AS I WRITE THIS with the third round in progress, Fred Couples is leading the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Freddie shot a 68 in the first round. He backed that up with a 66 to take the sole lead at the halfway point. A bunch of flat bellies (Aaron Baddeley, Kevin Na, John Senden, Trevor Immelman) are chasing the 51-year-old veteran who now calls himself a Champions Tour player.
It was just a week or two ago I read that Couples was couch ridden with his chronically bad back. His annual golf trek to Pacific Palisades sounded like it was in serious jeopardy. But if Freddie could crawl to his car and make the two-hour drive from his home in La Quinta, he would play in LA. He loves the event, loves Riviera.
Couples has to be the best bad-back golfer of all time. (I probably could think of a few others if I tried.) The guy can hardly practice. He warms up with woods because he doesn’t want to aggravate his back with the shorter iron clubs. He has to save it for the course.
They showed his swing in slo-mo. He still has a great big turn, especially for an old player. Pretty amazing. He’s averaging 298 off the tee this week—with an aching back. And we don’t despise him, do we? Any other 50 something who could drive it 298 with a faulty back and without practicing would be an object of hate. Not Freddie. Everyone loves Freddie.
So Couples shows up and strolls into the lead. Can he last for 72? Will his back and putting stroke hold up? Can he actually win?
I don’t know. Probably not. I’d like to see it, but I don’t think it will happen. I hope he proves me wrong.
−The Armchair Golfer
(Photo credit: Bill Spruce, Flickr, Creative Commons license)