Couples’ star power makes him one to watch at Shaw Charity Classic

He’s the one with the silky smooth swing and a surprising number of female followers watching his group on any course where he tees it up.

Masters winner Fred Couples may be 55, but he’s still one of the most exciting (and for some, the most handsome) players in golf, one of the longest hitters on the Champions Tour, and one to consider on the short list of players who could win this week’s Shaw Charity Classic.

That is, of course, if the weather stays warm enough to keep his notoriously balky back in shape to play, especially considering Couples packed for the relatively summer-like conditions found last year at Canyon Meadows Golf Club, not the cooler temperatures found this week.

READ MORE: Bernhard Langer searches for fountain of youth, Shaw Charity title

“I heard the weather is going to be nice so I didn’t bring any sweaters,” he said after coming off the Thursday pro-am that saw Couples play in wet, chilly conditions. “So this jacket is going to get a lot of use.”

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Last year Couples finished tied for 10th at the Shaw Charity Classic, but frankly wasn’t really a factor in the tournament. But his star power—he’s golf’s version of George Clooney—meant that the fairways were lined with spectators wanting to catch a glimpse of the 10 time Champions Tour winner who is also in the World Golf Hall of Fame after winning 15 times on the PGA Tour.

WATCH: Key holes at the Shaw Charity Classic

It is clear Calgary holds a special place for Couples, especially after his interaction with Campbell Laidlaw, who at the age of two was diagnosed with a  rare cancer and given little chance of surviving the disease. Now 15, Laidlaw appeared on Global News Calgary’s Morning News last year with Couples and the pair struck up a friendship. Couples bought the teen some new golf shoes (Eccos like Couples wears, naturally) and a new driver.

Couples joked that he was surprised Laidlaw still fit into the shoes, which he could be seen sporting while working as a volunteer at the pro-am on Thursday.

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“He does need a new pair,” said Couples, chuckling. “I’m surprised as big as he is that his feet haven’t grown any bigger. But he’s a nice kid, we had a good time, but it was cold—very cold.”

READ MORE: The big names at the Shaw Charity Classic

The cold is something Couples is very cognizant of. Couples withdrew earlier this year from the U.S. Senior Open citing a back issue, something that has plagued him for much of his career. The issue has captured more attention since Tiger Woods had back surgery and struggled to return to form. Some have suggested Woods should simply alter his swing so he doesn’t reinjure his back, but Couples says it isn’t that easy.

“You swing like you swing,” says Couples. “If I could change my swing in 1993 and make my back feel better and still play well, I would do that.”

Couples admits the back injuries have altered how he approaches the game, especially now that he’s in his fifties.

“It’s part of life,” he says. “I play and I don’t think I’m any different than most, but I can stand way open to the ball and kind of slap it around. But those things take time.”

WATCH: The first round of the Shaw Charity Classic kicked off on Friday, and the big group on the course was Calgary’s Stephen Ames, along with Fred Couples and Rocco Mediate. Kevin Smith reports.

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