Preview: Genesis Open


Fred Couples still relevant at Riviera

LOS ANGELES (AP) Fred Couples doesn't talk in circles, but that's generally the path of his conversation.

He can talk about Justin Bieber and Blake Griffin one minute, switch over to the redo of the fifth green at Riviera the next minute, and then wonder why the Champions Tour gets to play Pebble Beach during the prime part of the season.

The 54-year-old Couples went silent when talking about his 32nd appearance at the Northern Trust Open, where he will play the opening two rounds with Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth, his two captain's picks for the Presidents Cup.

Did he realize that Spieth was born a year after Couples won the Masters?

''No,'' he finally replied. ''Wow.''

Couples was equally amazed to learn that Spieth, who won't turn 21 until the end of July, was born two month before Tom Watson was Ryder Cup captain the first time around, in 1993 at The Belfry, where the Americans last won on European soil. The clinching putt came from Davis Love III, a Ryder Cup rookie, who turns 50 in April.

Back to Spieth.

''He's 20. I'm 54. This is going to be a blast,'' Couples said. ''He's one of my favorites. He walked into that Presidents Cup and he owned the place. He loves Steve Stricker. He played great. There were very few missed shots in that slop.''

And then Couples is off on another tangent.

He received a sponsor's exemption to the Northern Trust Open, which he first played in 1982, so long ago that Watson beat Johnny Miller in a playoff. Tom Weiskopf finished third. Couples tied for 13th with a group that included Gene Littler.

This is one of the few appearances on the PGA Tour that Couples will make, because it's one of the few courses he still feels like he can play reasonably well. The other is Augusta National, and Couples had a chance to win both of them since turning 50.

Why does he love Riviera?

Results help. Couples won twice in the early 1990s. He has 14 finishes in the top 10. He said the greens are small, much like the courses he played as a kid in Seattle. But the course reminds him of Royal Melbourne. It's hard to make the connection from Seattle to Royal Melbourne, but he quickly adds, ''Basically, it's just fun to be here.''

There is a charm about Couples that makes him so popular, and he is regarded by players half his age as the coolest guy in golf.

''I hope I'm that cool when I'm 52,'' Rory McIlroy said a few years ago at the Masters.

Couples was on the practice range an hour before his pro-am time, and he probably hit no more than a dozen or so balls before he teed off. He was too busy talking - pick a subject - and kibitzing with players that most guys from the 50-and-older circuit wouldn't even know.

He showed defending champion John Merrick a photo on his phone of a table named in honor of Merrick, who played at UCLA. ''You're the first Los Angelone to win, Angelonian, Angelean, whatever,'' Couples said.

Then it was time to go, but not before walking over to Kevin Stadler to congratulate him on the Phoenix Open win. First, he had to say something to Keegan Bradley. Couples knows everybody. Everybody knows Couples. And if they don't, they want to.

Nicolas Colsaerts was walking out of the equipment truck when he walked out of his way to greet Couples. They talked like old friends.

''A funny thing,'' Couples said. ''The most disappointed I've ever been was when I played with the Belgium - what is it, Belgium Basher? Bomber? - OK, the Belgium Bomber, two years ago in Dubai. He had to quit after nine. He wasn't feeling all that good. But I got nine holes out of him. These greens are firm.''

The subject changes that quickly.

He really is loving life. He already has won nine times on the Champions Tour, including a U.S. Senior Open. He has been Presidents Cup captain the last three times, all of them U.S. victories, and he still holds out hope a Ryder Cup captaincy is not out of the questions. Players love playing for him.

And he's still a big fan. That's why he pays so much attention to players who weren't even born when he was No. 1 in the world.

''I begin the second half of my life and I'm actually in tune, and I really like a lot of golfers I see,'' he said. ''When I played, I didn't dislike anyone, but I didn't pay attention. When you're out there on Saturday and you're with Nick Price and Greg Norman and John Cook and Nick Faldo, you know who they are. But now I have a lot of interest to see how good these guys are.''

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Northern Trust field
Blake AdamsRobert AllenbyJason Allred
Stuart ApplebyWoody AustinAaron Baddeley
Sang-Moon BaeBriny BairdRicky Barnes
Charlie BeljanSteven BowditchKeegan Bradley
Scott BrownJonathan ByrdAngel Cabrera
Greg ChalmersKevin ChappellK.J. Choi
Stewart CinkDarren ClarkeNicolas Colsaerts
Erik ComptonFred CouplesBen Crane
Ben CurtisBrian DavisGraham DeLaet
Bubba DickersonJames DriscollVictor Dubuisson
Jason DufnerKen DukeErnie Els
Harris EnglishDerek ErnstMatt Every
Gonzalo Fernandez-CastanoMartin FloresRickie Fowler
Fred FunkJim FurykTommy Gainey
Robert GarrigusBrian GayLucas Glover
Aaron GoldbergRetief GoosenJason Gore
Paul GoydosLuke GuthrieBill Haas
Chesson HadleyJames HahnBrian Harman
Padraig HarringtonDavid HearnRussell Henley
J.J. HenryJustin HicksCharley Hoffman
Morgan HoffmannJ.B. HolmesSteve Holmes
Max HomaCharles Howell IIIJohn Huh
Billy Hurley IIITrevor ImmelmanRyo Ishikawa
Fredrik JacobsonDustin JohnsonMatt Jones
Russell KnoxJason KokrakMatt Kuchar
Martin LairdScott LangleyD.H. Lee
Richard H. LeeMarc LeishmanJustin Leonard
Spencer LevinDavid LingmerthDavis Love III
Joost LuitenDavid LynnWill MacKenzie
Jeff MaggertHunter MahanJohn Mallinger
Hideki MatsuyamaTroy MattesonWilliam McGirt
George McNeillJohn MerrickBryce Molder
Francesco MolinariRyan MooreKevin Na
Geoff OgilvyThorbjorn OlesenLouis Oosthuizen
Pat PerezCarl PetterssonScott Piercy
Ted Potter, Jr.Ian PoulterMichael Putnam
Jim RennerJohn RollinsAndres Romero
Justin RoseCharl SchwartzelJohn Senden
Webb SimpsonVijay SinghJordan Spieth
Kevin StadlerScott StallingsKyle Stanley
Brendan SteeleKevin StreelmanBrian Stuard
Daniel SummerhaysHudson SwaffordJosh Teater
Nicholas ThompsonBrendon ToddDavid Toms
Cameron TringaleBo Van PeltHarold Varner III
Jhonattan VegasJohnson WagnerJimmy Walker
Bubba WatsonMike WeirLee Westwood
Charlie WiTim WilkinsonY.E. Yang
Brendon de Jonge 
Strength of field
World RankPlayersNo. in Field
TOP 10Jim Furyk (4),Justin Rose (6),Bubba Watson (7),Matt Kuchar (9),Rickie Fowler (10)5
TOP 25Jordan Spieth (13),Dustin Johnson (17),Jimmy Walker (19),Hideki Matsuyama (20),Hunter Mahan (21),Victor Dubuisson (23),Charl Schwartzel (24)7
TOP 50Keegan Bradley (26),Bill Haas (29),Jason Dufner (31),Webb Simpson (33),Kevin Na (35),Joost Luiten (36),Ian Poulter (38),Graham DeLaet (40),Ryan Moore (43),Lee Westwood (44),Marc Leishman (45),Brendon Todd (46),Kevin Streelman (48),Francesco Molinari (49),John Senden (50)15
TOP 100Ernie Els (51),Russell Henley (53),Kevin Stadler (54),Angel Cabrera (56),Matt Every (58),Harris English (59),Matt Jones (60),J.B. Holmes (61),Louis Oosthuizen (62),Brian Harman (68),Cameron Tringale (70),Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (71),Charley Hoffman (72),Fredrik Jacobson (74),Geoff Ogilvy (75),Erik Compton (77),George McNeill (79),K.J. Choi (81),Ryo Ishikawa (83),Kevin Chappell (87),Chesson Hadley (88),Brendon de Jonge (96),Charles Howell III (97),Morgan Hoffmann (98),Daniel Summerhays (99)25
Course: Riviera Country Club, Par 71 | Yardage: 7209