Fred Couples knew he wasn’t a “79 shooter” as he put it, referring to one of his last rounds of golf at the Masters last week.
Couples more than beat that in the first round of the Chubb Classic on Friday, firing a course record, 9-under 63 on the Tiburón Golf Club Black Course.
“I had from last Friday to today to think about it, seven days to figure out, ‘Am I a 79 shooter or am I better than that?’ and today was a good day,” Couples said.
Before the Masters, Couples came down and worked with Sam Reeves at Seminole Golf Club on the state’s East Coast, and played with a few Tour players. Then he shot 79-78 at Augusta National.
“I got to Augusta and I just kind of froze on a few shots out there,” he said. “All that practice didn’t pay off.
“But I can promise you today was a good day ball-striking, and I have practiced pretty hard, so it’s pay off today.”
Couples putted well, draining a 30-footer on No. 7 and then following up with another one from that length from off the green. And that was just in the middle of five straight birdies that resulted in making the turn at 6 under. He added birdies on Nos. 11, 15 and 18, getting up and down from in front of the grandstand after going over the green on the par 5 No. 2.
“I think anytime I putt well and feel like I’m seeing the putts, I’m going to make a few,” he said. “A lot of wedges, but I hit a lot of fairways. I don’t know if I hit every fairway, but I kept the ball in play, kept it below the hole, and like I say, the hole got big there for about a five-hole stretch, and I hit the ball solid all day. But hitting the fairways was huge.”
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) April 16, 2021
Couples said he got fitted for a TaylorMade 3-wood and ended up using that club a great deal off the tee.
“I drew it, which gives me a little extra yardage, and I had a lot of 9s and wedges to these holes, but again, the 3-wood was key for me today,” he said.
The World Golf Hall of Famer is going for his third victory in Naples, but the only player with three of them is just two strokes back.
Bernhard Langer shot a 7-under 65, and has won three times in Naples and is just four off Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories.
“It wasn’t a whole lot of stress on my round because I kept the ball in play,” Langer said. “I think part of the key is to hit the fairways and miss all the shrubs and the lateral hazards and all that kind of stuff, which I did today. I drove it well. And then I hit a lot of greens. Didn’t have too much trouble getting it up-and-down.”
Part-time Naples resident Steve Stricker, who just sold his house here, played with Couples and tried to follow him up. He finished at 6 under, three back, along with Gene Sauers and Robert Karlsson.
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“I didn’t get off to a fast start by any means, so kind of saw Freddie playing well and kind of spurred me on to kick myself in the rear end and get going,” Stricker said. “… He did everything well. He drove it in the fairway. He hit some really nice irons, and I actually putted really well. He made one from off the green on No. 8.”
And answered that he’s better than a 79 shooter.
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/16/pga-tour-champions-fred-couples-chubb-classic/