A look back at 2011 with tales from the tour

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At the end of the week, Van Pelt was among eight players who had a share of the lead on Sunday. He tied for eighth. Yet that Tuesday afternoon on the porch with Goalby was as strong a memory as his best finish at the Masters.

“To me, those are the things where I feel fortunate I get to do what I do,” Van Pelt said a few weeks ago. “It’s great to be at Augusta. And you’re thinking about the tournament. But when you get a chance to visit with someone like that, those other things can wait. I could have sat there all day.”

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Darren Clarke couldn’t do the math.

For a guy who spent two decades chasing the claret jug, Clarke did a remarkable job keeping a clear head until he approached the 18th green at Royal St. George’s and tried to figure out what remained for him to capture golf’s oldest championship.

He played the final hole the way he wanted, taking the bunkers out of play off the tee and hitting to the back left of the green.

“The crowd was roaring and shouting, and I’m thinking, `How many putts do I have from there?’ I promise you, that’s what I was thinking,” Clarke said. “And I couldn’t get the number in my head. The only time that I really figured it out was when I was standing over the ball. I’ve got five putts.”

He took three to make a meaningless bogey and win by three shots over Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

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Fred Couples was outside the ropes near the first tee at Royal Melbourne, holding court on the world of sports as only Couples can do, while Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson prepared to play for the first time as partners in the Presidents Cup.

Couples wanted to know about the sale of the Houston Astros, and how they could go to the American League, and if someone bought the Seattle Mariners, could the new owner demand they be in the National League? The conversation shifted to hockey, back to baseball, a brief stop for the NFL, back to hockey. And then he stopped.

“You know, I should be over there talking to Dustin and Tiger instead of you two clowns,” he said.

Maybe so. But, as one reporter asked, what would be his preference?

“You guys,” Couples said. Nodding in the direction of Woods and Johnson, he added with a smile, “Those guys don’t give me anything.”

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