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He may play only occasionally on the PGA and Champions Tours, but Fred Couples is still chasing trophies.

That was evident Wednesday as Couples warmed up for the pro-am before the $3 million Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, which opened Thursday at Firestone Country Club’s famed South Course.

Couples has finished tied for sixth or better in four of his last five events on the PGA Tour Champions. He tied for second his last time out on June 13 at the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wisconsin, one stroke behind winner Jerry Kelly.

Some might consider themselves on a roll with such 2021 results. But not Couples, who remains driven to succeed at age 61.

“Yeah, I was on a roll a couple weeks ago and bogeyed the last hole to lose to Jerry Kelly, but I played very well. In April I was in the last group in Naples and there were a couple really, really good scores the last round and I had kind of a so-so last day,” he said of the Chubb Classic, where he carded a 71 in the final round and tied for sixth.

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“I mean, on a roll, yeah. I’d like to win, but I’m playing pretty well. I don’t play that much, so my rolls are just getting to the tournaments and getting going.”

Couples has recorded 13 Champions Tour victories, the last in 2017, when he captured the Chubb Classic and the American Family Insurance Championship. He’s won 15 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1992 Masters, 1984 and 1996 Players Championship and the 1998 Memorial Tournament.

Part of Couples’ frustration likely comes from the preparation he put in before this year’s Masters, only to shoot 79-78 and miss the cut by eight shots.

“I worked hard to go to Augusta and what I shot, 78, 77 or something crazy, and I practiced and played and I ended up saying I can’t do this,” he said on the Firestone driving range. “Then I went to Naples and really liked the course. Going to Sunday, honestly, I was I think tied for the lead and I played pretty well, I just didn’t putt very well.

Fred Couples stretches as he makes his way to the 18th hole during the first day of the Chubb Classic, Friday, April 16, 2021, at the Tiburon Golf Club in North Naples, Florida.

“So I changed putters, and since then I’ve started to putt pretty well, so it makes the game a little easier when you’re making four-, five-, six-footers for pars. I’m going to definitely have to putt well here.”

In Madison, Couples was paired with Miguel Angel Jimenez (who tied him for second) and Retief Goosen (who tied for fourth). Couples shot 68 in the final round and lost to Kelly, who carded a 66.

“Even if I’m behind this Sunday and I come out and play a good Sunday and move my way up, it’s always a good feeling,” Couples said. “In Madison, I really played very well on Sunday. I hit the ball great, had a great pairing with Jimenez and Goosen and I thought one of us was going to win.

“Next thing I know Kelly starts birdieing every hole.”

Couples tied for eighth last year in the Bridgestone Senior Players, when only champion Kelly and runner-up Scott Parel shot under par. In 2019, the first year of the Champions event in Akron, Couples tied for 22nd, his 285 total leaving him 11 strokes behind of winner Goosen, who fired a 62 on Friday.

Couples started participating in the NEC World Series of Golf at Firestone in 1983. His best finish in that event was third in 1992. In five World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitationals, his best was a tie for 15th in 1999, the inaugural year.

But Couples loves returning to Firestone, even though friends at home in Newport Beach, California still believe Akron hosts a PGA Tour event. The WGC moved to Memphis, Tennessee, after the 2018 tournament.

“At home, everyone’s shocked that when I tell them I’m going to Akron. They don’t even realize that the Tour players don’t play here anymore and that the old guys play here, so it’s kind of funny,” Couples said.

“The guy who won the California State Open, he’s my age, and he said, ‘Where are you going next?’ I said, ‘To Akron.’ He said, ‘Akron? You’re not in the World Series?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not, but I’m in the Bridgestone event there.’ Then I told him the winner gets to go play in the Players Championship, so that got a rise out of him.”

This is the third year for the Bridgestone Senior Players at Firestone. The club has hosted a professional golf event for 68 years, and Couples considers himself lucky to compete on a course he considers U.S. Open-quality. He was honored as the event’s 2019 Ambassador of Golf.

“Like I said a couple years ago, this is amazing that we’re playing here,” Couples said. “We have a lot of great tournaments, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t play golf courses like this.

“We’re lucky to be here, thanks to Bridgestone and the local charities. You know, it’s one of my favorite places.”

Couples said the memories flood back when he returns. He played with eight-time WGC-Bridgestone Invitational champion Tiger Woods when Woods won at Firestone for the first time in 1999.

“I played on Sunday with Tiger when he won one year, that was crazy. Crazy fun just to see that,” Couples recalled.

That flashback helped Couples see the good in his game, despite what he considers disappointing results.

“I know right now what I have to do well and that is drive the ball well,” he said. “I feel like I am, so I just have to play smart and not panic if I make some bogeys and start thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to hit a driver on this hole.’

“I played probably 25 events here and hitting driver on holes you shouldn’t doesn’t work out very well in your favor. It may work one day out of the four, but not if you’re going to play four rounds.”

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