SNOQUALMIE — Could this be the year Fred Couples thrills his hometown fans by finally winning the Boeing Classic at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge?
After his final round 63 on Sunday in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y. — his lowest score in a competitive round in five years — he could not have come into the Boeing Classic, which begins Friday, in better form.
“I went there to get ready for here,” Couples said Thursday.
Couples, a World Golf Hall of Famer and the greatest male player from the state, almost left New York with a win, finishing second by two shots to Doug Barron.
“I shot a typical 70 (in the first round), then I got a little better the second day and then all hell broke loose,” said Couples, 59, who grew up in Seattle and went to O’Dea High School. “I drove it OK — it’s really tree lined — but I hit a lot of really good irons, made a few putts and almost had a shot (to win). It was surprising because I want to play well but I don’t practice enough (because of his famously balky back). Every now and then, I have a good round, but I had three in a row.”
Winning the Boeing Classic for players 50-and-over has long been on Couples’ bucket list. This will be Couples’ last chance to win it in his 50s and he said playing so well last week “doesn’t hurt.”
“I do like this course — I say it every year — but I always get off to a slow start and then get better,” said Couples, who has finished third in the event three times. “I’m not saying I am going to shoot 68 (Friday), but I need to if you’re going to win this thing. You can’t keep shooting 71s or 72s.”
If Couples feels any pressure winning this event before he turns 60, when wins get much rarer on PGA Tour Champions, he certainly isn’t showing it.
“If I don’t (win this year), it will mean I am 60 next year and I won’t feel any different,” said Couples, who tees off at 12:58 p.m. in Friday’s opening round.
Couples is already predicting a good 2020, in part because his longtime coach, Paul Marchand, has taken a job at the Palm Springs course where Couples plays.
“I have a funny feeling that’s going to be a pretty good deal for me,” Couples said. “So I’ll practice more, I’ll see him a lot, and next year I think will be a nice year no matter how much I play. Even if I play 10 times.”
Couples said his back has been feeling great when he isn’t playing golf,
“So when I do finally retire, I think I’ll do all right, my back won’t be a big hindrance,” he said.
When Couples plays, he said his back gets “twitchy” and he has trouble sleeping. But a win in this event would make it worthwhile.
“I should hit the ball well, I really should, but it all depends on how I play the par-5s,” he said.
Langer wins Skins Game
Bernhard Langer won four skins to win the Sojitz Hall of Fame Shootout, a nine-hole skins game with the $25,000 purse going to charity.
Retief Goosen won two skins as did Ernie Els, who won his two on a chip-off on the ninth hole. Couples won one.
Els, 49, is one year from being able to join the other three Hall of Famers in the Boeing Classic field.
“I can’t wait,” said Els, who has won two U.S. Opens and two British Opens. “I wish I was playing this year.”
Els said he will play full-time on PGA Tour Champions next.
“My time is up out there (on the PGA Tour),” said Els, who has 19 wins on the PGA Tour. “It has been 27 years on the other tour. That’s enough for me.”
9 a.m. — Gates open
11 a.m. — Opening ceremony, with military and Mercer Island High School band
11:20 a.m. — Flyover by Boeing 787
11:30 — Start of first round (off tees No. 1 and No. 10)
9 a.m. — Gates open
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. — Family Day activities in Kid Zone Tent
11:30 a.m. — Start of second round (off tees No. 1 and No. 10)
Sunday (Military Appreciation Day)
6:30 a.m. — Gates open
8 a.m. — Start of final round (all players off tee No. 1)
6 p.m. — Trophy ceremony
Ticket information for purchase at gate:
Adult single-day ticket — $25
Adult 3-day ticket — $50
Senior (60 and over) single day — $12.50
Senior 3-day ticket — $25
Free admission for: Boeing employees and retirees and their families; U.S. military active duty and retirees and their families; Boeing and military ID may be requested. Youth 16-and-under.
Parking — $10 daily in shuttle lots.