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Couples sinks birdie putt to win at Fallen Oak

By David Brandt
AP Sports Writer / March 25, 2012
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SAUCIER, Miss.—Fred Couples made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

Couples started the day tied for the lead with Jeff Sluman, but moved ahead with a birdie on the first hole. He led the rest of the day until the 17th, when his bogey dropped him into a tie with Michael Allen.

But Couples was perfect on the 18th, which is the toughest-rated hole on the course. He hit his drive in the middle of the fairway and then stuck the approach 8 feet from the hole. His winning putt was slightly downhill and looked good all the way.

He shot a 3 under 69 in the final round to win $240,000.

Couples finished at 14 under for the tournament. Allen finished one stroke behind, and Sluman and Tom Pernice Jr. finished tied for third at 10 under.

Couples got the victory as he prepares for a few weeks on the PGA Tour. He's scheduled to play in the Houston Open next week and will then head to the Masters, where he's had plenty of recent success, with top-15 finishes the past two years. He won in 1992 and has 10 career top 10s.

It looked like Couples might cruise to the victory, easily navigating through the first 14 holes with four birdies, no bogeys and no major trouble.

But he surprisingly bogeyed the par-5 15th after a couple poor chip shots, and had another bogey on the par-3 17th, hitting his tee shot into the bunker before eventually recovering.

He righted those troubles on the 18th, finishing off a largely impressive showing. It is Couples' seventh career victory on the Champions Tour and his first this season.

Fallen Oak became a much tougher golf course as the weekend progressed.

The Gulf Coast was soaked by more than nine inches of rain earlier in the week, which led to very soft conditions during Friday's opening round. It left the course vulnerable to low scores, including Couples' course-record 9-under 63.

But sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s dried the course quickly by Sunday, making for faster greens. Factor in a swirling wind and more difficult pin positions and birdies were harder to find.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP

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