Bad Back Couples Back to Tie Masters Record

By Associated PressApril 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Couples bent backward on the 13th fairway, looking as if he might start doing some yoga right there in Amen Corner. There was a little twist to the left, a little twist to the right.
 
With a bad back that could go at any moment, golf feels more like torture to Freddie the fan favorite these days. He's played all of two competitive rounds this year, and when the pain doesn't keep him off the course, the thought of it does.
 
Fred Couples
Fred Couples won the Masters Tournament in 1992. (WireImage)
No way he's missing this week, though. The Masters is his favorite tournament, Augusta is the course he plays the best. Nothing -- not even a back that can immobilize him for days -- could keep him away.
 
'This is probably the only tournament I'll play all year,' he said after his practice round Wednesday. 'Coming in here, being semi-healthy, making the cut and finishing in 45th place, it normally wouldn't be a great thing. But this year it would be.'
 
Couples has made 22 straight cuts at Augusta National and is the only Masters champion to never miss the weekend. Make it again this year, and he'll tie Gary Player's record for consecutive cuts made.
 
That's a 'huge deal' for him, a mark that speaks volumes about his talent as much as his tenacity. This is not an easy course, certainly not one you can fake your way around, and it's taken its toll on everyone from Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in their primes to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
 
But something about Augusta National brings out Couples' best. He won here in 1992 and has nine other top 10 finishes.
 
And last year, he played in the final pairing with Mickelson. It was the 20th anniversary of Nicklaus' back-nine charge to a sixth green jacket, and while 'Boom Boom' may not be the Bear, fans were thrilled to see Couples doing it at 46, the same age as Nicklaus in 1986.
 
That story line petered out on the back nine, though, and Couples wound up tied for third. Now, he's 47 -- too young to stop playing here, too old to think he's got many more chances to win.
 
'I didn't expect to do anything last year, but I still expect to play well here,' he said. 'But health-wise, if I make the cut, it's going to be hard to play five straight days of golf.'
 
Couples has 15 PGA TOUR titles, and there's no telling how many more he might have if not for his back. Spasms at Doral in 1994 forced him off the course for three months. The following year, he missed another three months. He's had to play a limited schedule in several other seasons since then.
 
But the current pain is like nothing he's ever experienced.
 
'You could be teeing up a ball or getting out of the car and it will pop,' Couples said. 'That's what's getting so frustrating.'
 
He felt well enough to play Pebble Beach in February. But while putting during practice, he went to bend over and that was it. He gave his spot to the guy who was caddying for his amateur partner, left the course and spent the next four days in bed. He was in so much pain, even going to the bathroom was a struggle.
 
When he finally went home to Santa Barbara, Calif., he had to fly with his legs up.
 
He hasn't played an event since.
 
'It's kind of getting to the point where I don't know what I'm supposed to do,' he said. 'There are times where I've swung a club, and that's like a bomb going off. The rest of it, it's just really sharp quick pain in my back, from my chest down.
 
'Nothing hurts (now),' he said. 'I'm stiff and it's kind of hard to stand here. Maybe I'm just getting used to it. It's not throbbing, it's just uncomfortable.'
 
Couples has tried painkillers and he's tried rest, and neither gives him a permanent fix. He'd like to have surgery, but even that's been an ordeal. He's talked to just about every doctor he can find and no one can agree on what he should do. One in Los Angeles said Couples is a perfect candidate for surgery. Others have said he should hold off because he doesn't have pain in his legs yet.
 
'I say what point is that? I'm a golfer, and I can't really play that much golf,' he said. 'I don't know. If I go in and come out and it doesn't work, I'm not playing, anyway.'
 
So Couples does the best he can. For as long as he can.
 
'Luckily it's when I'm 47, not 32,' he said. 'I'm to the point where I think after this there's gonna be a few other things going on and golf won't be one of them. Because I can't keep doing this.'
 
He played the front nine on his own Wednesday, then picked up his friends Jeff Sluman and Davis Love III at the turn, along with Dave Womack, the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.
 
For fans who didn't know about his back, he looked a lot like the old Freddie. One shot was straighter than the next, and he never seemed to hit a bad one. He spent so much time chatting with Love and Sluman it could have been a coffee klatsch, and he stopped on several holes to talk with friends in the gallery.
 
But a closer look showed a less encouraging picture. He did some form of stretching on every hole. Sometimes it was a couple of simple trunk twists. Other times he'd pull his club up and behind his head, or clasp his hands behind his head near his shoulder blades.
 
And as he walked up the steep hill approaching the 18th green, he pulled his knees up high, as if he was doing a slow march.
 
Clearly, this week is hurting him. But not being here, that would hurt worse.
 
'I'm not here just to be here, but next year I'll be 48,' he said. 'I don't feel good. I'm just trying to keep this fun going.'
 
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    Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

    You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

    Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

    In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

    Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

    (All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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    The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

    Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

    What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

    What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

    How old is it?

    It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

    Where is it played?

    There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

    Where will it be played this year?

    At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

    Who has won The Open on that course?

    Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

    Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

    Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

    Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

    This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

    Who has won this event the most?

    Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

    What about the Morrises?

    Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

    Have players from any particular country dominated?

    In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

    Who is this year's defending champion?

    That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

    What is the trophy called?

    The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

    Which Opens have been the most memorable?

    Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

    When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

    Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.