Couples cruises to Champions Tour win
Fred Couples ran away with the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship, shooting a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Sunday for a seven-stroke victory — the largest margin on the 50-and-over tour this year.
Couples opened with rounds of 65 and 62 and finished at 23 under on TPC San Antonio’s Canyons Course. He won for the second time this season and sixth time in two seasons on the tour.
”I haven’t had a seven-shot lead since ’92 or ’90 or whenever the heck it was,” said Couples, who teed it up ahead by seven to start the day. ”I probably may never ever get another one. It’s a weird feeling, and I was kind of unnerved (on the front side). But once we got to the back nine I played much better and I pulled away to a lead that was plenty.”
Mark Calcavecchia shot a 66 to finish second. Charles Schwab Cup points leader Tom Lehman and John Cook tied for third at 14 under. They also closed with 66s.
The closest anyone came in the final round was four strokes when Calcavecchia holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole, but Couples birdied five of the last eight holes, including the final two. Last year at The Woodlands outside Houston, he also had a seven-stroke victory.
Couples’ 54-hole total of 193 broke the tournament record of 195 set by Mark McNulty in 2005 on the par-71 Oak Hills Country Club course.
Couples earned $270,000, giving him $957,753 in nine starts on the Champions Tour this year. He’s the U.S. captain for the Presidents Cup next month in Australia.
Couples birdied the first three holes to start each of the opening two rounds. On Sunday, he parred the first five holes. His first birdie came on the par-5 sixth, but Calcavecchia matched it to stay six back.
Calcavecchia, second in the Schwab Cup standings, made it a bit interesting. After Couples lipped out a birdie putt from about 5 feet on the seventh, Calcavecchia stuck his tee shot on the par-3 eighth to 10 feet and sank the putt. And his 12-footer on No. 10 cut Couples’ lead to four.
”Even then I knew I was in a battle for second,” Calcavecchia said, ”and that’s what I was aiming for.”
Calcavecchia left a birdie putt on the edge on No. 11 from 15 feet, and Couples made his from 8 to get the lead back to five. He holed a 10-footer No. 12 to go to 20 under and six ahead.
”Nos. 11 and 12 are very good driving holes and those were probably two of the best drives I hit all day and I birdied them both,” Couples said. ”Unless (Calcavecchia) was going to birdie every hole, the odds were against him catching me.”
It was the final full field on the Champions Tour. The top 30 in the point standings are headed to the Charles Schwab Cup on Nov. 3-6 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.