THE WOODLANDS, Texas (AP) — Fred Couples is taking a break from his duties as U.S. Presidents Cup captain to defend his title in the Champions Tour stop near Houston.
Couples won the Insperity Championship by seven shots last year. Even if he hadn’t won, Couples would attract one of the largest galleries around The Woodlands Country Club layout, mainly because he played at the University of Houston.
The Presidents Cup is Nov. 17-20. Couples, the Senior Players Championship winner in August, has played a limited schedule on the 50-and-over tour this year and is no factor in the Schwab Cup race.
Only two full-field events remain, and Tom Lehman is the points leader. The top nine players in the standings are entered this week.
“I tend to not focus too much on the end,” Lehman said. “I don’t really think too much about who’s going to win, who’s going to lose. I definitely pay attention to where I’m positioned, then I see what my opportunities are.”
Lehman has won three times this year and has 10 top-10 finishes. He has a 398-point lead over second-place Mark Calcavecchia, a one-time winner who has 12 top-10 finishes.
While Lehman, who has led since the second week of the 2011 season, cannot lose his Schwab lead this week, he knows he must continue to play well if he is to have a chance for his first overall Schwab Cup title.
Next week’s tournament is in San Antonio, followed by the season-ending Schwab Cup championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
“I’m playing these weeks in a row, so you work hard on your game and you prepare properly,” he said. “And I know probably I’m going to have a good week or two and then we’ll see where I’m at.”
Couples, whose last PGA Tour win came at the Shell Houston Open, certainly had a week to remember last year before a large and supportive college home crowd.
He trailed going to the final day, but had a back-nine 29 at Oak Hills.
“The golf course is in absolutely perfect shape,” Couples said. “The greens are as fast and as good as any greens we’ll play all year. I do like the golf course, obviously I went to school here, won last year and won the Houston Open.”
Next year’s tournament will lack the season-ending drama. Tournament officials announced a move to May 4-6.