Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Couples' share of lead just one opening-round surprise

ORLANDO — Fred Couples made four birdies in his opening six holes, shot 5-under 65, and golf finally felt fun. Tiger Woods couldn't hit the green with a wedge, struggled to shoot par and finally looked human.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational delivered a few surprises Thursday, none bigger than the 48-year-old Couples booming tee shots, taking only 23 putts and finishing atop the leaderboard with J.J. Henry.

"This doesn't make me the guy to beat," Couples said. "If I can play like that, it makes it a lot easier. When you birdie four out of the first six holes, there's not much that can bother you."

In three previous trips to Bay Hill, Henry's best had been 71. He played without a bogey, making four birdie putts outside 15 feet.

"I feel like I've been close," he said. "And today, finally, everything clicked."

They were a stroke ahead of defending champ Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Tom Lehman and Lucas Glover, who got a pep talk from friends to quit being hard on himself. Despite consecutive bogeys, Glover kept his cool and ended a streak of eight consecutive rounds without breaking 70.

For Couples, it was his best score at Bay Hill since 63 in 1992, the year he won this tournament and was No. 1 in the world.

Woods is the world's No. 1 player now, having won every tournament he has played since September. It sure didn't look that way after a birdie on the opening hole. He missed one green with a pitching wedge, another green with a sand wedge, and settled for 70 that left him five shots behind, but not in awful shape.

He didn't make a lot of putts, and Woods attributed that to each green having a different speed.

But he took some of the blame.

"You had to make adjustments on the fly," he said. "It would have helped if I hit more greens. I never gave myself a chance to make putts. I missed two greens with a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. I don't ever do that."

Playing aggressively with a driver he could trust, Couples rarely had more than wedge into the green, and the suspect condition of the putting surfaces — they are recovering from a worm disease — didn't bother him.

"I'm not saying they're bad," Couples said. "But I think I'm a good putter when they're not ideal."

EUROPEAN/ASIAN: Mikko Ilonen and Tony Carolan both shot 5-under 67 to share the first-round lead in the inaugural Ballantine's Championship at Jeju Islando, the tour's first event in South Korea.

K.J. Choi, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, and British Open champ Padraig Harrington opened with 71s.

"As the world No. 5 I am not satisfied," Choi said. "There is a problem with my short game and my swing."

Couples' share of lead just one opening-round surprise 03/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Rays journal: Jake Odorizzi goes on 10-day DL with back strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jake Odorizzi is hoping his struggles this season can be tied directly to the lower-back strain he has tried to pitch through since spring training. Toward that end, the Rays placed Odorizzi on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday retroactive to Tuesday.

    Rays center fielder Mallex Smith smiles after hitting a single advancing runners in the third inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Thursday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, July 22, 2017.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It is going to get interesting tonight when the Rays begin a four-game series against the Yankees in New York. The Rays feel they are good enough to win the East Division. These next four games and the four that follow in Houston will be a good measuring stick.