Couples, 55, hasn’t played in a U.S. Open since 2006, and he said at the Masters last week that he hasn’t tried to qualify for the event in years. But Seattle is special to Couples, and Chambers Bay is just a short drive from his hometown.
It will be the biggest golf event in the history of the state, so it’s only fitting that the state’s greatest male golfer wants to be part of it.
So Seattle native Fred Couples will be here regardless for the U.S. Open, June 18-21 at Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, but he doesn’t want to just watch.
He wants to play in it. Badly.
It is important enough to him that he is going to put his balky back through 36 holes of sectional qualifying June 8 in Newport Beach, Calif.
Couples, 55, hasn’t played in a U.S. Open since 2006, and he said at the Masters last week that he hasn’t tried to qualify for the event in years. But Seattle is special to Couples, even if he hasn’t lived here since leaving to play in college at Houston, and Chambers Bay is just a short drive from his hometown.
“I don’t live there, but it’s my favorite city,” Couples said. “I am really hoping to qualify. I will be more nervous as I am trying to qualify for that than I would if it was in Chicago or Minnesota or another place.”
Couples should have an advantage over most of the field at the Newport Beach sectional, held at Big Canyon Country Club and Newport Beach Country Club, with his course knowledge.
“I am a member at Big Canyon, and I have won twice on the Champions Tour at Newport Beach Country Club, so I can play the courses,” he said.
Couples said the two courses are about a two-minute drive apart and said his back can handle the 36 holes as long as he doesn’t sit for very long.
“I just can’t freeze up,” he said.
The number of entrants and qualifying spots for the Newport Beach Sectional have not been announced, as entries have yet to close, but in the California sectional last year, 110 players were competing for five berths.
“I can do it (qualify), but I’ve seen guys who have qualified before and they are guys who can really, really play so I have to go out and play 36 good holes, which I think I can do,” he said.
Couples has a commitment in Seattle the weekend of the U.S. Open.
He and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer are the featured speakers at a First Tee Gala to be held at the downtown Sheraton. It’s a benefit for the nonprofit that teaches golf and its values to children.
“I am going to help the First Tee and have a big dinner, but first I am going to worry about getting into the U.S. Open,” Couples said.
Some observers have wondered if the USGA might offer Couples a special exemption, but those are rare.
“I guess there is an outside shot, you know, that (the USGA) might throw me a bone, but I am going to try to qualify, and I hope I make it,” he said.