Couples back in Northwest for Boeing debut

Fred Couples tips his cap at the U.S. Senior Open.

Fred Couples tips his cap at the U.S. Senior Open.

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SNOQUALMIE, Wash. – Fred Couples was oh so close to winning a major championship in his own backyard.

The Seattle native was tied for a share of the lead with Germany’s Bernhard Langer after three rounds of the U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., just a month ago. Couples took the lead after a birdie to open the final round and seemed poised for something special in front of a raucous hometown crowd.

That’s when Couples uncharacteristically took his foot off the gas pedal.

Couples laid up out of the first cut of rough on the par-5 second hole. He then chunked a wedge into the greenside pond from 65 yards out. After dropping, Couples flew his fifth shot over the green and ended up with a triple-bogey 8 to derail his chances.

Langer took advantage with a 3-under 67 to win his second major title is as many weeks.

“The eight on the second hole wasn’t much fun and then it took me a while to get over it,” Couples said. “Then I played pretty well the rest of the way and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Couples returns to the greater Seattle area to play in the Boeing Classic for the first time since joining the Champions Tour. Couples is once again paired with Langer and Nick Price for the opening round on Friday.

“Well, I’m excited about it,” Couples said. “I love to play with Nick Price and Bernhard. They’re two of the best players out here.”

“The pairing tomorrow is unique. I get Bernhard again, but it’s another event. That was, just like he would tell you, it’s in the past. I think we’ll all have a good time.”

The TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge is drastically different then the tree-lined test that challenged the field for the Senior Open. Snoqualmie Ridge has many wide open driving holes and 300 feet of elevation change over the 7,264-yard layout.

“Sahalee was more of a very narrow precision-type course,” Langer said. “This one probably suits the longer hitters more.”

“There is definitely more room off the tee here and it benefits those guys that can hit it an extra 30 yards off the tee.”

After a sunny 85-degree day on Wednesday, the players had to deal with cool, damp conditions for the second day of the Pro-Am on Thursday. Forecasts for the weekend are mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. The weather is expected to clear up more as the week progresses.

“The course is in immaculate shape, but yesterday the greens were rock hard and I was hitting shorter clubs,” Couples said. “Today, in this weather, I was hitting a lot longer clubs and I thought it was pretty difficult.”

Even with the stereotypical Seattle cloud cover hanging over the golf course, Couples is just excited to be playing more golf in the Northwest.

“I have been waiting to turn 50 to play in the Boeing and then to get the Senior Open was incredible,” Couples said.

“I always get to play up here in a tournament now on the Champions Tour and I love that. I love to be up here in Seattle.”

Defending champion Loren Roberts is paired with Tom Kite and Fred Funk in the first round Friday. Roberts posted the lowest three-day total in the tournament’s five-year history, an 18-under par total. Roberts held on for a one-shot victory over Mark O’Meara to earn his first Boeing Classic title.

Kite is a two-time winner of the Boeing Classic and Funk is coming off a major championship win last week at the Jeld-Wen Tradition in Sunriver, Ore.

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