WATCH: Final round highlights from the Shaw Charity Classic where Fred Couples fired an incredible course record 61.
A career round.
It is a phrase tossed around media scrums at golf tournaments with reckless abandon.
But when it comes to Fred Couples’ final round at the Shaw Charity Classic at Canyon Meadows, it rings true.
Couples, 55, entered the final round of the Champions Tour tournament four shots behind the leaders. But by the time he was finished regulation play, chipping in a remarkable eagle on the 18th hole, the Masters winner had recorded an incredible 9-under par 61, shattering the course record and vaulting him to the top of the leaderboard at 15-under par. Couples’ final score was matched by Champions Tour rookie Billy Andrade, who recorded an 8-under 62 on the final round. When Andrade couldn’t match Couples’ birdie in the one-hole playoff, a dream final round had come to a close.
In all, Couples had six birdies and two eagles through 19 holes. Couples didn’t make a bogey through all three rounds.
It was the lowest score in a single round for Couples in a 34-year professional career that spans 63 professional wins, including the 1992 Masters.
“Scoring wise this is in the Top 5,” Couples said when asked about how it compared to his best performances. “I have a couple of good course records out there, but we won’t go into that. It was a very good round and when I got rolling I started to shoot at flags.”
Raw video: Fred Couples talks about winning the 2014 Shaw Charity Classic
With thousands of fans surrounding the 18th hole chanting, “Freddie, Freddie,” Couples hold on the lead in regulation play would only last a few minutes before Champions Tour rookie Billy Andrade’s 6-iron approach dropped within two feet of the flag on the 18th green. When his putt dropped, he found himself in a playoff with Couples.
Couples spent the half hour before the playoff sitting in his car, trying to keep his notoriously balky back warm.
“I don’t go to the locker room much. I don’t hang around the course much. I went to the car, put my rain jacket on and tried to keep warm,” Couples said. “And a minute after sitting down the cameraman said Billy hit it to a foot for eagle. So I walked to the range and hit a few. Playoffs happen pretty fast.”
Indeed it did. Replaying 18, Couples’ drive found the left rough, but unlike regulation play where he tried for the green that sits perched behind a pond, the gnarly lie meant he couldn’t even make an attempt. Knowing Couples would lay up, Andrade made a valiant play for the green out of the right rough with a hybrid, but pulled the shot into the grandstands that surround 18. After taking a drop, Andrade was left with a difficult chip.
With Andrade in trouble, Couples laid up in front of the pond and stuffed his approach to a foot, making a birdie all but inevitable. Andrade’s recovery chip came up 30 feet short and when his birdie attempt rolled by the cup, he stepped aside to allow Couples to make his short putt and take the playoff.
It was a seemingly improbable win for Couples, arguably the biggest star in the Shaw Charity Classic field.
On Saturday, four shots back of surging leaders, Couples said it would take a very low score to put him in the mix. When asked about his prediction, Couples said he wasn’t suggesting that low score was obtainable.
“I did say that, but you don’t go around saying you’re going to shoot 61,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve done it—ever. This is a great day. I hit the ball pretty well, obviously, and putted like a champ.”
Couples has struggled through much of his career with back injuries, and admitted it can be a challenge. He curtailed his tournament play earlier in the year because back issues, and said he’s now prepared to go away for a couple of months before playing again.
“I get very frustrated because I still feel I can play really, really good golf, but I can’t practice, and I can’t chip and putt,” he said. “I finish my round and go back to the hotel room and kick my feet and do some things to try to relax for the next day.”
As for putting away his clubs on a more permanent basis, Couples, who finished in a tie for 20th at this year’s Masters, says it is on his mind, but he’s not prepared to make that decision.
“Am I there yet? Probably not,” Couples said.
That’s good news—for golf and for the Shaw Charity Classic. Couples, sporting a cowboy hat while sitting in the media room, said he’ll return to Calgary to defend his win next year.
“The hat fits perfect,” said Couples, smiling. “I said last year and this year that I really liked the course and I felt like I could play it well. To come back and win is a great feeling.”
Notes: Calgary’s Stephen Ames continued to struggle in his second Champions Tour stop, finishing 4-over par in a tie for 73rd. Calgary teaching pro Darryl James, who qualified into the event, shot 69 on the last day to finish in 80th, while Victoria’s Jim Rutledge shot 5-under on the final day to close out at T51. Rod Spittle, from St. Catharines, Ont., finished in a tie for 47th.