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Modesty aside, Couples sure looked great

SHARE Modesty aside, Couples sure looked great

Fred Couples doesn't think he's a great player. If he keeps playing like this, he may have no choice in the matter.

"Ernie Els is a great player. Nick Faldo is a great player," Couples said Sunday after a closing 69 put him at 17-under-par 271 in the Memorial Tournament, four strokes ahead of Andrew Magee, five better than David Duval and six in front of Jim Furyk."I consider myself right beneath them, which is fine," Couples said about Els and Faldo. "Great is - you just don't throw the word around. So I consider `good' not too bad."

Even Couples' modesty can't hide what he has accomplished this year - and in his career.

The victory was the second in 1998 for Couples and the 14th of his career, including the 1992 Masters.

The victory put Couples on the brink of the kind of years he had back in 1991-92 when he was the No. 1-ranked player in the world. He now has two firsts, two seconds and a third in 1998.

"I feel like I can play," Couples, 38, said. "Sometimes I feel tired and old, but other times, like today . . ." his voice drifted off, the look on his face finishing the thought his words failed to define.

Couples won the Bob Hope Classic in January and finished second in the Masters by one stroke after making a double-bogey 7 on No. 13. Later in April, he was third at the Houston Open.

He was second at the Byron Nelson earlier this month when he hit into the water on No. 17 and made a triple-bogey 6.

Couples' bad back twice had to endure severe-weather delays late in the final round, but he made three birdies on the back nine - the nine that had doomed him twice this year - to ease to victory.

"To win on Jack's course, in Jack's tournament, next to winning Augusta, this is it for me," Couples said as he sat with tournament creator and course designer Jack Nicklaus at his side.

Couples started the day with a three-stroke lead over Davis Love III and four ahead of Els, Magee and Ted Tryba. Duval was five strokes back.

Magee pulled within a stroke with two birdies in the first three holes while Couples was making a bogey on No. 2.

But things changed dramatically in a matter of moments late on the front nine.

Duval and Love both made a double bogey on No. 9 and Magee made bogeys on two out of three holes beginning at No. 6.

Couples, who made a two-putt birdie on the par-5 seventh hole, turned the front nine with a four-stroke lead.

Then, moments before play was suspended for the first time, Couples made a bogey on No. 10 when he missed a 3-foot putt and Duval pulled within three strokes of the lead with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11.

But no one got closer than that as Couples twice came out of weather delays to make a birdie and prove the Couples of old was back.

LPGA ROCHESTER: At Rochester, N.Y., Hollis Stacy, a 17-time winner on the LPGA Tour between 1977-85, moved within two shots of leader Rosie Jones on Sunday before repeated rain delays postponed the Rochester International.

About half the field, including a dozen leaders, had not completed the tournament.

Stacy, 44, moved to 7-under after 10 holes. One shot back was Sherri Steinhauer and Juli Inkster. Nancy Ramsbottom, who completed her round, was leader in the clubhouse at 2-under 286.

PITTSBURGH SENIOR CLASSIC: At Bell Acres, Pa., Larry Nelson's final-round 2-over-par 74 left him at 12-under-par 204 and gave him a five-stroke win in the Pittsburgh Senior Classic.

Bob Duval, who shot a 4-under-par 68, was followed by Jay Sigel at 6-under-par and Al Geiberger, who finished fourth at 5-under 211.

Nelson, who joined the Senior Tour last September, won for the second time and collected $165,000.

TPC OF EUROPE: At Alveslohe, Germany, England's Paul Broadhurst and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke shared the third-round lead of the TPC of Europe at 18-under 198.

The two players led by one stroke over Masters champion Mark O'Meara and England's Lee Westwood, who broke the course record with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61.