SNOQUALMIE — Standing on the tee on the 203-yard ninth hole, Seattle native Fred Couples needed a spark to get his round going at the Boeing Classic.
Instead of a spark, he delivered an explosion that rocked The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge on Saturday afternoon.
Couples, 59, used his 4-iron to send his ball over the lake, where it landed about 2 feet from the hole before taking two soft bounces into the hole. The fans packed behind the green went into an instant frenzy, a combination of joy, excitement and disbelief.
“I hit it really solid, right at it, and I don’t know how it went in,” said Couples, who gave the ball to a little girl and then signed it for her. “It just popped in. Everyone hits a lot of really good shots, but very rarely do any shots go in. … It’s a little shocking.”
The hole-in-one, the sixth of his career and his first locally since acing the fourth hole on the Jefferson Park short nine as a 10-year-old, kickstarted a remarkable stretch of golf.
“I made a ton of birdies after that,” Couples said.
Indeed he did. Couples birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine, then made a birdie on the 18th to finish off a 9-under 63 and takes a five-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round in an event that means so much to him and his legion of hometown fans.
Couples hit his approach to 8 feet on the 10th hole, and made it for a birdie. He made a 2-foot birdie on the 11th and a 6-inch birdie putt on the 12th after spectacular approach shots. He made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th, then a 2-foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th to get to 15 under.
In seven holes, he went from being behind by three shots to leading by four.
‘They all just started going close to the hole,” Couples said of his approach shots, “and I made some putts.”
That would have been hard to envision after he was stuck mostly in neutral the first eight holes, with just one birdie and pars on the first two par-5s.
Couples, who has not won since 2017, last held a lead in a Seattle-area tournament nine years ago when he and Bernhard Langer shared the top spot in the U.S. Senior Open entering the final round at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish.
There were 30,000 people on hand to see Langer win by three. Most that day probably figured Couples would have several more great chances to win in front of his hometown fans, but this is his first good chance heading into a final round since.
Who knows if he will ever get another chance like this?
Leading the chase pack are Paul Broadhurst and David Toms, who shot a 63 in the first group of the day, tying Couples for the best score of the day. They are five shots back, and three players are six shots behind, including Langer.
But all eyes will be on Couples, who set the tournament record for best score after two rounds at 15-under 128. In his last three rounds, he has shot 63, 65 and 63.
He tees off at 12:50 p.m. Sunday and will be hard to catch with a good round.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a great day.” Couples said. “They’re not far behind … so I’m going to have to shoot whatever I have to shoot. I don’t want to win by one, I would like to win by nine. That would be easier.”
Saturday at a glance
by Craig Smith
Fred Couples aced the 203-yard ninth hole and went on to shoot a 9-under 63 and leads the tournament by five strokes heading into Sunday’s final round with a tournament-record, two-round total of 16-under 128. His five-stroke lead is the largest second-round lead in the 15-year history of the tournament. David Toms (70-63) is tied for second place with Paul Broadhurst (63-67) at 133.
Noteworthy: Toms played the back nine first and shot a blistering 29. He had to wait 20 minutes to start the front nine to allow a group to tee off and for a spectator to be loaded into an ambulance. “To be honest, I think I just got out of rhythm after having to wait so long,” he said. He shot 34 on his second nine.
Return to earth: First-round leader Fred Funk, who had opened with a 63, shot 76. Funk is dealing with a back ailment.
Players of note: Two-time Boeing Classic champion Bernhard Langer double-bogeyed the par-4 14th hole and the par-3 17th hole and still shot 68. He is one of three players six strokes behind Couples. Jerry Kelly, the 2017 Boeing champion, shot 68 and is one of four players seven strokes behind Couples at 135. Defending champion Scott Parel shot even-par 72 for a 141 total and is out of contention.
Shot of the day: Easy call. Fred Couples’ hole-in-one on the par-3, 203-yard ninth hole that requires players to shoot over a lake. It was only the third ace in the 15-year history of the Boeing Classic and all three have been on the ninth hole.
Best quote: Ken Duke when asked what it takes to catch Fred Couples – “He’s Freddie Couples. You know, it’s kind of like chasing down Tiger Woods.”
What’s next: Final round starts at 8 a.m. Sunday with all players going off No. 1. The final threesome of Couples, Toms and Broadhurst will tee off at 12:50 p.m.
Withdrawal: John Daly, who shot 5-over 77 Friday, withdrew Saturday citing a knee injury.