Freddie Couples won the Senior British Open Sunday and put a smile in the heart of every American who gives a flip about the old game.
He's one of the beloved. He and Ben Crenshaw and maybe a handful of others.
Couples is 52 years old and has been playing for us since 1982, first on the PGA Tour and since 2010 on the Champions Tour, but it's difficult to think of him as a senior. He's one of those forever young guys. He's still "Boom Boom," which is what we called him in his early years on Tour because he could hit the ball so far and because he reminded us of a lovable cartoon character.
He has a swing so fluid it looks like it's in slow motion. It's a swing that befits his image, that of a laid-back guy in no hurry to get where he's going, a man out for a stroll. Between shots, he stretches his troublesome back and looks like he's thinking about something far removed from birdies and bogeys, like he's a bystander in this scene.
He's so laid back he once explained why he didn't answer phone calls thusly: "Because there might be somebody on the other end of the line."
Despite years of battling a bad back that has sometimes sidelined him for months, Couples has won 55 tournaments worldwide, including the 1992 Augusta Masters, two Players Championships, one Senior Players Championship, five Skins Games worth a total of more than $3 million and now the Senior British Open.
In 1992, he started the season with two wins and two seconds in five events, then won the Masters to top it off. It earned him his second straight PGA Tour Player of the Year award. Along about then he reigned as No. 1 in the world for several months. He didn't like it. Too many expectations, too much attention. It just wasn't Freddie.
When, after a long dry spell, he won the Shell Houston Open in 2003 at the age of 44, Couples broke down in tears. He gathered himself up long enough to quip, "I'm always emotional when good things happen to good people."
Then he should have helped himself to a good cry Sunday night.