Couples wins Senior Players Championship

Fred Couples finished off John Cook with a nifty wedge shot to three feet on the third hole of a playoff Sunday in the Seniors Players Championship.

Fred Couples finished off John Cook with a nifty wedge shot to three feet on the third hole of a playoff Sunday in the Seniors Players Championship.

“I knew when it was going, it was a really good shot,” Couples said. “I didn’t think it was going to be short and trickle down the hill. I just felt like it was going to be right there. It was simple yardage — 76 yards — and it hit soft. That extra rain certainly helped that shot, but I knew it was going to be close.”

Couples won his first senior major title, closing with an even-par 71 to match Cook (70) at 11-under on Westchester Country Club’s West Course — a longtime PGA Tour venue where Couples estimated he has played about 100 rounds in 30 years. Peter Senior (71) was third at 10 under.

Victoria’s Jim Rutledge finished the tournament at even par while Rod Spittle of Niagara Falls, Ont., was 13 over after four rounds.

Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, won for the first time this season after winning four times last year in his first season on the 50-and-over tour.

He won after having a non-traditional back procedure six weeks ago in Germany, and had to battle the stiff wind and a sore left hip that began giving him trouble during a nearly two-hour rain delay.

“I wouldn’t say I was playing awesome golf before the rain delay but it wasn’t bad,” Couples said. “After the rain delay, I just didn’t feel very good. I hit some good drives but I was not all that great.”

Couples joined Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd as the only players to win the Players Championship on the regular and senior tours. He also earned a spot in The Players Championship, an event he won in 1984 and 1996.

“That’s great,” Couples said. “I get to play with the studs, so that’ll be fun.”

Cook held a share of the lead for nine holes but bogeyed No. 16 and missed birdie putts on the final two holes, forcing the second straight playoff and fourth overall in the event.

“I thought that putt was going in,” Cook said. “My eyes got real big.”

Tom Lehman (68) was fourth at 9 under, a stroke ahead of 2010 winner Mark O’Meara (69). First-round leader Jeff Sluman (70) slipped into a five-way tie for sixth.

Cook missed a chance for his first major victory, and dropped to 1-5 in Champions Tour playoffs.

“It’s disappointing,” Cook said. “It really is. These are our signature tournaments and I’ve had my chances. I’ve let the two go. I don’t know if I really let this one go, but I certainly let the Senior British (Open) in 2008 and the Tradition in ’09, those were mine.”

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