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Memorial Tournament
Muirfield Village Golf Club,
Dublin, Ohio

28th - 31st May 1998

Par 72 Prize Money $2.2 million

Final Round Report

Couples sails to second victory of the year

Associated Press

Dublin, Ohio, 31st May 1998 -   Fred Couples, who twice this year failed down the stretch, including at The Masters, closed like a champion today and won the Memorial Tournament by four strokes over Andrew Magee.

Couples twice had to endure severe-weather delays late in the final round but he made three birdies on the back nine -- the nine that had doomed him twice this year -- to ease to victory.

A closing-round 69 -- his fourth consecutive round in the 60s at Muirfield Village -- put Couples at 17-under-par 271. Magee finished at 275 with David Duval at 276 and Jim Furyk at 277.

"To win on Jack's course, in Jack's tournament, next to winning Augusta, this is it for me,'' Couples said as he sat with tournament creator and course designer Jack Nicklaus at his side.

"I'm playing as well as I can play right now,'' said Couples, who has battled a bad back and a series of personal tragedies -- including the death of both his parents -- since winning The Masters in 1992.

The victory was the second this year for Couples and the 14th of his career and it helped ease the memory of a ball in the water on No. 13 that cost him at Augusta National and a water ball on No. 17 that sunk his chances at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic earlier this month.

But on this day it was Couples who stood strong while others on the glamorous leaderboard were unable to hang tough.

Duval, Ernie Els and Davis Love III all started the final round with a chance to make a move at Couples, but none of the three could get the kind of round going to put serious pressure on the leader.

Only Furyk, who closed with a 68 to finish at 11-under par, made a serious run from behind and, if not for a quadruple bogey on Thursday when he needed four shots to get out of a bunker, he would have been right in the thick of it.

Magee made two costly bogeys on the front nine to seemingly slip from the picture but closed with three birdies on the back nine to grab second place.

"I don't know what he (Couples) finished -- 16 or 17 under -- but I couldn't have got there,'' Magee said after he closed with a 69. "I played well. I'm pretty happy with second.''

The storms that rattled through central Ohio today and stopped play once for 46 minutes and later for 39 minutes were predicted a day earlier, but tournament officials rejected suggestions to start play earlier and use both the first and 10th tees in order to finish before the storm hit.

Couples viewed the gusty weather as a definite advantage as he took a lead into the final round for the third time this year.

"The wind blowing was a bonus,'' he said. "I didn't think that anyone could shoot a 66 or 67 out there.''

And he was right. No one in the top 20 shot below 68.

The victory for Couples, who fought off a migraine to shoot a 67 on Saturday, put him on the brink of the kind of year he had in 1992 when he was the No. 1 ranked player in the world. The win gave Couples two firsts, two seconds and a third in 1998.

Couples won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January and finished second in The Masters by one stroke after making a double-bogey 7 on No. 13. Later in April he was third at the Shell Houston Open.

He was second at the Byron Nelson earlier this month when he hit into the water on No. 17 and made a triple-bogey 6.

Couples started the day with a three-stroke lead over Love and four ahead of Els, Magee and Ted Tryba. Duval was five strokes back.

Magee pulled within a stroke with two birdies in the first three holes while Couples was making a bogey on No. 2.

But things changed dramatically in a matter of moments late on the front nine.

Duval and Love both made a double bogey on No. 9 and Magee made bogeys on two out of three holes beginning at No. 6.

Couples, who made a two-putt birdie on the par-5 seventh hole, turned the front nine with a four-stroke lead over Brandel Chamblee, who was four holes ahead of him and had birdied four out of five holes beginning at No. 4.

The lead grew to five strokes when Chamblee made a bogey on No. 14.

Then, moments before play was suspended for the first time, Couples made a bogey on No. 10 when he missed a 3-foot putt and Duval pulled within three strokes of the lead with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11. No one ever got closer that that.

Couples came out of the rain delay with a great approach into the par-5 11th. As he waited to tap in his 18-inch birdie putt that put him at 15-under, he stretched his chronically sore back and then stretched his lead to four strokes with the near gimme.

After that, Couples was never tested, getting a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th and another birdie on No. 17 after the second delay.

Tiger Woods was never a factor and closed with a 73 to finish at even-par 288, 17 strokes behind Couples.

"I'm pretty close,'' Woods said about having his game ready for the U.S. Open in three weeks. "Really close, actually.''

Woods will play the Kemper Open this week and practice the next week before going onto the Olympic Club in San Francisco for the U.S. Open.

Nicklaus refuses ABC

Final Round Scores

Third Round

Last Year's Event