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Northern Trust Open: Baddeley, Couples, Na finish front nine

February 20, 2011 |  1:22 pm


Fred Couples had a 27-foot birdie putt on the par-four ninth hole that the gallery desperately hoped the 51-year-old might make to provide a mental boost for the fading and achy-backed Couples. But the putt was a little long and Couples finished the front nine by shooting even-par 35.

Couples, trying to become the oldest PGA Tour winner in 35 years, is tied for third with Robert Allenby and Jimmy Walker, three shots behind leader Aaron Baddeley and a shot behind Vijay Singh, who is in trouble on the 10th hole.

Kevin Na, who had been tied with Couples for second place at the start of the day, had a one-over 36 on the front nine and is tied for sixth with Stuart Appleby and K.J. Choi, who each shot four-under 32 on the front nine.

On every hole, Couples seems to be walking more slowly and tending to his back with stretching exercises. He sometimes uses his putter as a walking stick. He will need a rejuvenation and a big charge to challenge the so-far nerveless Baddeley if he is to tie Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan with three wins at Riviera.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Fred Couples watches his approach shot at No. 2 during the final round of the Northern Trust Open on Sunday at Riviera Country Club. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images