With Couples out, but Daly's debut highlights Boeing Classic
SNOQUALMIE, Wash. (AP) For a change, Fred Couples won't be receiving the most attention and the largest galleries when the Boeing Classic tees off Friday at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.
The Seattle native is missing his hometown tournament for the second time since he joined the senior tour six years ago. Couples had to withdraw during the 2012 tournament, but didn't enter this year because of back problems that have sidelined him since February.
With Couples' bid to finally win a tournament in his hometown put on hold, most of the focus will fall on tour newcomer John Daly.
''Everywhere he goes, there's a buzz. Everyone just loves John, they love to watch him hit the ball a long way, but just his personality and the way he conducts himself on the golf course, everybody has fun,'' said Billy Mayfair, who in his first start on the senior tour finished second behind Gene Sauers in the U.S. Senior Open. ''He brings a lot of people out to watch and I think it's great. Listen, everyone here in this field would love to see John play well. We've always been that way.''
Daly has three top-20 finishes in 10 PGA Tour Champions starts since turning 50, with the best a tie for 11th last month in the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in New York.
''Right now, for me, my game is not where I want it, so it's more of a grind and it's very hard to enjoy it as much as guys that are playing really good out here,'' Daly said. ''They come in, they're playing really good, they've got confidence. I'm just coming in trying to find it.''
Last week, he tied for 51st in the regular European Tour's Czech Masters.
''A little jet-lagged today, but it wasn't too bad,'' Daly said. ''It was nice. We went Prague, Amsterdam, straight here.''
He visited the NFL's Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday
''I didn't get a chance to kick any. We did the chip off,'' Daly said. ''It was a beautiful facility. I got to talk to Coach (Pete) Carroll. I haven't seen him in a while since USC kicked the living you-know-what out of the Razorbacks. Beat us like 70-3 or 70-7 or something.''
He found Snoqualmie Ridge's greens demanding.
''The greens are tough,'' Daly said. ''The greens are hard to hit right now. For me, I'm hitting it so bad that the fairways are very generous, but I'm really struggling getting the ball close, and of course I'm putting like a blind man so that's not helping either.
The tour was off last week, giving Sauers an opportunity to relish his first senior victory. Sauers took advantage of a late collapse by Miguel Angel Jimenez to beat Jimenez and Mayfair by a stroke.
''I was almost kind of beginning to doubt myself whether I can win again,'' Sauers said. ''This is my fourth year out here and I haven't won. I've won on the PGA Tour, I've won on that Nike Tour, and that was one of my goals, to win out here on the Champions Tour, and I got me a good one. ''
The victory capped an amazing comeback for Sauers 10 years removed from nearly dying. He was incorrectly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, spent seven weeks in the hospital and was given a 25 percent chance of survival. Eventually he was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare disorder of the skin and mucous membranes that causes the skin on the extremities to burn from the inside out.
''I didn't touch a club for seven years. You got to relearn everything,'' Sauers said. ''Hitting the ball wasn't so bad, but just around the greens, chipping and putting, the bunker shots and all that, that kind of took a little extra time to try to master. Still haven't mastered it, still working on it, but had me a good week. But just coming back from all that stuff is extra special.''
The tournament is in its 12th year and is the only regular stop of any of the major golf tours in the state of Washington. The tour announced on Thursday that Boeing would remain the title sponsor of the tournament through 2021.