Fred Couples hasn’t won a PGA Tour Champions event since the 2017 American Family Insurance Championship, but is the favorite at this week’s Hoag Classic. Couples is 10/1, while Scott McCarron, Kevin Sutherland and David Toms are all 12/1. Miguel Angel Jimenez is at 14/1.
There is a good reason the 59-year-old is the top pick this week in Newport Beach. He has a residence nearby, and views this tournament as a home match for him.
“The Hoag Classic is just a nice golf course,” Couples told the Daily Pilot. “The first time I played it, I felt comfortable and I live about a mile from the course. It’s tricky and there are a few holes I play really well and there are a few holes that I stink on. I love the course, the style and the greens.”
Unique Golf Course
The Newport Beach Country Club is an older, classic-style layout. It is not one of the longer courses the professionals play, and the tree-lined fairways place a premium on accuracy, rather than distance.
Couples, who is in his ninth year on the PGA Tour Champions events and has 13 tournament victories in that time, including wins at the Hoag Classic in 2010 and 2014.
One of the keys to winning this, and many other of the senior tour events, is getting off to a good start, Couples said.
“If you don’t have a really good Friday in a 54-hole event, you are kind of toast,” Couples said. “It doesn’t mean any of us try harder on Friday or we play better on Friday, but other than that it is really golf and you have to beat the best players. If you struggle on Friday, your week is pretty much gone.”
In the years that Couples won, he shot 65 and 66 in the first round. This is the first year he has played this event since he last won in 2014. Back issues have plagued Couples for years, and that was the reason for some of the years he missed the event.
Singh Skips Event
Defending champion Vijay Singh decided he would not come to Newport Beach his week. Singh played in the Honda Classic last week, and had a chance to become the oldest winner on the PGA Tour.
He was tied for the lead at one point in the final round, but his tee shot on the 17th hole found the water, knocking him out of contention. He ended the tournament tied for sixth, three shots back.
Singh is one of several golfers on the PGA Tour Champions that is flirting with playing on both tours. Steve Stricker is another that is splitting his time.
One player that will be at Toshiba is Darren Clarke. He is in his first full year on the tour, and so far has finished tied for 10th, 16th and second. He said he has no aspirations to play on the PGA Tour again.
“I love it,” Clarke said of the PGA Tour Champions. “There aren’t many sports where you turn 50 and you become a rookie again. I’ve got more hair than anyone else on the range.”