Future of Boeing Classic settled as sponsorship deal set through 2014

boeing classic
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The Boeing Classic is the only professional tour event staged in the state of Washington each year.
By
Tim Booth
Associated Press

Series: Champions Tour

It took joining the Champions Tour for Fred Couples to get a chance to regularly play where he grew up.

As long as Couples' balky back stays healthy enough, he'll get the opportunity to play back in the Seattle area at least through 2014.

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BOEING CLASSIC

The Boeing Classic is the only pro tour event held annually in the state of Washington.

"I'm always excited to come back, as I've said a million times," Couples said Thursday. "It's unique to play in your home town. In my 30 years, I've played the PGA here, the NEC and the two last year, and that's it."

Couples will without question be the headliner when the Boeing Classic tees off Friday at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. And the Champions Tour solidified its plans to remain on the sports calendar in the Pacific Northwest by announcing Thursday afternoon a two-year extension that'll keep the tournament playing at the picturesque course about 30 miles east of downtown Seattle at least through 2014.

It's the only professional golf event in the state of Washington and has become a favorite not only for the spectators -- last year's event drew an estimated 78,000 for the week -- but for the players as well.

"You can tell they like it by the caliber of the field we have here this week. The strength of field perspective is right up there as one of the best this year," Champions Tour President Mike Stevens said. "It's a great setting. I don't think we play a more beautiful setting on our entire tour, (except) maybe Pebble Beach with the Pacific Ocean and the Monterrey Peninsula."

That's welcome news to Couples, who grew up in Seattle and has played only a handful of times in his entire career before his hometown fans. Last year was his finest effort -- albeit disappointing in the end -- as Couples finished second at the U.S. Senior Open at nearby Sahalee Country Club, then took third his first time playing this tournament.

Both events were won by Bernhard Langer, but they remain special memories for Couples.

"It was the most fun I ever had playing," Couples said of last year's Senior Open.

While he was happy to talk about being home, Couples also made news on Thursday by announcing that Tiger Woods will be part of the Presidents Cup team that competes in November at Royal Melbourne in Australia. Couples, the team captain, said he's told Woods that he's on the team.

"Is he playing well right now? No. (But) he almost won (The Masters) four months ago so you don't do that by playing poor golf," Couples said. "In my opinion, when you're the best player in the world for 12 straight years and you're not on a team, there's something wrong.

Aside from playing at home and his duties as Presidents Cup captain, Couples is also on a roll after winning the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship last week at Westchester Country Club's West Course. Couples beat John Cook on the third playoff hole to win his first major on the Champions Tour.

The victory vaulted Couples 44 spots in the Charles Schwab Cup points standings to 11th. He's still well behind leader Tom Lehman, who is playing in the Boeing Classic for the first time. Lehman is coming off a fourth place performance at Westchester, and he realizes that not many will be pulling for him this week.

"They root for Fred everywhere," Lehman said. "It's almost like every tournament is a home tournament for him, so no different in Seattle than it would be in Phoenix quite frankly."