HARRISON, N.Y. -- A win by Fred Couples this weekend would be a major accomplishment for him, and for the tournament. It would be a boost for Couples, six weeks after he received a new kind of injection in his chronically aching back. And having such a big name on the trophy would be a shot in the arm for the Senior Players Championship, which really is a major. Honest.
First things first: Couples is playing without discomfort for the first time in years. "I'm in good spirits about the way I'm playing, and feeling," he said, having finished the second round of the Champions Tour major at 8 under par at Westchester Country Club. He shot 5-under-par 66 Friday to go up one on Peter Senior, two on Corey Pavin and eons on pain.
"I haven't had any shot that I've hit out there, whether it was a putt or a wedge or a driver, where it's felt bad," he said after his six-birdie, one-bogey round. He owes it to a revolutionary blood-work procedure called Orthokine that he received this summer in Germany. When he heard that PGA Tour player Vijay Singh was considering the procedure, Couples left a voice mail, saying, "There's nothing I can tell you except I feel really, really good. There's no medicine, there's no exercise. You just do things."
Not that, at 51, he is kidding himself. Germany offered a treatment, not immunity, from pain. "I know it will come, I don't think I'm healed," he said. "But if it can last a while, I have no problem flying over there and having it done again. It's nothing major at all."
He would prefer to say just the opposite about this tournament, one of five designated as majors by the Champions Tour. The course is tougher than most and the event has four rounds instead of the usual three. Couples acknowledged, however, that during a corporate outing last week, hardly anyone realized that the formally named Constellation Energy Senior Players is on par with the U.S. Senior Open and Senior PGA.
"I'm just another guy on this tour, but I think we need to get great sponsors like we have, then somehow name [tournaments] so that everyone knows they're majors," Couples said. Referring to tour officials, he added, "They need to figure out how everyone will know it's a major. I don't know how they'll do that, but I'm sure they will."
One way might be to promote a triumph by the 1992 Masters champion and most popular player on the 50-and-over circuit, who has four Champions Tour wins -- all regular events.
"Tomorrow, if I play well," Couples said, "I'll come in here and someone will say, 'Are you looking to win your first senior major?' and I'll say, 'Yeah.' "