
 
'I like the White Sox,' an Irish boy said with a smile.
 
'They didn't make the playoffs,' Couples replied.
 
Several kids asked him for balls, tees, a glove, anything he had on them. Couples stepped back, grinned and showed his empty pockets, hamming it up.
 
Another kid asked him to sign a ball.
 
'Whose is it?' Couples asked.
 
'It's yours,' the boy said.
 
'Great caddie I've got,' Couples said under his breath.
 
The one that really stumped him was the boy who said he was 'BEGGING' for his autograph. Couples took the program and noticed his name already at the bottom.
 
'I already signed this,' he said.
 
No matter. The boy wanted him to sign it again, and Couples obliged.
 
SUNDAY FORECAST
Hurricane Jeanne was the reason Nick Price and Vijay Singh stayed home from the American Express Championship. Leftovers from Jeanne might keep everyone else from leaving.
 
The forecast for Sunday is for heavy rain and strong wind - so nasty that the final round will be played in threesomes starting at 8:05 a.m. from both tees with hopes of finishing.
 
Otherwise, the final round will be completed on Monday.
 
DIVOTS
The most erratic round of the day belonged to Yong-Eun Yang of South Korea. He didn't make a par until the eighth hole, went nine straight holes without a birdie and still shot 71. Yang opened with a birdie, made back-to-back bogeys, then reeled off an incredible stretch of birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to be 4 under through seven holes. But he gave it back with a bogey-bogey-double bogey stretch starting on the 11th. ... Justin Leonard, who was in fourth place going into the third round, opened with 12 pars before a triple bogey on No. 13, twice hitting in the water. He wound up with a 77. ... Tiger Woods has never finished worse than a tie for fifth in World Golf Championships that are stroke play. He was tied for eighth going into the final round.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - WGC-American Express Championship
  • Full Coverage - WGC-American Express Championship
     
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