The Foursome, Quick 18, Stock up/down and more

By: abadam

Welcome to PGATOUR.COMís newest feature. Each Monday, the Backspin will provide insight and analysis on the latest results, happenings and news on the PGA TOUR. We welcome your feedback; click here to let us know what you think!

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he earned that improbable Masters victory in 1986 and Julius Boros was 48 when he captured the 1968 PGA. Dare we dream again this week? Why not? So many people are looking at 54-year-old Greg Norman and hoping he can buck the odds at Augusta National, the scene of so many heartbreaking losses for the Aussie.

Maybe we are focused on the wrong Presidents Cup captain, though. As wonderful as it would be to see Norman exorcise the demons ó and I really mean that ó Fred Couples enters the Masters with momentum after two ties for third in his last three starts. He won the Masters in 1992 and has nine other top-10s, including a tie for third in 2006.

Couples will be 50 on Oct. 3. Heíll captain the U.S. Team at Harding Park and then plans to fly to Houston to make his Champions Tour debut in the Administaff Small Business Classic. But judging by his performance of late, heís not going quietly into that good night. ó Helen Ross

IS THIS 1992?: Fred Couples was tired to the bone, and his 49-year-old body was facing three of the hardest holes on the PGA TOUR. Perhaps that is why it wasnít surprising that he bogeyed the final three holes to lose the Shell Houston Open.

Everyone else bogeyed the holes too. John Mallinger bogeyed two of the final three holes to fall into a tie for sixth. So did Hunter Mahan. Both are half Couplesí age. Couples simply didnít have a lead large enough to carry him through the hardest closing stretch on the PGA TOUR in í09.

All that will be forgotten if he can get into contention this week at Augusta National. Forget Couplesí incredible record there ó itís more important to focus on how heís playing now: Two top-fives in his last three starts. For anyone not named Tiger Woods, thatís a lot of momentum heading into the yearís first major.

The way Couples is playing, it wouldnít be a surprise to see Couples become the oldest major champion in history on Sunday. ó Ryan Smithson

HINDSIGHT 20/20?: While 15 of the top 20 players in the Official World Rankings appeared at the Shell Houston Open for final Masters preparation, you have to wonder if theyíre thinking it was a good decision.

That second-guessing has nothing to do with the venue, or the tournament. It simply has to do with Mother Nature, which tournament organizers and the PGA TOUR canít control. Because of extreme winds that reached 45 mph last Thursday, the majority of the Shell Houston Openís first round didnít tee off until Friday morning. This threw a massive wrench into the schedule as most of the field didnít finish their second rounds until early afternoon on Saturday.

The third round didnít wrap up until late Sunday morning and some of the leaders played as many as 28 holes on the final day.

Granted, the guys in the Houston field didnít play any more holes than they expected to. However, they did play those 72 holes in a far shorter period of time than usual. We wonít know if this had any effect on their respective games until next week. But, itís probably safe to say that this type of dry-run for the Masters wasnít exactly what they anticipated. ó T.J. Auclair

TOUGH FINISH: If there is a tougher finishing stretch on the PGA TOUR than the last three holes at Redstone, I donít want to play it. Sunday, the final three holes only saw two players who started on the front nine play those last three even par. Justin Leonard made three straight pars to end his round and so did J.B. Holmes.

The par-3 16th opens the stretch and is followed by two par-4s that each stretch over 480 yards. The final hole may be the toughest finishing hole in the game. At 488 yards and with water all down the left side it is a terribly demanding driving hole. Even getting the ball in the fairway is no guarantee for par. Water, wind and sand are all factors on the second shot as well. John Merrick made the dayís only birdie on Sunday while there were 28 scores of double bogey or worse.

The stroke average for the best players in the game was more than a shot over par.

Move over Blue Monster, 18 at TPC Sawgrass and the Bear Trap, there is a new king of devastation on TOUR. The 18th at Redstone is the hardest finishing hole on TOUR. Just ask Paul Casey, winner of the Shell Houston Open, who made two bogeys on 18 in the final round and in the playoff and they were good enough for the victory. ó John Maginnes

PGATOUR.COMíS Brian Wacker wrote the Quick 18, Stock up/Stock Down and Forward Spin.

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