Baddeley leads, Couples lurks
Fred Couples (Gallo Images)
The long-running love affair Fred Couples has had with Riviera Country Club showed no sign of ending prematurely at the Northern Trust Open on Saturday.
Roared on by his loyal fans as he played in the final grouping of the third round, the 51-year-old PGA Tour veteran stayed in the title hunt by shooting a one-under-par 70 at a venue where he has won twice.
Although he surrendered an early two-stroke lead, Couples ended the day just one behind pacesetting Australian Aaron Baddeley, who is bidding for his first victory on the US circuit since 2007.
Couples has an even longer title drought to end, having not triumphed on the PGA Tour since the 2003 Houston Open, but the former world No 1 is banking on his Riviera expertise to make a difference.
"For me, experience helps," Couples told reporters after posting a nine-under total of 204. "I know this course very well, and that's a big key to me. But I don't want to use the word loosely.Full scoreboard
"Whatever the other guys do is their own deal. I like to watch people play. I've always kept an eye on what everyone is doing. But tomorrow I'm going to be playing this course as best I can."
Couples, who will be bidding to become the third-oldest winner on the PGA Tour, has had to contend with his notorious bad back over the last three days.
He has suffered back problems for the last 20 years but this week he has coped with them effectively by limiting his warm-up time and cutting out all practice.
"I'm tired; I'm tired every day, but my back feels okay," Couples said after once again thrilling fans with his languid swing. "I'll get home at 5:00, won't go anywhere and be ready to go tomorrow morning.
"I feel good. Once I stop, I get a little stiff, but I feel fine. To lead (after the second round) and go out and shoot 70, I'm in good shape."
Asked if his four victories on the over-50s Champions Tour last year would help him in his title bid on Sunday, Couples replied: "Well, if I don't play like an idiot, I'll be fine.
"On the PGA Tour, the last eight or nine years that I've played, I've played some decent golf but not enough to win any tournaments. The Champions Tour, maybe that will help by winning last year. We'll see tomorrow."
Couples, champion here in 1990 and 1992, is seeking to become the oldest winner on the PGA Tour since Art Wall won the 1975 Greater Milwaukee Open.