Fred Couples withdraws from Boeing Classic
Seattle native Fred Couples was forced to withdraw from the Boeing Classic golf tournament on Friday.
Special to The Seattle Times
SNOQUALMIE — The golf circus at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge lost its biggest attraction after one shot Friday.
Suffering severe back pain, Seattle native Fred Couples withdrew before hitting his second shot on the first hole.
Couples said, "I didn't feel very good warming up. I hit the tee shot at No. 1 and then my lower back really locked up when I walked down to the second shot. It was like a bomb went off in my lower back. I think it's time to rest. I'm sad I won't be able to play in this year's event. For this to happen to me in Seattle, this is a rough one."
Couples hit his tee shot then walked down the fairway with his hands on his head in an apparent effort to stretch his back. He appeared to be in pain. He stopped, explained the situation to playing partners Mark O'Meara and John Cook, fist-pumped them and waited for a golf cart to take him back to the parking lot.
He was scheduled to see a doctor at Virginia Mason Medical Center on Friday afternoon, according to Boeing Classic tournament director Michelle DeLancy.
Couples has had back problems for nearly two decades. Last year, he went to Germany for a special treatment called Orthokind Therapy that involved using proteins derived from his own blood as medication.
Couples has played some excellent golf this year. At the Masters in April, he became the oldest leader (age 52) after 36 holes. Last month, he won the Senior British Open for his second victory of 2012. He had taken three weeks off before arriving in Seattle.
In a pretournament interview Wednesday, Couples said, "My body's been really shot for a while, but I can go play, which is lucky."
Defending champion Mark Calcavecchia, who shot 65 Friday and has a three-stroke lead, said losing Couples "is a tough break for the tournament. He's our star. Everybody loves him, especially here in Seattle, so it's a tough break for the tournament. You never like to see anybody have to WD (withdraw) like that."
This was Couples' second withdrawal from a Champions Tour event since becoming eligible in 2010. He withdrew from the 2010 Senior Players Championship after one round. In 2011, he won that tournament.
• Seattle product Rick Fehr, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, just missed being eligible for the Boeing Classic because he turns 50 next Tuesday. He is entered in the Champions Tour event in Hawaii next month.
• Tacoma native Ken Still, 77, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, was at the tournament and said he is talking to the University of Washington football team next week.
• In a pretournament interview, Couples said he has played golf with new Augusta National member Condoleezza Rice and said, "She's actually very good." As the 1992 Masters champion, Couples is an Augusta member.
• One of the tournament's proudest traditions was upheld at 11:20 a.m. Friday with the low-altitude flyover of a Boeing plane — this year a new Korean Air 747-8 freighter. A Coast Guard helicopter will fly over the course before the final round Sunday on Military Appreciation Day.
• Yong K. Lee, 56, a Tuesday qualifier, is an Auburn resident who didn't know how to play golf when he immigrated from Korea decades ago, according to his son, Charles Lee. He said his father got to scratch within a year and has won Korean senior golf events. Lee birdied two of the first five holes and finished with a 2-over 74.
• Russ Cochran, who lost to Calcavecchia in a playoff here last year, is suffering from a back injury and isn't playing this week.
• Calcavecchia's three-shot lead entering the second round is the biggest first-round lead in the eight-year history of the tournament.
• Duffy Waldorf, who shot a 3-over 75 in his Champions Tour debut, called it a "rough day" and said he found Snoqualmie Ridge to be a "tricky course." The other rookie in the tournament, Gene Sauers, shot 1-under 71.
• Mike McCullough shot 86 and then was disqualified for failing to sign his scorecard.