Couples: Coolest night of my life

By Randall MellMay 7, 2013, 1:28 am

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – So many mountaintops.

So many different paths leading to them.

Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Willie Park Jr., Ken Schofield and Ken Venturi carved distinctive careers climbing their way to one of golf’s most majestic peaks Monday as the newest class of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village.

Couples, 53, got to the top of the game with a swing as deceptively powerful as his personality.

With an effortless, silky move that belies the strength that earned him the nickname “Boom Boom,” Couples played his way to 15 PGA Tour titles, including the Masters in 1992 and two Players Championships (1984, ’96). He was the first American to go to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Photos: World Golf Hall of Fame induction

Videos: Couples | Monty | Nantz on Venturi

Couples, though, won hearts even more easily than he won trophies, and he showed why in a clever and emotional speech that was classic “Freddie Speak.”

The induction’s importance to Couples was clear in his final words and on his face as he left the stage.

“Thanks for sending a kid from Seattle to the Hall of Fame,” Couples said. “This is the coolest night of my life.”

That final sentence left him in tears.

With his movie-star looks, his easy, unaffected manner, Couples became one of the most popular players of his generation. His appeal radiated beyond his record. He made his fame winning as the coolest guy in golf.

“Every woman wants to be with Fred Couples, every man wants to be Fred Couples,” Montgomerie said before Monday’s ceremony began.

CBS’ Jim Nantz, who was Couples' teammate at the University of Houston, put the sentiment in other words.

“Fred’s the coolest, most casual, and one of the most gifted players the game has ever known,” Nantz said. “The cool thing? He’s never tried to be cool. It’s always been Fred just trying to be Fred.”

Couples set the table after taking the stage to a standing ovation.

“There’s a big question,” Couples said. “How did I get here?”

Couples proceeded to explain that he was 9 years old growing up in Seattle when he caddied for Steve Dallas, his older brother’s friend. Dallas gave Couples a small set of clubs “from some supermarket” with a plastic driver and set of 5-, 7- and 9-irons and a putter, all in a canvas golf bag. Couples took his game to Jefferson Park and “played every day.”

Before he set out to the course every morning with his bag slung around his shoulder, Couples’ mother would give him $5. It was enough for the $3.50 green fees with $1.50 left for a hamburger and a Coke. He joked the daily allowance miffed his sister, Cindy.

“I got an allowance of 35 bucks a week,” Couples said. “She got, I think, $8 a week. But all mine was spent at Jefferson Park.”

Couples choked up briefly in his speech, saying he was 14 when he was inspired to another level watching a mesmerizing pro give a clinic in Seattle.

“The gentleman’s name is Lee Trevino, who has been a mentor and someone I love,” Couples said.

Montgomerie, 49, started his climb to the top growing up in Scotland.

“I started playing at the grand old age of 5 in Troon, Scotland,” Montgomerie told the Hall of Fame gathering. “Mind you, in Troon, that's about all you do.”

Montgomerie was a force on the European Tour, winning 31 events and eight Order of Merit titles, including seven in a row (1993-99). No British player has won more European Tour titles.

“In many ways, Colin Montgomerie is the European Tour,” European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady said. “He brought drive, passion and commitment to the game, but more than anything, he brought leadership.”

Montgomerie never won a major championship, but he was a Ryder Cup star.

“The Ryder Cup is really Europe’s second major,” Schofield said.

With a stellar 20-9-7 record, Montgomerie helped Europe win five of the eight Ryder Cups in which he played. He was never beaten in singles (6-0-2).

“I hate to lose,” Montgomerie said in his Hall of Fame news conference before the ceremony. “I had a dramatic fear of losing.”

Despite all his success as a player, Montgomerie said his proudest achievement was leading Europe to a Ryder Cup victory as the team captain at Celtic Manor in 2010.

Venturi, 81, won 14 PGA Tour titles with the highlight of his career coming in his victory at the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1964. In 100-degree temperatures, with heat exhaustion plaguing him, Venturi staggered to the win over 36 holes on the final day. He would make another mark on the game as a CBS golf analyst for 35 years.

Unable to attend the induction ceremony, Venturi is recovering from surgery and an infection in his spine. He is hospitalized in Palm Springs, Calif. Nantz spoke for Venturi.

“I love Ken Venturi as a friend and a mentor, and I'm heartbroken he's not standing here right now,” Nantz said. “I think most people know, Kenny has been ill for some time now. He's been in the hospital out in Palm Springs for two months. However, I'm going to tell you, the prognosis is still good. He can get through this. I really believe it in my heart.”

Venturi’s son, Matt, said his father is eager to accept a World Golf Hall of Fame offer to make his speech next year.

Schofield, 67, one of three Scots inducted Monday, became the European Tour’s executive director in 1975 and reigned until 2004, a time of unprecedented growth for the tour. When Schofield came aboard, the European Tour schedule featured just 17 events. There were 45 on the schedule when he retired. He also oversaw the creation of the European Challenge Tour and the European Senior Tour.

Schofield also steered the European Tour toward global expansion, opening doors that would lead the tour to Africa and Asia. Schofield took the tour off the continent for the first time in 1982 with the start of the Tunisian Open.

Schofield credited rising European stars such as Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam and Montgomerie for helping him build the tour.

“To be nominated through the lifetime achievement category into the Hall is the proudest moment of my professional career,” Schofield said.

Park Jr., a Scot who died in 1925, won the British Open twice. He’s the son of World Golf Hall of Famer Willie Park Sr., who won four British Opens, including the inaugural championship in 1860. A pioneer in club and ball design, Park Jr. made his mark beyond that of a player. He was also an architect and writer.

“Think families, and you think of Davis Love, father and son; the Harmons, Claude and his precocious progeny,” said John Hopkins, The Times of London golf writer who presented Park for the family. “You think of the Allisses, Percy and Peter. Perhaps you think of Old and Young Tom Morris and Willie Park Sr. and Jr., the Montagues and the Capulets of their time, at least as far as their rivalries were concerned.

“The Morrises won more Opens than the Parks, eight to six, but in challenge matches between the two families, it was the Parks who gained the upper hand.”

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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”