TOLEDO, Ohio - What a difference a year makes.
At the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, held at Sahalee CC just outside Fred Couples' hometown of Seattle, Couples was the story of the week, drawing large galleries and dueling eventual winner Bernhard Langer. It was a microcosm of the year, as Couples played 17 Champions Tour events, winning four times and energizing the senior circuit in his rookie season.
Couples is absent from this week's U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club, having withdrawn last week citing back issues. The 51-year-old has played only three times on the Champions Tour in 2011, most recently in early May at the Regions Tradition, where he was T-63 after closing rounds of 77-77. His last competitive appearance came a month later at the Memorial, where he missed the cut. In addition to his chronic back problem, Couples also had cancerous lesions removed from both hands.
(Instruction: See how Freddie bombs it off the tee)
Next week's Champions Tour stop, the 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn., is promoting Couples on its website as one of the "expected golfing legends" in the field and says he has committed to play.
If Couples does compete, perhaps it will get a lost year going. Other than the run he had at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open, where he was T-7, and a T-5 at the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour in March, this season couldn't be more different from his upbeat 2010, when in addition to his four wins, Couples had four runner-up finishes and five other top-10s.
-- Bill Fields
(Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)