By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – When Michael Allen plays TPC Harding Park, the memories of youth come flowing back.
Coincidentally or not, so does great golf.
The San Mateo, Calif., native shot 2 under in Round 1 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, one shot back of Fred Couples and Jay Haas.
He had a small but vocal fan contingent following him on the cold and windy day, all while remembering good times around the famed muni.
“Like the city tournament we used to come out here … I remember the time I was actually a medalist,” said Allen, who grew up a few miles down the road from Harding Park. “I think we had 13 or 14 temporary greens. Just a mud bowl and it rained the whole way.”
Of course, Harding Park is considerably nicer today, and on the new incarnation Allen has good memories too. Last year he shot 61 in the third round of the season finale, the course record by three shots. He didn’t win the tournament, shooting 70 on Sunday to John Cook’s 67, but doesn’t appear convincing when he claims to be upset about that outcome.
“You know, the thing is, when I come to this area and play, I just enjoy the golf here. I grew up with it. I love seeing the trees and the color of the grass,” Allen said.
That doesn’t mean he still doesn’t want to take a trophy home Sunday afternoon. The 52-year-old won his first Champions Tour start in 2009, the Senior PGA Championship, but hasn’t won since. This year he finished in the top-10 in half of his 18 starts, but didn’t finish higher than third.
“It’s been a frustrating year in a way, that I haven’t won. I’ve had some good opportunities,” Allen said. “I’d like to get a win before the end of the year, for sure.”
At TPC Harding Park, it would just be another entry into Allen’s memory bank.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Fred Couples’ notoriously bad back, contrary to what many would believe, isn’t necessarily susceptible to cold weather.
“I like it,” he said Wednesday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. “I’ve said this every single time someone asks me. I’m stiff all the time. Why not let (the field) be stiff too if it’s 45 or 50 degrees?”
In the first round at TPC Harding Park, it’s plenty cold enough, with intermittent wind and rain. And look who’s atop the leaderboard – Couples, at 5 under through 10 holes, three shots ahead of Kenny Perry.
Tom Lehman, the leader in the season-long points race, is 1 under through eight holes and tied for fifth. None of the four other players in contention for the $1 million annuity are making a move so far – Mark Calcavecchia is 1 over, Peter Senior is even and John Cook, the two-time defending champion, is near the bottom of the leaderboard at 4 over through nine. He bogeyed four of his first six holes.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO -- Two years ago when Fred Couples tagged NBA superstar Michael Jordan to serve as one of his Presidents Cup assistant captains, it was in part as a nod to Jordan’s relationship with Tiger Woods.
This time it’s John Cook. Woods and the Champions Tour veteran go back many years, to when both lived in the same Isleworth neighborhood in Orlando.
“Without saying, there’s 12 guys on the team, (but) I felt like John and Tiger are very close, and that would help Tiger as much as any other guy,” Couples said Wednesday at TPC Harding Park, on the eve of the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
“If Tiger Woods and John Cook are really close friends and buddies, that’s an easy call.”
An hour after Couples heard from Michael Jordan, who backed out due to his commitment with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, he was on the phone to Cook.
“I’m honored, I really am. I think I can help,” Cook said. “Certainly my relationship with Tiger probably was an issue that helped Fred make his decision, that we’re very close. If I can make him comfortable doing anything, that’s what I’ll do. That’s my role.”
Woods has had mixed results and zero wins this year while rebuilding his swing with coach Sean Foley.
“I believe in what he’s doing … there’s not many people that believe in what he’s doing right now,” Cook said. “Maybe he’ll relax a little bit knowing he’s got a compadre there that really cares about him, genuinely, as a friend.”