Fred Couples rallies to win Champions event in Wisconsin

Fred Couples after making par on the 18th hole and winning the American Family Insurance Championship. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

MADISON, Wis. — Fred Couples rallied to win the American Family Insurance Open on Sunday for his second PGA Tour Champions title of the year and 13th overall.

The 57-year-old Couples closed with a 6-under 66 in cool and windy conditions at University Ridge for a two-stroke victory over Scott Verplank. Couples birdied six of the first 11 holes and finished at 15-under 201.

"I am thrilled that I hit the ball very, very well today," said Couples, coming off a seven-week break. "When you’re off, you kind of get excited to play."

Couples also won the 50-and-over tour’s Chubb Classic in February in Florida. The Hall of Famer, long hampered by back problems, won 15 times on the PGA Tour — his lone major coming in the 1992 Masters.

"I can take time off and hit the ball, that’s not really the problem," Couples said. "It’s the scoring part."

Couples played alongside Steve Stricker, the tournament host who tied for third.

"I made a putt at 18 yesterday, which put me in a pairing with Steve," Couples said. "That was a big deal because everyone (knew there would be) 15,000 people all following Steve and I wanted to be in that group. It gets your heart rate going, it gets a lot of things going. And I did do that and I played well on the front nine."

Paul Broadhurst, two strokes ahead after each of the first two rounds, had a 73 to finish fifth at 11 under.

"If Paul shot a decent score, no one was really going to catch him," Couples said. "And it played hard. With that wind and the way the course played and you’re leading, it’s not easy to shoot 68 or 69, and I was lucky enough to make a lot of birdies through the first 11 holes."

Broadhurst had four bogeys in an eight-hole stretch in the middle of the round.

"Just lost my way a little bit," Broadhurst said. "The swing wasn’t quite in synch. It was a little bit quick and it’s sometimes difficult to just sort of switch it on. I lost my lead and I just didn’t play well enough today, simple as that."

Verplank shot a 69.

"I just didn’t give myself very good chances on the back nine," Verplank said.

He stayed at Stricker’s house.

"He and I are such good buds, and his family," Verplank said. "It’s awesome. I look forward to coming back."

Stricker had a 69 to match Joe Durant (67) at 12 under.

"It was a great week and we had a great field," Stricker said. "The people came out and supported this event big-time again."

Stricker made his first start in his hometown event after turning 50 in February. He tied for 16th last week in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

"We had a blast," Couples said. "I can’t say enough about Steve Stricker. He’s been one of my favourite people forever. So knowing his name’s on this tournament, he’s from here, I wanted to play last year and this year is my first tournament back after a long layover. The people are great, the golf course is really for me, fits my eye."

Fellow Madison player Jerry Kelly had a 70 to tie for 13th at 8 under.


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