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The Loop

Couples' back is suffering from busy schedule

May 26, 2010

PARKER, Colo.--When he was playing as well as he has in two decades, dominating the Champions Tour and seriously contending in the Masters at age 50, Fred Couples was having so much fun he didn't want it to end. But now he is paying a price -- his problematic back is a problem again -- for all that golf.

"I don't think I'll be playing six weeks in a row ever again," Couples said late Wednesday afternoon after a practice round for the Senior PGA Championship at Colorado GC. "Now I have to start figuring how many weeks off it's going to take to feel better. I took three weeks off, and it doesn't feel any better than when I stopped playing before the [Players Championship]."

Couples won his third senior event of the year, the Cap Cana Championship, on March 28. That was the first of a half-dozen straight tournament appearances as he split time on the PGA and Champions tours. He hasn't competed since withdrawing prior to the start of the Players.

"If I could have taken a couple of weeks off, I probably would have been better off, but it's hard to skip a couple of [PGA Tour] tournaments you want to play, and then there were a couple of Champions Tour events I [also played]. I think I just kind of overextended it."

A stiff and painful back is not what Couples wanted to have to deal with for the senior's first major of 2010, and along with a strong wind that has buffeted the course so far this week, it is tempering the confidence he has gotten from a 65.86 scoring average on the senior tour and a sixth-place finish at the Masters. Still, it's not an unfamiliar situation for him.

"I've played a long time with [my back] feeling that way," Couples said, "it's just hard to play well a lot of days. You can get lucky for a day or two ... It'll be interesting to see how I play tomorrow. Any golf course is hard in the wind, but when you're up at this elevation and trying to hit an 8 -iron from 220 yards, it takes a lot of finesse and savvy to be able to do that ... Maybe I can scramble around and shoot a 74 or 75 -- it won't be a bad score. It's a big-time course. I think we're all going to struggle."

-- *Bill Fields *