He might have been only half-serious, but before the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Seattle native Fred Couples said that if he won the event, he would retire.
That’s because he would never be able to top winning a major in front of his hometown fans.
Couples didn’t win that event, but he still thirsts to win locally, and he gets another chance when the Boeing Classic begins Friday at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. Tee times begin at 11:30 a.m., with Couples teeing off at 12:50 p.m. with Bernhard Langer and John Cook.
“This is a tournament that I always want to play well and I want to win,” Couples said Thursday after his Pro-Am round.
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Couples, 54, has had several chances to win locally since becoming a Champions Tour member in 2010. His best chance was that summer, when he led the U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee going into the final round, but lost in a duel with Langer. Couples has finished third twice in the three Boeing Classic events he has completed.
In 2012, he had to withdraw when his back blew up after one shot.
“At Sahalee, I had an unbelievable time and lost to Langer, and I’ve got to play in this three times and one hole,” he said earlier this month. “I don’t know how much longer I’ve got, because I’ve had to slow down. I still enjoy getting to practice and play, but it’s very hard to practice hard.”
That is because his chronic bad back begins to act up when he practices with his driver. His physical therapist said he should quit practicing with that club, “because of all the torque, but that kind of defeats the purpose of trying to be a good player and compete.”
This has been a typical year for Couples. He was in contention through the first couple of rounds at the Masters, an annual occurrence, before finishing tied for 20th. He also got off to a great start on the Champions Tour, finishing no worse than fifth in his first five events, including a win to take the lead in the seasonlong Schwab Cup points race, something he had hoped to win this year.
But back issues resurfaced in May, forcing him to quit before the final round of the Tradition. He was out of action for more than two months.
“What happened there was I couldn’t bend over putting,” he said. “I actually hit the ball and felt pretty good, but I couldn’t bend over so I decided not to do it anymore on Sunday and I came home and I had a couple of small procedures done. Then I semi-ruined my wrist on a doorknob and I was off a couple of more weeks.”
Couples returned to action late last month at the Senior British Open and played last week at the Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour, missing the cut.
“I feel OK, I can’t complain,” Couples said. “I played yesterday; no complaints.”
Couples’ goals for the season have changed. He has missed too many events to win the Schwab Cup.
“My body just can’t handle playing 20 events in a year,” he said.
But a win this week would be much more than a small consolation prize.
“I don’t have many (wins) left in me, but this would be a good one,” he said.
|Fred Couples would like to become the 12th player on the PGA Champions Tour to win an event in his hometown. The 11 who have done it:|
|Tom Lehman||2012 Charles Schwab Cup Championship||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|Bernhard Langer||2010 Allianz Championship||Boca Raton, Fla.|
|Bruce Lietzke||2002 TD Waterhouse Championship||Kansas City|
|Hale Irwin||1997, 1999 Boone Valley Classic||St. Louis|
|Jay Sigel||1998 Bell Atlantic Classic||Philadelphia|
|Jim Colbert||1995, 1996 Las Vegas Senior Classic||Las Vegas|
|Lee Trevino||1992, 1994 PGA Seniors Championship||Palm Beach, Fla.|
|Jack Nicklaus||1991 PGA Seniors Championship||Palm Beach, Fla.|
|Homero Blancas||1989 Doug Sanders Kingwood Celebrity||Houston|
|Larry Mowry||1988 Pepsi Senior Challenge||Atlanta|
|Don January||1986 Senior Players Reunion Pro-Am||Dallas|
Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943 or firstname.lastname@example.org