Fred Couples really thought he’d be back in Calgary sooner than this.
In 2018, the World Golf Hall-of-Famer was excited for a chance to compete for his second Shaw Charity Classic title — that is, until he arrived at the airport near his hometown of Seattle.
“I’ve had my passport in the same spot for 20 years, and I pulled out my little backpack and it wasn’t there,” Couples recalled. “I kind of embarrassed myself on the side — I threw everything out, it wasn’t in there. You have to be up here (Calgary) for Thursday’s pro-am and I just couldn’t get here.”
“It was a bummer.”
Talk about a stroke of bad luck.
Now, Couples is shaking off some rust and aches in hopes of making a big splash.
His 2014 championship remains one of the most improbable runs in the tournament’s decade-long history.
He shot a course-record 61 and made a four stroke comeback to beat Billy Andrade in a playoff for SCC glory.
“It wasn’t easy,” Couples said. “But if you just hit it anywhere near it was going to get to the hole because it was downhill — and it went in beautifully. It was fun when I put on my cowboy hat and rode into the sunset back out of here.”
For Friday’s first round, Couples is paired up with another fan favourite in Canadian Mike Weir, who is making his second trip to Canyon Meadows.
It’ll be his first Shaw Charity Classic in front of a full house.
In 2021 the event was limited to 2,000 spectators each day, though they made an impression. One woman memorably gifted Weir some homemade jam in hopes of sparking some birdies.
“I just I’m so grateful,” the 2003 Masters champ said of his Canadian fanbase. “I think back to the years I played the Canadian Tour, coming across the country, driving my car and people kind of getting to know me and coming out. Just to see them still come support me is pretty special.”
Weir was just one shot shy of the lead after the first round last year but ended up settling for a ninth place tie.
This time around he has a better idea of what to expect from the challenging 7,086-yard course.
“The more you play it, you kind of start to fall into that routine I’m starting to feel comfortable on. There’s a few different tee shots out there that maybe were a little uncomfortable for me last year and feeling those again and maybe having a little different strategy this time around.”
Couples and Weir will tee off along with American Jerry Kelly at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Stephen Ames is up at 11:09 a.m., while fellow Canuck Dennis Hendershott will start on tee #10 at 11:35 a.m.