Champions Golf Tour
Couples gets by Armour for first Champions Tour title



Naples, FL (Sports Network) - Fred Couples earned his first Champions Tour title in only his second official start on Sunday when he captured the ACE Group Classic.

"It's not that easy to win," said Couples. "It's a fun tour. It's a great spot for me. I don't know how much I'll last. If I can play two or three years and my back hangs in there, it'll be a lot of fun. I hope I get a few more."

Couples posted an eight-under 64 on Sunday at The Quarry and with a two-shot lead heading into the final round, one would think that score would lead to a runaway victory.

They would be wrong.

Couples finished at 17-under 199, but only won by a single stroke.

Tommy Armour III, who made his Champions Tour debut this week, established a new course record with a scorching, 11-under 61 on Sunday. Armour came in at 16-under 200 in his bid to become the 16th player in tour history to win his first event.

"I couldn't get more out of it," acknowledged Armour, who matched the tour's record for lowest score in relation to par. "I didn't miss too many shots. I was happy with the round obviously."

The two put on a show Sunday and Scott Hoch, who had a three-under 69 in the final round, was seven shots behind Armour for third place. Hoch finished at minus-nine.

For Couples, this was his first win since the 2003 Houston Open on the PGA Tour. He amassed 15 PGA Tour titles, including the 1992 Masters, but on Sunday, picked up his first of what could be many Champions Tour victories.

In his debut last month, Couples took second to Tom Watson at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. Couples participated in the Champions Skins Game, an unofficial outing, the week before.

Couples finished his second round Sunday morning after high winds suspended play on Friday and the tournament had to play catch-up. He flew out of the gate in the final round with three straight birdies. Couples was six in front, but it was around the turn when Armour nearly caught Couples.

Armour had two birdies through six holes, then made a long putt from off the green for an eagle at the par-five seventh. He birdied his next two and was only two behind Couples, who also added birdies at five and eight. It was that last birdie at eight that extended his lead to three.

Armour made a 15-foot birdie putt at the 12th to cut the gap to two strokes. Couples made a four-footer for birdie at the same hole a few groups behind to reclaim his two-shot cushion.

Armour birdied the 14th from close range to get within one. Couples drained a four-footer for birdie at 12 and was back ahead by two. Armour continued his amazing run with a birdie at 15 and was once again one behind. Couples birdied the par-five 14th to go back up by two, but Armour still had some magic left in him.

He ran home a 20-foot, downhill birdie putt at No. 16 to match Couples in the lead. Couples answered with a birdie at the 14th to move one ahead, but Armour wouldn't relent. He made a 15-foot birdie putt from right of the hole at 17 to once again tie for first.

Couples converted a five-foot birdie putt at the 17th to get back in front. He held on with a par at the last for the tense victory.

"I think I had a six-shot lead," said Couples, who pocketed $240,000 for the win. "I was cruising along. Seriously, was shocked. What a round. I shot eight-under. I thought that would be easy enough. I feel lucky to have won this tournament."

"I can't get over 61. That's amazing to me."

Reigning Player of the Year Bernhard Langer and Mike Goodes both carded rounds of three-under 69 on Sunday and shared fourth place at eight-under-par 208.

Ronnie Black (71) and Dan Forsman (72) shared sixth at minus-seven.

NOTES: Paul Azinger also made his Champions Tour debut this week. He had a 70 on Sunday and tied for 21st at minus-one...Loren Roberts, the 2009 winner, shot an even-par 72 on Sunday and shared 11th at three-under par.

02/14 20:08:28 ET