Entries in Fred Couples (9)


Mickelson: From Ryder Cup pond to 6 straight birdies at the Safeway

By Art Spander

NAPA, Calif. — So it’s back to the PGA Tour, the Safeway Open, where golf once again is a game of strokes and not words. And America’s failure in the Ryder Cup remains in that other wine country, France.

What surfaced again at the Safeway was Phil Mickelson’s game — or at least the most important part, putting.

Phil’s last shot at the Ryder Cup, six days ago, plunked into a pond and gave Europe the winning points. But Thursday, in the first round of the first tournament of the 2018-19 season, the Safeway at Silverado Country Club, Philly Mick birdied six straight holes, 9 through 14, and shot a 7-under 65.

He was two behind rookie Sepp Straka, who is making his first Tour start and shot a spectacular 63, one back of Chase Wright.

Mickelson, reminding us he’s 48 and not quite able to handle monster courses with narrow fairways and high, thick rough, as he encountered during the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National near Paris, was asked about the apparent bickering among American Ryder Cuppers.

Patrick Reed’s wife whined that he was blindsided by, presumably, U.S. captain Jim Furyk, when Reed was separated as a playing partner from Jordan Spieth, with whom he formed a winning pairing in the 2016 Cup.

Then, wham, another anonymous golfer said Reed was full of spit, or something, and the U.S. players were very much involved in the pairing decisions.

If that weren’t enough, then came a report that two of America’s literal big men, the 6-footers Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka — who together have won the last three U.S. Opens — had a punch-out. Fiction, Koepka insisted.

“I don’t know what to say,” Mickelson responded, “because I didn’t see any of that stuff happen. I only saw one of the best weeks and team unities that we’ve had in a long time.”

There’s an adage that you can learn more about a person in a single round of golf than in a month of dialogue. What we seemingly learned about some of the members of the U.S. team is they didn’t so much need a captain as a nursemaid.

“Well, we got outplayed,” a candid Mickelson said Thursday, discussing the result of his 12th Ryder Cup. “I thought we had a great week in the sense we worked really well together as a team in deciphering some things and over the course of 20 years we’re looking at this as a big-picture thing.

“We were 2-8 the last 20 years (the Ryder Cup is biennial). Our goal is take the wins and losses and build on them. We’re having the opportunity to build something special, and so we’ll be judged on how we do the next 20 years. Our goal is to go 8-2, but after losing this time that might not be possible.”

Anything’s possible in golf. Mickelson flew 11 hours to his San Diego-area home from France on Monday, rested, came north to Napa on Wednesday, hit the ball poorly in warm-ups Thursday and shot 34-30.

“I hit it terrible,” Mickelson said, “one of the worst warm-ups of the year. I was hitting the fence on the range. To the left, not straight ahead. But I’ve been putting well, like I can putt. The big thing is making the short ones. Don’t let the good round fool you.”

The real question is: were we fooled by the tales of disaffection among the U.S. Ryder Cuppers? Or is it that the Euros care more about winning the Cup, while the Americans care about winning the majors?

Fred Couples has done both, his major the 1992 Masters. He is 59 and playing the Champions Tour, but as a spectator attraction — Fred always has been one of the more popular golfers — he is entered in the Safeway, where Thursday he shot a 1-over 73.

“I wish they would just leave it alone,” Couples said about the Ryder Cup complaining. “We got smoked, give it a rest. You go down as a team. … Why did they (Europe) win? They played better. They’re not better friends or attached more. They just flat beat us.”

Fortunately, Justin Thomas, the son and grandson of pros, and the 2017 PGA Champion, had the proper approach after playing in his first Ryder Cup. “To the fans and people of France,” Thomas tweeted, “y’all were amazing. So loud, supportive and classy to both the Europeans and US team. They are what makes the @rydercup so special…”

Thanks, Justin.



Riviera: Where golf and Hollywood history reside

By Art Spander

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — So far from Sochi, but not from reality. This is the other side of the sporting world, the place of eternal spring.

This is the other side of Los Angeles, where, contrary to traffic jams and constant change, one finds a comforting stability.

Up there on the hill, the stucco clubhouse, in the hallways, photos remind what used to be, Ben Hogan, Katherine Hepburn and a Hollywood of evening clothes and Champagne.

Out there on the course are representatives of what is, the Dustin Johnsons and Jason Dufners, the present and future — yet linked inextricably to the past.

Riviera Country Club, off the circuitous wandering of Sunset Boulevard just before the road arrives at the Pacific, is where history resides.

Where there’s a statue of Hogan on the edge of the practice green. Where Howard Hughes once took lessons. Where Humphrey Bogart sipped whiskey from a Thermos while watching Sam Snead and Byron Nelson hit shots.

Where Tiger Woods never has won.

And where Fred Couples plays on and on.

So little is permanent in southern California. Always another freeway, another subdivision.

Riviera is of an earlier time, the 1920s. Bobby Jones played at Riviera. “Very nice,” he said, “but tell me — where do the members play?”

Riviera is of the current time. “I love this course,” said Justin Rose, who last summer won the U.S. Open. “It’s got a very unique look to it.”

Fred Couples has a unique look, a unique game. He is a senior, a player on the Champions Tour. But he isn’t too old to play at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open.

“I’m lucky,” said Couples, who received an invitation. “This is my favorite tournament.”

This is the 32nd time he’s been in the tournament that in typical L.A. fashion has gone through several names, from the Los Angeles Open to the Nissan Open to the Northern Trust Open.

Couples is 54. One of his playing partners in the first two rounds is Jordan Spieth, 20, who wasn’t close to being born when Couples first came to Riviera in 1981. In Thursday’s first round, each shot a one-over-par 72. 

“My goal,” said Couples, who now lives about a mile from the course, “is to hang with these (younger) guys.”

Someday Couples’ photo may hang near those of Hogan and the entertainment personalities who through the decades were as much a part of Riviera as the par-3 sixth hole, the one with the bunker in the middle of the green.

That headline from the Jan. 7, 1947, Los Angeles Times calling Hogan a “Tiny Texan” is a classic. So is the picture of Hepburn and the great Babe Zaharias, a consultant for the film “Pat and Mike,” which naturally was shot at Riviera.

“Riviera member” Gregory Peck is shown swinging a club in another photo. And a picture from 1953, taken during the production of the movie “The Caddy,” matches Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

How wild it must have been at Riviera 70, 80 years ago. Errol Flynn was arrested during one dinner party for attempting to steal a badge from an off-duty policeman. The comedian W.C. Fields, a member, said the only easy shot was the first at the 19th hole.

“There are great courses that people like,” said Couples, who surely likes Riviera, where he’s won twice, “and there are some that don’t, but I don’t know anyone who would not like this course. It’s very fair, and it’s going to be, what, 80 degrees this week?”

Not quite that warm, but it was in the 70s Thursday, and the scores were mostly in the 60s, with Dustin Johnson in front at five-under 66. Johnson was second to Jimmy Walker by a shot Sunday at Pebble Beach, in the drizzle. Now he’s first in the sunshine.

“Ever since the first time I came here,” said Johnson, offering another endorsement of Riviera, “I’ve liked this golf course. It’s a great, great golf course.”

A course that, when constructed in 1926, was the second most expensive course on the planet, behind the course at Yale University. In the days when you could probably buy all of Los Angeles for the price of a Duesenberg, that is saying a great deal.  

The big game then was polo, played on fields where a junior high school now sits near the course.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were among Riviera's first members. Clark Gable and Katherine Hepburn rode horses and took late-afternoon walks on trails that meandered through the coastal canyons.

It’s so very Hollywood. And so very remarkable.


Fred Couples: Ageless, Nearly Flawless

By Art Spander

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – The back is bad, as always. The swing is beautiful, as always. Another year at Riviera. Another memorable round for Fred Couples.
We measure Couples' time not in years but in strokes, 68 of them Thursday, three below par.
Was that W.C. Fields winking approval from one of pictures lining the hallway in the clubhouse? Or simply our imagination?
Fred Couples, timeless, nearly flawless. At a course where nostalgia perches upon the oaks and crouches in the bunkers.
A course where a statue of Ben Hogan is next to the practice green and the membership rolls once included Humphrey Bogart, Dean Martin and Gregory Peck.
Couples is a perfect fit.
The place nicknamed Hogan’s Alley and Corey Pavin’s Haven by all rights is just as much Freddie’s Fixture. If ever a man, site and event were inextricably linked it is Couples, Riviera Country Club and the Northern Trust/Los Angeles Open.
“It’s probably my favorite tournament to play in,” said Couples. “This is my 31st year, and Northern Trust has been awfully gracious the past three years to give me a sponsor’s exemption.”
Gracious and realistic. A Northern Trust without Couples would be like a day without sunshine – and there was a great deal of that for the opening round. The temperature reached the mid-60s while the best scores – Matt Kuchar leading at 64 – were at about the same level.
Thirty-one years for Couples at Riviera. Bill Haas, who won the Northern Trust in 2012, is 30 years old. Keegan Bradley, who lost in the playoff in 2012, is 26.
Fred Couples, 53, has been entering the tournament, when it was the Los Angeles Open, the Nissan Open and now the Northern Trust, longer than Haas or Bradley have been around.
“I love the course,” said Couples. He won in 1990 and again in 1992, the year he also won the Masters. “I feel like I’m a very good iron player. It’s a good second-shot course.”
For Couples, a good second-chance course. A course to wake up the echoes.
Three years ago, he was a shot behind coming down the stretch, and for a 50-year-old against Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker the very thought seemed a stretch. Fred would tie for third, two shots back of Mickelson.
“There are some tournaments,” Couples said Wednesday, “where I feel like people deserve to play, and I feel like I deserve to be in this field.”
Even though competing is as much stress as satisfaction. He is a senior, a regular on the Champions Tour, where the courses are shorter and the daily rounds begin later. You’re not going to ask a lot of 50-year-olds to be on the tee at 7 in the morning, are you?
But in the Northern Trust, where 46 of the golfers, nearly a third of the field, were born after Couples first entered the tournament in 1981, play on Thursday and Friday begins at 6:40 a.m. Couples, along with Lee Westwood and Bubba Watson, went off the 10th tee Thursday at 7:11 a.m.
“You don’t get that kind of tee time,” said Couples, referring to the Champions Tour. “Here, I got up at 5 a.m. and walked the treadmill for about 35 minutes (to loosen up his back). I worked up a good sweat, but when I got to the range, it was very cold down there. It’s tough enough to do when you’re 30 years old. I’m not even 45.”
Couples parred 10 but bogied 11, a par-5. But he recovered to start making pars, closed the nine with birdies on 17 and 18 and began the front with a birdie on a 505-yard par-5 that for virtually everyone plays like a 4.
“I putted well,” said Couples, “and I drove it well. I only played Hualalai in January on the Champions tour, so this is just the second time I played all year. It’s irrelevant what everyone else is shooting. I just want to play well and keep staying under par.”
Couples said he was outdriven by one of his amateur partners in Wednesday’s pro-am, although that’s difficult to verify since the ams  tee off far in front of the pro. On Friday, the rhythm returned, and so did the distance.
“I have not really practiced much,’’ Couples explained. “I used a putter from off the green a couple times because if you don’t feel comfortable with a wedge it can get caught in the Kikuyu grass.
“So this is surprising, but again I can figure my way our around this course.”
As he should after playing it for more than 30 years.


RealClearSports: Couples Taking Heat for Taking Tiger

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — This isn't about the Fred Couples who was tied for the lead after the first day of the Charles Schwab Championship, the Champions Tour's year-end tournament.

This is about the Fred Couples who is finding out what it's like to be Tony La Russa or Phil Jackson, who is taking heat for taking Tiger Woods for a national team.

Couples, with a personality as relaxed as his swing...

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2011

Global Golf Post: Couples Takes The Walk Of Fame

By Art Spander

PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA -- Oh, Riviera, glorious, historic Riviera, off Sunset Boulevard, in a canyon a mile from the Pacific, with Ben Hogan's statue next to the putting green, photos of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy lining the walls and a celebrity picture of Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby outside the men's locker room.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2011 Global Golf Post