By petedirenzo
Saturday, February 19, 2011

Couples Freddie's Back at ItIt's a shame every time Fred Couples does something great on the golf course he has to be asked about his back. With temperatures expected to only be in the high 50s, and Couples saying he's going to try something "pretty drastic" next week to help ease his back pain, it looks like he will be battling more than the golf course and a long list of challengers this weekend.
But after his bogey-free 66 on Friday, Couples easily brushed aside the back questions with his laid-back demeanor that's become his trademark.
"I can play this course blindfolded," Couples said. "It doesn't mean I'm going to shoot a good round, but I've played here 29 years, pro-ams, practice rounds, haven't missed many cuts, so I've got 150 rounds on this thing, so it's an advantage for me. But you know, I did play well, and my back feels pretty good." Bombs AwayWith a list of past champions such as Nick Faldo, Corey Pavin, Mike Weir and Steve Stricker, Riviera has never been described as a bomber's paradise. Not so fast, says J.B. Holmes. Holmes, who is averaging more than 318 yards off the tee this week, would be tied for the lead if not for a sloppy double bogey on 18 Friday.
Despite the gaffe, Holmes is only two shots behind Couples and likes his chances this weekend on a course that's known for putting a premium on accuracy and angles.
"I really like this golf course," Holmes said. "I don't see it as much precision as everybody else says they do. There's not a whole lot of rough, and the fairways are fairly big. The greens are -- you've got to hit it to the right spot on the greens, but you've got to do that on every golf course."
Coming off a T5 in Phoenix and a T13 at Pebble Beach, Holmes says his swing is fine, but he needs to stay mentally focused for the final 36 holes.
"I can hit all the shots, so I'm trying to get where I need to be to compete out here between the ears," Holmes said. Immelman's ComebackIf trying to rebound from a 2009 wrist surgery wasn't enough, Trevor Immelman nearly withdrew from the Northern Trust Open on Thursday after spending the night battling food poisoning. Immelman told Reuters, "From about 10 o'clock [Wednesday] , I was throwing up all night long. I didn't get much sleep. My alarm went off at five and I took some medication to try and slow things down."
The 2008 Masters champion held it together to shoot a 1-under 70 in the first round. Then with rain falling late on Friday afternoon, Immelman made four birdies on the back nine to shoot a 4-under 67, finishing three shots behind Couples.
Immelman, who has fallen to No. 294 in the world, is seeking his first top 10 since 2008.
(Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

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