SNOQUALMIE – After winning the Senior British Open at the end of July, Fred Couples took a break to the point of not hitting a putt for three weeks.
So not only does the Seattle native have the pressure of playing in front of hometown fans this weekend during the Boeing Classic, which tees off today, but he’s also doing it after not playing competitively for nearly a month.
“I have no feel putting and these greens are really fast, so I need to really pay attention to putting because taking three weeks off and not hitting a putt is a struggle,” Couples said. “But I honestly needed, you know, I needed to get away from golf for a little while and get ready for the tail end of this year. Unfortunately, I come up here not really totally ready, but I think I’m on the right track.”
Couples is the headliner again for the eighth annual Champions Tour event, trying again to erase the one glaring omission from his résumé – winning a professional title in his home state. Couples struck out in his previous two events at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, finishing third in 2010 and tied for 16th in 2011. He also finished second in the 2010 U.S. Senior Open just a few miles away at Sahalee Country Club.
Mark Calcavecchia is the defending Boeing Classic champion after winning his first Champions Tour title in a playoff last year.
The Charles Schwab Cup points race might tighten significantly with second-place Bernhard Langer playing the Boeing event, and leader Tom Lehman taking the week off.
Langer is on a roll. He nearly beat Couples at the Senior British, then won for the first time in 24 events by shooting 62 in the final round of the 3M Championship in Minnesota. That was followed with a tie for seventh last week in New York. Langer has just two victories since winning the 2010 Boeing Classic with a record 18-under score.
Lehman leads Langer by 150 points in the championship race. The winner of this event will earn 300 points.
“He’s obviously in great shape,” Calcavecchia said of Langer. “His thumb’s back to normal, so he’s healthy there. I really don’t think he has any physical issues that I know of. He’s got a lot of advantages there. He’s just the ultimate grinder.”
PGA Tour winners Duffy Waldorf and Gene Sauers are making their first starts on the 50-and-over tour.
Sauers is just barely making the deadline, having turned 50 on Wednesday. He’s just getting back into the game competitively after a five-year absence that included being diagnosed with a serious illness called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a skin disease, that landed him in the hospital for seven weeks of treatment.
Course: TPC Snoqualmie Ridge (7,183 yards, par 72)
Purse: $2 million. Winner’s share: $300,000.
TV: Golf Channel (Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 12:30-2:30 a.m., 3:30-6:30 p.m.; Sunday, 4-6:30 p.m.)
Last year: Mark Calcavecchia won his first Champions Tour title, beating Russ Cochran with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff.
Last week: Willie Wood won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y., for his first senior title. He beat Michael Allen with a par on the first hole of a playoff.
Notes: Fred Couples, from Seattle, won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in March and Senior British Open last month. … PGA Tour winners Duffy Waldorf and Gene Sauers are making their first starts on the 50-and-over tour. … Bernhard Langer won in 2010, shooting 66-63-69 to match the tournament record at 18 under. … Calcavecchia won the Montreal Championship in June.The Associated Press