It's not Tiger Woods' back that Fred Couples is most worried about at this Masters

It's not Tiger Woods' back that Fred Couples is most worried about at this Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fred Couples received nearly as many cortisone shots in his back last week as his practice partner on Tuesday, Tiger Woods, has green jackets.

“I don’t know how much it did,” Couples said after playing for just the second time since March 28, when he withdrew after the pro-am for the PGA Tour Champions’ Galleri Classic in Palm Springs.

Couples, 64, hasn’t gotten through a tournament on the senior tour since early March. He withdrew from the Hoag Classic, his home event in Newport Beach, California, after an opening 69. Couples, who has battled back issues for much of his career, says this injury stems from the 2020 Sanford Invitational in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Couples had just hit 4-iron off the first tee to start his final round when he turned to shake hands with his playing competitor, Willie Wood, stepped on a slope and fell.

“I just slipped and went right down and bounced right back up,” Couples said. “Seventy-six shots later on a course that everyone shoots 67 on; I was done.”

Couples, who has always been resistant to back surgery, has an MRI planned for next week. He tested his back out on Sunday, playing 18 holes “not very well,” and he only planned to play Tuesday’s nine-hole practice round with Woods and Justin Thomas and potentially Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest.

“Physically, just got to be really careful,” Couples said. “I didn't even want to move [before Sunday].”

The most painful shots for Couples are wedges, so he plays those shots by opening the face and sacrificing distance.

“I could go to the range now and look pretty good hitting drivers and 3-woods because I'm so far away, and I won't even warm up with an iron,” Couples said. “It's really not painful until I make a bad swing, and then it's toast.”

The Masters - Preview Day Two
The Masters - Preview Day Two

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Couples is making his 39th Masters appearance and is coming off a T-50 finish last year, his first made cut at Augusta National since 2018.

His expectations aren’t as low as one might think – unless, of course, it “pops … then I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“The last thing I want to do is come out and embarrass myself by a bad score,” Couples added. “I know I can hit the ball. What is that? I don't know if that's a 73 or a 75, but I'm not shooting 80. There's no way. I'm just not that kind of person. I wouldn't do that. Can I shoot 80? Of course, I can. But I'm not planning on it.”