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Fred Couples still looking to compete

Fred Couples believes he has still got enough golf left in him to prove that his unexpected challenge in this year's US Masters was no fluke.

By his own admission, the 46-year-old will tee off in the 2.4-million-pound Scottish Open here on Thursday struggling to recover the form that earned him a a place alongside the eventual winner Phil Mickelson in the final pairing at Augusta.

"I just hit a wall after Augusta and I just haven't bounced back very well," Couples admitted on the eve of a tournament he is hoping will serve as a launchpad for a challenge at next week's British Open at Hoylake.

"I'm very erratic but playing a course like this will keep you on your toes and I've got four days of golf to play before heading down to Hoylake," he added.

After taking in several days of action at Wimbledon last week, Couples has enlisted the help of veteran Scots coach Bob Torrance in an effort to put his finger on the missing spark in his game.

"Bob told me a couple of things and one of them clicked in and I feel like I'm hitting the ball very solid," he revealed.

Although he remains cautious about placing himself among the contenders for the Auld Claret Jug next week, Couples insists he is not about to settle for a slow slide towards the semi-retirement of the seniors tour.

"It is not like I can sit here and tell you I'm going to be up there at Hoylake," he said.

"I just have to be ready and swinging well and that doesn't happen nearly as much, but I've not yet got to a point where I think age is a factor.

"Because when I do well I don't think it is surprising and I do the same things that I did 10 or 12 years ago. I hit the ball solid and very long.

"Even though there are 40 percent of the people now that hit the ball as far as I do, compared with a handfull back then, I feel like I'm smarter on the course."

Couples has been lured to Loch Lomond by organisers who were keen to fill the gap left by Mickelson's absence from the bonnie banks.

A regular fixture at this tournament, Mickelson has this year decided to concentrate on getting plenty of practice on British Open-style links courses in preparation for his Hoylake challenge.

In his absence, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia will compete for the attention of the biggest galleries on one of the world's most beautifully-sited courses.

Retief Goosen also figures among the favourites to claim the 400,000 pound winner's cheque on Sunday while another South African, Tim Clark, will be defending the title.

Clark goes into the tournament in fine form after firing a final round 66 to claim fourth place at the Western Open last week.

He said: "It was a nice way to finish a tournament and it was good to do it before coming here, because I wanted to be in good form coming here to defend the title.

"I'm almost playing better than I was coming into last year and I always seem to putt well here which is the biggest thing as far as winning is concerned."

July 13, 2006


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