Couples Turning Back the Clock

By Associated PressMarch 13, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Fred Couples made four birdies in his opening six holes, shot 5-under 65, and golf finally felt fun. Tiger Woods couldnt hit the green with a wedge, struggled to shoot even par, and he finally looked human.
 
The Arnold Palmer Invitational delivered a few surprises Thursday, none bigger than the 48-year-old Couples booming tee shots, taking only 23 putts and finishing atop the leaderboard with J.J. Henry.
 
This doesnt make me the guy to beat, Couples said. If I can play like that, it makes it a lot easier. When you birdie four out of the first six holes, theres not much that can bother you.
 
In three previous trips to Bay Hill, Henry had never done better than 71. He played under warm sunshine without a bogey, making four birdie putts outside 15 feet.
 
I feel like Ive been close, he said. And today, finally, everything clicked.
 
They were a stroke ahead of defending champion Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Tom Lehman and Lucas Glover, who got a pep talk from friends to quit being so hard on himself. Despite consecutive bogeys, Glover kept his cool and ended a streak of eight consecutive rounds without breaking 70.
 
For Couples, it was his best score at Bay Hill since a 63 in 1992, the year he won this tournament and was No. 1 in the world.
 
Woods is the worlds No. 1 player now, having won every tournament he has played since September. It sure didnt look that way after a birdie on the opening hole. He missed one green with a pitching wedge, another green with a sand wedge, and settled for a 70 that left him five shots behind, but not in awful shape.
 
He didnt make a lot of putts, and Woods attributed that to the each green having a different speed.
 
But he took some of the blame.
 
You had to make adjustments on the fly, he said. It would have helped if I hit more greens. I never gave myself a chance to make putts. I missed two greens with a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. I dont ever do that.
 
Woods headed home to sort it out, not overly bothered by his worst start since the Deutsche Bank Championship, which was the last time he failed to win. Besides, only 33 players managed to break par. Phil Mickelson opened with a 72.
 
Couples woke up early Thursday and began visualizing his round, figuring out where would be his best chances at birdie. He didnt see too many of those holes in his head, but it was a different story on the golf course.
 
Playing aggressively with a driver he could trust, Couples rarely had more than wedge into the green, and the suspect condition of the putting surfaces' they are recovering from a worm disease'didnt bother him in the least.
 
Im not saying theyre bad, Couples said. But I think Im a good putter when theyre not ideal.
 
After hitting some 30 yards over the green on the par-3 14th and saving par, the guy once known as Boom Boom ripped another tee shot over the corner on the 15th for a wedge into about 10 feet for his fourth birdie. His only bogey came on the par-3 17th with a shot into the bleachers.
 
And he almost dropped one at the end of his round.
 
Surrounded by trees right of the eighth fairway, where a pond guards the front of the green, Couples looked cool as ever. He studied the top of the trees, looked to the right of them, under them and out to the fairway, the whole time studying his options as if he were admiring a piece of art.
 
He finally selected an 8-iron, and while it clipped a twig, the ball had just enough distance to clear the water. He chipped to 8 feet and saved par, and kept gliding to the end of his round.
 
I took 10 minutes to hit it, but I kept trying to visualize just getting over the tree'not where I got it way up over it, so high and not far enough, he said. I think it clipped a leaf, or clipped something. I smoked it, and it was a yard from being in the water.
 
Couples has not seen his name on the leaderboard since his back-nine duel with Mickelson at the Masters two years ago, when Lefty won his second green jacket. Couples gave him a good run, describing his chances as only he can.
 
I just couldnt match him when the nitty-gritty was nitty-gritty, he said.
 
Of course, Couples hasnt had a ton of chances since then. He played only twice in the regular season a year ago because of a back injury so severe that he contemplated life without golf.
 
This is his sixth start of the year, however, and while he knows his back can go at any moment, hes relishing the times he plays well.
 
My back will go out and when it does, Ill know. And where I hit the ball, everyone else will know, Couples said. But as far as worrying about it, theres not much you can do.
 
Couples was appointed Presidents Cup captain for 2009 earlier this month, and hes still fired up about that. Most everyone believes hell be a good one, someone who brings a relaxed atmosphere from the team room to the golf course.
 
Woods has played with him in the matches, and he has been paired with him on the weekend, and he sees another side.
 
Hes a lot more tense than people think, Woods said. You see how he walks, his mannerisms. But below the surface, its raging pretty good.
 
Divots
 
Mickelson signed an endorsement deal with Barclays Couples figures there are two directions John Daly can go after getting fired by swing coach Butch Harmon and criticized for his social behavior. He can read all this stuff and say, The heck with it. Or he can read all this stuff and say, Maybe theyre correct, Couples said.
 
Related Links:
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    Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:32 pm

    SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

    He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the early 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

    ''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

    Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

    Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots out of the lead among those who played Friday morning. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, might have a long stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and was outside the cut. He was in jeopardy of missing his second straight cut, depending on afternoon scoring.

    Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

    The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

    Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

    ''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

    The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

    ''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

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    Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

    RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

    Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

    ''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

    On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

    ''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

    Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

    ''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


    Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


    Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

    ''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

    Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

    First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.

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    Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

    By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

    Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

    Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

    As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

    • “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

    • "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

    • "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

    • “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

    So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

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    Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

    RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

    Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

    The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.


    Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


    Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

    Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.