Fred Couples's recurrent lower-back injury, which caused him to withdraw from the Nelson last week, could put him out of action until the U.S. Open and might cost him a spot on the 1995 United States Ryder Cup team.
Couples first injured his back in early March 1994 while warming up for the final round of the Doral-Ryder Open. He didn't return to the Tour until May and didn't win until the Buick Open in August. But he had a lucrative off-season, winning more than $900,000 in unofficial tournaments, and went on to take two European Tour events in the beginning of this year. On Feb. 24, however, Couples felt a "twinge" when he hit a ball out of the rough at Riviera Country Club during the Nissan Open, and he has been going easy on his back ever since.
This year he withdrew from the Doral and the Honda Classic, missed the cut at the Heritage Classic and skipped Greensboro, Houston and Atlanta. Last week he tried hitting balls at his home course, Gleneagles Country Club in the North Dallas suburb of Piano. "I hit it everywhere," Couples says. "I feel fine doing a lot of things, but swinging a club isn't one of them."
Couples, who was a member of the last three U.S. Ryder Cup teams, is currently 30th in the point standings. Although he is the top American player in the Sony Rankings, Couples could be a risky captain's selection for Wadkins. "I would obviously love to see Freddie make the team," Wadkins says. "But he would be a tough pick. I would have to know exactly how his back is before I picked him. Can he go 36 holes a day? Would his back pop out?"
Right now, the answers would have to be no and maybe. "I can't compete like this," Couples says.
No Ryder II?
Speaking of captain's selections, don't expect Wadkins to make John Daly one of his picks. The potential Daly has in best-ball as an intimidating factor doesn't override the spectacle he could create at an international match. Chemistry is a key factor on a Ryder Cup team.
"I like John a lot. I think we get along fine," Wadkins says. "At the same time it's a team situation, and people have to fit into that for the week too. You have to play with consideration for guys on the team. I think John would one day make a very good Ryder Cup player."
Another Keen Kuehne
The best golfer in the Kuehne family may not be Trip, the Oklahoma State junior who finished second in the U.S. Amateur, but his sister, Kelli, who won her fourth Class 4A Texas high school golf championship on May 9 in Austin. Kelli, who is a senior at Bastrop High in Highland Park, will attend Texas on a golf scholarship. She shot 69-72-141 on the Jimmy Clay Golf Course to win by three strokes over Amanda Workman, who will play for Texas Christian in the fall.