Friday 18 January 2019

'Phenomenal' Freddie on top

Casey hails 'legend' as 51-year-old Couples leads Riviera

The sight of veteran Fred Couples at the top of the Northern Trust Open leaderboard, despite a bad back and a limited playing schedule in recent years, surprised none of his rivals yesterday.

The silver-haired, 51-year-old American knows the par-71 Riviera Country Club layout better than anyone else in the field and has always been able to raise his game at the venue.

"We know he loves this golf course," British world number six Paul Casey said after carding a four-under-par 67 to end the second round four strokes behind Couples. Freddie is just a legend. It just shows that this golf course is maybe not all about young, brute power.

"He knows every nook and cranny of this golf course. Eight under is an absolutely phenomenal score because it wasn't easy."

Couples, who triumphed here in 1990 and 1992, rolled in a 100-foot eagle putt at the par-five first on the way to a flawless five-under 66, matching the lowest score of the week.

The former world one claimed the most recent of his 15 PGA Tour titles at the 2003 Houston Open but is capable of returning to the winner's circle if his back holds up.

"I've played 150 rounds on this course probably," said Couples. "I don't think anyone in this field has played as many rounds as I have, so that's an advantage for me."

While Couples is certainly playing like a much younger man at Riviera this week, he lived up to his age when asked if he had embraced any of the social networks. "If I did Twitter, would I tell people I'm heading home and then going to eat at California Pizza Kitchen?" he said. "Is that what you do, or do you actually tweet information?

"Well, what information do I have for my 500,000 followers? I'm 51, I live in the desert," Couples said as the reporters around him erupted in laughter. "They all know that already. If you guys write well enough, they'll know that I'm in good shape going into tomorrow. I don't need to tweet anybody."

Fellow countryman JB Holmes, Spencer Levin and Australia's John Senden were in the clubhouse on six under. Pádraig Harrington is three under after finished the round with a level par 71, five shots off Couples' lead, while Justin Rose was on four under after a 67.

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