Couples again headliner for Boeing Classic

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SNOQUALMIE, WASH. (AP) - After winning the Senior British Open, Fred Couples took a break to the point of not hitting a putt for three weeks.

So not only does Couples have the pressure of playing in front of hometown fans this weekend during the Boeing Classic, which tees off on Friday, but he’s doing it after not playing competitively for nearly a month.

“I have no feel putting and these greens are really fast, so I need to really pay attention to putting because taking three weeks off and not hitting a putt is a struggle,” Couples said. “But I honestly needed, you know, I needed to get away from golf for a little while and get ready for the tail end of this year. Unfortunately, I come up here not really totally ready but I think I’m on the right track.”

Couples is the headliner again for the eighth annual tournament, trying again to erase the one glaring omission from his resume _ winning a professional title in his home state. Couples struck out in his previous two trips playing at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, finishing third in 2010 and tied for 16th in 2011.He also finished second in the 2010 U.S. Senior Open just a few miles away at Sahalee Country Club.

Last year, Couples was trying to balance his commitment to playing in his hometown with his duties as captain for the U.S. Presidents Cup team and his decision to include Tiger Woods. This time, it’s all about his play on the course. And once he’s done, Couples can look ahead to the Ryder Cup and his role as an assistant captain to Davis Love III next month outside Chicago.

“The assistant thing, I think, is going to be incredibly easy, and like, `Hi, I’m here and have dinners with you,’” Couples joked.

Mark Calcavecchia is the defending champion after winning his first Champions Tour title in a playoff during last year’s event. But the Charles Schwab Cup points race might shrink significantly with second-place Bernhard Langer playing here and leader Tom Lehman taking the week off.

Langer is on a roll over the last month. He nearly beat Couples at the Senior British, then won for the first time in 24 events by shooting 62 in the final round of the 3M Championship in Minnesota. That was followed by tying for seventh last week in New York. Langer has just two victories since winning the 2010 Boeing Classic with a record 18-under score.

Lehman currently leads Langer by 150 points in the championship race. The winner here will earn 300 points.

“He’s obviously in great shape,” Calcavecchia said of Langer. “His thumb’s back to normal, so he’s healthy there. I really don’t think he has any physical issues that I know of. He’s got a lot of advantages there. He’s just the ultimate grinder.”

PGA Tour winners Duffy Waldorf and Gene Sauers are making their first starts on the 50-and-over tour. Sauers is just barely making the deadline, having turned 50 on Wednesday. Sauers is just getting back into the game competitively after a five-year absence that included being diagnosed with a serious illness called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome that landed him in the hospital for seven weeks of treatment.

“I’m just glad to be here and glad to be able to play golf again, especially to be out here on the Senior Tour and be out here with all of my friends,” Sauers said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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