PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., May 11 Golf on TV is always about the leaders. But every week, there's another tournament, too. The tournament to make the cut and to make a check. Which brings us to Chris Couch, the tall Floridian who plays his golf cross-handed, the guy who won at New Orleans last year. This year, so far, has been a struggle.
He came to his 18th hole in the second round at four over par, knowing he was likely a shot inside the cut line. His last hole on Friday was the ninth, a long par-5, pretty much unreachable, playing into the wind. He drove it in the fairway, then hit a loose second shot, a big high push that, to him, looked like it sailed over a Spanish Moss tree and into the veranda of a hospitality tent overlooking the ninth fairway. His playing partners didn't see it, the caddies didn't see it, the few spectators that were out there didn't see it. While the search party, 20 members big at one point, went hunting for the ball in the rough, Couch bounded up the steps of the hospitality tent and looked inside. Nothing. The tent would have been a drop, but no such luck.
The rules allow you to search for five minutes for a lost ball. An official came in and told Couch that time was up, and the hot golfer made the long depressing walk back whence he came, to the place where his tee shot had finished.
Still, he wasn't out of it. One in the fairway, two was the wild one, the third shot was the penalty. If he could hit his fourth in the fairway, pitch the fifth on and make the bogey putt, he'd still be very likely to make the cut.
And then came golf's other drama, the one you don't see on TV. His second attempt at the lay-up was perfect, but his pitch shot to the green came up short. A bad chip, a poor putt, a backhanded swipe with a long putter that did not go in, a tap-in for nine. The dreaded quad.
And all he needed was six.
It was a beautiful Florida Friday night, for the fans, for the players still playing, for their caddies.
\n It was lousy for Chris Couch.