|Fred Couples hits from a sand trap on the second hole during final round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., April 10, 2011. (SHAUN BEST/Reuters)
DUBAI - From one favourite to another, it's going to be a quick turnaround for Fred Couples.
Couples had his best day at the Dubai Desert Classic Sunday, shooting a 4-under 68 in the wind to finish at 6-under par, good enough for a tie for 33rd place.
Couples, flying home Monday, will have to overcome jet lag as he tees it up in the Northern Trust Open in California, beginning Thursday. It's a place close to Couples' heart and the 52-year-old put a charge into the crowd last year by leading going into the final round before finishing seventh.
"I'm headed home to play in the L.A. Open, which besides Augusta, is my favourite PGA Tour event," Couples said Sunday.
The strong final round in difficult conditions buoyed Couples' spirits about his game, which hasn't been tested much because of problems with his back.
"I got in early because I haven't been playing much and I was very happy to make the cut, and I played well (Sunday)," Couples said. "At Christmas I kind of screwed my back up and I really didn't play much coming in here and I was kinda thinking, you know, it can get windy over here, but to be honest it was a blessing it didn't blow the first two days."
But he's realistic as he heads back to the PGA Tour.
"I have a long way to go to play competitive golf on either our young tour (the PGA Tour) or the European Tour, but today was a good day."
Couples, who won the Dubai Desert Classic in 1995, says it's a nice change of pace to come back to the tournament he played in '94, '95 and '96.
"This is a phenomenal field. For me personally to win here was a big boost," he said, adding it's a great opportunity to scope out some of the young up-and-comers from the Euro tour.
"That's my goal when I come over here, to play with a lot of guys I really don't know and see the kids that are 18, Manassero and McIlroy, who's not much older, so it's fun to watch them play."
At Riviera this week, they'll be rooting for the old guy.