CAP CANA, Dominican Republic – Fred Couples figures his sizzling Champions Tour start is just a matter of good play and good luck.
“The Champions Tour is good timing for me,” Couples said Thursday after his final practice round for the Cap Cana Championship at Punta Espada Golf Club.
“The PGA Tour was great. I’m probably done with the PGA Tour now; out here I feel like a rookie. I’m excited to play and expect to do well.”
Couples has won his last two starts and is trying to become the first player in Champions Tour history to win three of his first four official tournaments.
In 1997, three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin was in a similar position, winning the first two events of the year en route to a record-tying nine wins that season. Nothing the 50-year-old Couples does surprises Irwin,
“He’s still competing on the regular tour and the fact he’s still playing well and doing well on both tours is pretty amazing,” Irwin said.
“Sometimes you get in that kind of a pattern. Sometimes it is short and other times, like Freddie is in now, it goes for a longer period of time.”
In his last event, Couples won the Toshiba Classic on March 7 in Newport Beach, Calif., shooting 66-64-65 for a four-stroke victory. In his only other Champions Tour starts, he won the ACE Group Classic on Feb. 14 in Florida and was second behind Tom Watson in the season-opening event in Hawaii.
Couples hasn’t had a score higher than 68 and is 56 under in nine Champions Tour rounds. The 1992 Masters champion leads the money list with $691,000 and has made another $114,240 in two PGA Tour events.
Couples said the start reminds him of his 1992 PGA Tour season when he won at Riviera, Bay Hill and Augusta National in a two-month period.
“You have to ride these stretches and then they come to an end,” he said.
He’s No. 1 in driving distance (298.7 yards), a fact that should be an advantage on a course with generous driving areas, testing second shots, and seaside greens that can be difficult to read correctly.
Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer, the Allianz Championship winner in February, holds the course record of 64 and knows the Jack Nicklaus-designed Punta Espada can be a bear if the wind blows.
“There are a lot of challenges, first off the tee, and it’s always windy,” Langer said. “The difficulty is on the greens. It is difficult to get the ball close to the hole for the second shots. You’ve got to control your distance to go low here.”