Fred Couples kicked off the second round of the Northern Trust Open by dropping a 100-foot bomb for eagle on the first hole at Riviera. He kept the momentum going for the rest of the day, posting a bogey-free five-under 66 to take the clubhouse lead at eight-under at the halfway mark.
The 51-year-old Couples has a good record and some history at Riviera. “I feel like I can play this course blindfolded,” said Freddie, who estimates he’s played the course 150 times.
He drives the ball well at Riviera, hits it long enough, misses it in the right spots and knows the greens.
It’s his 30th year playing this event and he’s won twice and never missed a cut, so it wasn’t a difficult decision for him to choose entering this tournament over this week’s Champions Tour event, the Allianz Championship — even if he knows he might be catching grief from his peers.
“Besides Augusta, it’s my favorite spot, so I don’t know why I would play 29 years and 30 years now and have a schedule events problem and say, ‘Well, I want to go to Naples,'” explained Freddie. “I did win there last year. I don’t think it’s a slap in the face if they just look where I live and my schedule and how I play here. It would take two seconds to figure out.”
Yeah, duh. Especially since he’s shot eight-under (68-66) and leading at the moment. Freddie is even surprised with himself.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked that I’m 8-under, especially in this kind of weather, he said. “But you know, I feel like I can go out there and play tomorrow.”
Honestly, I was a little surprised, too — the cold and windy conditions are definitely not good for his back, but hopefully it holds up over the weekend.
To avoid tweaking his back, Freddie doesn’t practice (shock!) after his round, but warms up lightly before he plays. He says he hit 40 5-woods and rescues and about ten drivers before he tees off. He refuses to bend over and try to hit wedges or 9-irons. Definitely not the perfect way to warm up, but obviously it’s working for him.
“I don’t consider this warming up, I just think it’s waiting for my tee time to come,” said Freddie while laughing.
When the topic of Twitter was raised, he doesn’t do it and admittedly isn’t in tune with new media. He asked, “Is it called Twittering or Tweeting?”
“I would tweet everyone that I am right now one ahead of J.B. Holmes and let them all know,” said Fred when asked what he would write if he had a Twitter account.
“I don’t want to sound stupid, but I went to see Social Network because Justin Timberlake was in it. I don’t even know what I watched. I don’t even know what Facebook is. And then Twittering, I don’t know what that is. For instance, if I did Twitter, would I tell people that I’m heading home and then going to eat at California Pizza Kitchen? Is that what you do, or do you actually tweet information?”
You can do whatever you’d like, Freddie. While social media isn’t really his thing (yet), he’s certainly into texting. In fact, Freddie already exchanged texts with Tiger Woods, who says hi.
“I said, I do love this place, but if you played here you’d win ten times and he didn’t send too polite a text after that,” said Freddie laughing.
“I’m shocked that he doesn’t play here, but I guess he doesn’t play well here, which I don’t know why. If I can play well here, any human being in the world can play well here.”
With half the field still on the course, Freddie has a two-shot lead over J.B. Holmes, who momentarily got to eight-under when he made three straight birdies, but dropped to six-under with a double on the last hole. The leaderboard probably won’t change much since it’s starting to rain at Riviera, which means conditions will only become tougher.
Let’s go, Freddie! How cool would it be if he pulled off a win at 51 years old, 19 years since his last victory at Riviera? Really cool.
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)