NAPLES, Fla. – Fred Couples tried to temper expectations a bit before his first full-field event on the Champions Tour.
“People will be watching a lot of us,” Couples said Thursday, a day before the start of play in the ACE Group Classic. “There might be more watching me. But as far as expectations on whether I’m going to win or finish second or be in the last group every single week, I’m pretty smart to realize that to do that, you have to play a lot of golf. There are times when I just don’t do that.”
The 50-year-old Couples is coming off a 37th-place tie last week in the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera. He made two senior starts in Hawaii last month, teaming with Nick Price to finish third in the Champions Skins, then losing to Tom Watson by a stroke in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.
Paul Azinger, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour and captain of the victorious 2008 Ryder Cup team, is making his Champions Tour debut at The Quarry, the tournament’s third site in three years.
“I’m not going to stress about it,” Azinger said. “I’m just going to play the first shot and enjoy it. I think if you put expectations, it’s like the cart ahead of the horse.”
Two-time PGA Tour winner Tommy Armour III also is making his Champions Tour debut.
“I don’t have this preconceived notion that I’m going to come out here and they’re just going to give me money every week,” said Armour, who had back surgery last June. “They’re going to give you money (because there is no cut), it’s just a matter of how much. To make a lot of money, no matter where you play golf for money, you’ve got to play well. They don’t just give it to you.”
Last year at TPC Treviso Bay, Loren Roberts won the event for the second time in four years, birdieing the final hole for a one-stroke victory.
“The way that I finished this tournament set me up a lot for the year,” he said.
Roberts won in 2006 at TwinEagles to become the first Champions Tour player to open a season with three straight victories.