Couples: Riviera 'going to be a blast' with Spieth

By Doug FergusonFebruary 13, 2014, 12:10 am

LOS ANGELES – Fred Couples doesn't talk in circles, but that's generally the path of his conversation.

He can talk about Justin Bieber and Blake Griffin one minute, switch over to the redo of the fifth green at Riviera the next minute, and then wonder why the Champions Tour gets to play Pebble Beach during the prime part of the season.

The 54-year-old Couples went silent when talking about his 32nd appearance at the Northern Trust Open, where he will play the opening two rounds with Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth, his two captain's picks for the Presidents Cup.

Did he realize that Spieth was born a year after Couples won the Masters?

''No,'' he finally replied. ''Wow.''

Couples was equally amazed to learn that Spieth, who won't turn 21 until the end of July, was born two month before Tom Watson was Ryder Cup captain the first time around, in 1993 at The Belfry, where the Americans last won on European soil. The clinching putt came from Davis Love III, a Ryder Cup rookie, who turns 50 in April.


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Back to Spieth.

''He's 20. I'm 54. This is going to be a blast,'' Couples said. ''He's one of my favorites. He walked into that Presidents Cup and he owned the place. He loves Steve Stricker. He played great. There were very few missed shots in that slop.''

And then Couples is off on another tangent.

He received a sponsor's exemption to the Northern Trust Open, which he first played in 1982, so long ago that Watson beat Johnny Miller in a playoff. Tom Weiskopf finished third. Couples tied for 13th with a group that included Gene Littler.

This is one of the few appearances on the PGA Tour that Couples will make, because it's one of the few courses he still feels like he can play reasonably well. The other is Augusta National, and Couples had a chance to win both of them since turning 50.

Why does he love Riviera?

Results help. Couples won twice in the early 1990s. He has 14 finishes in the top 10. He said the greens are small, much like the courses he played as a kid in Seattle. But the course reminds him of Royal Melbourne. It's hard to make the connection from Seattle to Royal Melbourne, but he quickly adds, ''Basically, it's just fun to be here.''

There is a charm about Couples that makes him so popular, and he is regarded by players half his age as the coolest guy in golf.

''I hope I'm that cool when I'm 52,'' Rory McIlroy said a few years ago at the Masters.

Couples was on the practice range an hour before his pro-am time, and he probably hit no more than a dozen or so balls before he teed off. He was too busy talking – pick a subject –and kibitzing with players that most guys from the 50-and-older circuit wouldn't even know.

He showed defending champion John Merrick a photo on his phone of a table named in honor of Merrick, who played at UCLA. ''You're the first Los Angelone to win, Angelonian, Angelean, whatever,'' Couples said.

Then it was time to go, but not before walking over to Kevin Stadler to congratulate him on the Phoenix Open win. First, he had to say something to Keegan Bradley. Couples knows everybody. Everybody knows Couples. And if they don't, they want to.

Nicolas Colsaerts was walking out of the equipment truck when he walked out of his way to greet Couples. They talked like old friends.

''A funny thing,'' Couples said. ''The most disappointed I've ever been was when I played with the Belgium - what is it, Belgium Basher? Bomber? - OK, the Belgium Bomber, two years ago in Dubai. He had to quit after nine. He wasn't feeling all that good. But I got nine holes out of him. These greens are firm.''

The subject changes that quickly.

He really is loving life. He already has won nine times on the Champions Tour, including a U.S. Senior Open. He has been Presidents Cup captain the last three times, all of them U.S. victories, and he still holds out hope a Ryder Cup captaincy is not out of the questions. Players love playing for him.

And he's still a big fan. That's why he pays so much attention to players who weren't even born when he was No. 1 in the world.

''I begin the second half of my life and I'm actually in tune, and I really like a lot of golfers I see,'' he said. ''When I played, I didn't dislike anyone, but I didn't pay attention. When you're out there on Saturday and you're with Nick Price and Greg Norman and John Cook and Nick Faldo, you know who they are. But now I have a lot of interest to see how good these guys are.''

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”