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Fred Couples struggles to 71 in opening round of Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am

Couples in need of comeback

If Fred Couples is going to win his fourth straight Champions Tour event, he has a lot of ground to make up today. For the first time in 13 tour rounds this year, Couples shot in the 70s (71, to be exact) on Friday at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.

Couples said he made a couple of bad plays "going over greens with shots that I knew the club was probably too much" but hit a few 15- to 20-foot putts.

"It's a tough course," he said. "I'm not thrilled with 71, but at the same time, the way I was playing, it looked like I was going to shoot 73. I need a great round (today), otherwise I'll be working on my swing on Sunday."

Price in the hunt

So much for Nick Price saying he'd be "very surprised if I contended this week." Price, the defending tournament champion, thought he'd be rusty after a 13-day trip in Egypt with his family that led him to just start swinging his clubs again Thursday.

But Price is one shot back of leader Mark O'Meara after shooting 5-under 66 on Friday. Price said he started hitting the ball well the last five to seven holes and was helped by playing with O'Meara.

"I think I maybe worked over my jet lag a little bit, and the warm weather certainly helped," he said. "Playing with Mark was great, because he got on a roll on the back nine and I got sucked in along with him."

Reid and Green together again

Mike Reid, top, will pair with Ken Green next week at the Legends of Golf tournament in Savannah, Ga. Green was in an RV accident last summer and had his lower right leg amputated. His brother, girlfriend and dog were killed in the accident.

Green has a prosthetic limb and will become the first amputee to compete in a PGA Tour event. Reid paired with Green last year in the tournament, which has a two-man best-ball format. Reid, who is a shot off the Outback Steakhouse lead, says there was no reservation in teaming with Green again this year.

"I texted him (after the accident) and said, 'You're still my partner and we can beat most of these guys on three legs. Get in shape. I expect to be playing with you in April,' " Reid said. "It's gonna be great for both of us. It's golf. We're going to hit some good ones and some bad ones, but we're going to have a great time together. I think it's inspirational and people need to know that."

Celebrity sightings

Among the celebrities at this year's event are George Lopez and actor and activist Michael J. Fox, who returned for his second year.

"I like golf; I'm terrible at it," Fox said. "But I enjoyed myself last year. I mostly enjoyed the people, the weather and the support. So I was happy to come back and partake in the hospitality one more time."

Chip shots

• Curtis Strange pulled out of the tournament Friday due to an illness.

• Mike Finster, a St. Petersburg resident, was in a group with Tom Pernice that finished 7 under.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Seminoles share stories

Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks showed off some of his golf skills, ending his first round by making a putt from around 10 feet on No. 9. He was on a team with Tom Lehman that finished 8 under. Brooks said he was happy to play in the same group (and share some "war stories") with fellow Florida State grad Paul Azinger.

He joked that while he "by no means is ready to start golfing professionally," he was happy that future Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice got an exemption on the Nationwide Tour.

"I wish him well. I've played with him a couple times," Brooks said. "He can go low if he starts striking, but those pros on the Nationwide are no slouch at all. So hopefully he'll have fun and it'll be a learning experience for him."

Fred Couples struggles to 71 in opening round of Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am 04/16/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 17, 2010 12:42pm]
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