PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA | Oh,
Riviera, glorious, historic Riviera, off
Sunset Boulevard, in a canyon a mile from
the Pacific, with Ben Hogan’s statue next
to the putting green, photos of Katha-
rine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy lining
the walls and a celebrity picture of Dean
Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bing
Crosby outside the men’s locker room.
hours of the Northern Trust may have
been a disappointment for those who
dream but it wasn’t a surprise.
However, the could-haves and might-have-beens are not so easily erased.
The PGA Tour folk, recognizing the possibilities, pointed out Couples, 51 years
4 months, would have been next to Sam
Snead at 51 years 10 months, and Art
Wall, 51 years 7 months, the third oldest
man ever to win a Tour event.
The gap between his first win and this,
a bit more than 28 years, would have been
the third longest, behind Snead and Raymond Floyd.
So many opportunities. None of them
Yet Couples, with that creaky back that
forces him to rise before dawn and endure
a stretching routine, which prevents him
from hitting irons in practice, could handle
what befell him. He had touched the past
but was unable to grasp it.
A birdie-birdie-birdie start to the final
round raised him to 12 under for the tournament and into the sole lead. But Fred
bogeyed the sixth, the par- 3, then doubled
the seventh when he drove into the rough,
knocked his second into a fairway bunker
and couldn’t get to the green on his third.
“I didn’t feel the same after that,” con-
ceded Couples. “I didn’t injure myself, but
I didn’t hit a shot after that.”
Even with a birdie on 11, the par- 5, he
had a 2-over 38 on the back nine and a
2-over 73 for the round.
For three days plus three holes he had
kept us in thrall and in laughter. After he
became the second-round leader in any
tournament for the first time in seven
years, Couples went about discussing his
inability to adjust to the new technology.