Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Fred Couples uses needles to get to top

PROFESSIONAL GOLF The American employed an acupuncturist to deal with back pain and Vijay Singh, taking the lead in the Buick Classic after shooting a 65


Fred Couples tees off on the sixth hole during the Buick Classic in Harrison, New York, Friday. He shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 to take the lead in the tournament.


Fred Couples had pins sticking out of his ears -- and the top spot on the crowded Buick Classic leaderboard.

Thanks to Dr. Snowball -- otherwise known as Halina Snowball, acupuncturist.

After night and morning acupuncture sessions to relieve throbbing pain in his back, the 44-year-old Couples shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over Fiji's Vijay Singh, Fredrik Jacobson and playing partner Luke Donald.

"As soon as I left her office yesterday, I didn't have any pain in my back," Couples said. "I don't get it, but I'm going to keep trying it."

He played with tiny pins sticking out of his ears.

"For some reason she ripped these in there," Couples said. "It hurt like heck, but they just stay in there for a while."

Coming off a second-place finish last week in the Memorial, the 15-time PGA Tour winner birdied the final two holes for the second straight day on the hilly, tree-lined Westchester Country Club course.

"I've kept the ball in play, which is the key here," Couples said.

Couples' wife, Thais, tried to talk him into withdrawing Wednesday night to rest his back for the US Open next week at Shinnecock Hills.

"I snuck out of there Thursday when she was still sleeping," Couples said. "She's downtown with the kids now. She'll come home and I'll tell her I'm leading the tournament and she's going to have a heart attack."

Couples, also the 36-hole leader last year en route to his emotional Houston Open victory, took advantage of Jacobson's double bogey on the par-5 ninth -- his last hole -- to top the leaderboard at 10 under.

Jacobson's tee shot struck a tree and bounced away from the tree line, but he failed to take advantage of the break when his 8-iron third shot went into the thick rough to the right of the green. After lobbing his fourth shot into an awkward position in the left fringe, he chipped 5 feet past the hole and missed the bogey putt.

"It could have been a 9," the Swede said.

He finished with a 69, Donald had a 66 and Singh followed his opening 63 with a 70.

"I had a lot of half-shots today," said Singh, the 1993 and 1995 winner. "If you're between clubs, it's very hard to get close."

Jacobson holed out from 101m for eagle on the par-4 second hole to tie Singh for the lead at 9 under, and pulled two strokes ahead with birdies on Nos. 5 and 6.

"I still realize that I'm in position, where if I play well tomorrow, I can win the tournament," he said.

Tom Byrum eagled the 18th for a 64, the best round of the day, to finish at 7 under. Padraig Harrington shot his second straight 68 to join Billy Mayfair, Scott Hend, Tjaart Van der Walt and Cameron Beckman at 6 under. Van der Walt, the last player to get into the field, had a 65, and Mayfair, Hend and Beckman shot 68s.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson and two-time Buick Classic winner Ernie Els were 5 under. Mickelson had a 68, and Els, the Memorial winner, shot a 69.

"I think 5 under is within striking distance," Mickelson said.

LPGA Championship

Jennifer Rosales had the lead going into the weekend at a major championship, but the journey to the trophy is longer than it seems.

A steady, overnight rain washed out the second round of the LPGA Championship on Friday, so Philippines-born Rosales still had 54 holes remaining to hold off Swden's Annika Sorenstam, Grace Park, Pak Se-ri of South Korea and a host of others.

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