Acupuncture helps back pain for leader

Updated: June 11, 2004, 8:00 PM ET
Associated Press

HARRISON, N.Y. -- Dr. Snowball might be making house calls next week at Shinnecock Hills if Fred Couples keeps playing like this.

After night and morning acupuncture sessions with Halina Snowball in Greenwich, Conn., the 44-year-old Couples shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 on Friday to take the second-round lead in the Buick Classic.

"As soon as I left her office yesterday, I didn't have any pain in my back," Couples said. "I don't get it, but I'm going to keep trying it. To me, it's unbelievable what they can do."

Coming off a second-place finish last week in the Memorial, Couples birdied the final two holes on the Westchester Country Club course to take a one-stroke lead over Vijay Singh, Fredrik Jacobson and young playing partner Luke Donald.

"I've kept the ball in play, which is the key here," said Couples, who played with acupuncture pins in his ears.

Couples' wife, Thais, tried to talk him into withdrawing Wednesday night to rest his back for the U.S. Open next week at Shinnecock Hills.

"I snuck out of there Thursday when she was still sleeping," Couples said. "She's downtown with the kids now. She'll come home and I'll tell her I'm leading the tournament and she's going to have a heart attack."

Couples took advantage of Jacobson's double-bogey 7 on the par-5 ninth -- his last hole -- to top the leaderboard at 10 under.

Jacobson's tee shot struck a tree and bounced away from the tree line, but he failed to take advantage of the break when his 8-iron third shot went into the thick rough to the right of the green. After lobbing his fourth shot into an awkward position in the left fringe, he chipped 5 feet past the hole and missed the bogey putt.

"It could have been a 9," the Swede said.

He finished with a 69, Donald had a 66 and Singh followed his opening 63 with a 70.

"I had a lot of half-shots today," said Singh, the 1993 and 1995 winner. "If you're between clubs, it's very hard to get close."

Jacobson, a stroke behind Singh after a first-round 64, holed out from 112 yards for eagle on the par-4 second hole to tie Singh for the lead at 9 under. The Swede reached 10 under with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 fifth, and took a two-stroke lead with a 15-footer on the par-3 sixth.

"I still realize that I'm in position, where if I play well tomorrow, I can win the tournament," he said.

Tom Byrum eagled the 18th for a 64 -- the best round of the day -- to finish at 7 under, and Padraig Harrington shot his second straight 68 to join Billy Mayfair, Scott Hend, Tjaart Van der Walt and Cameron Beckman at 6 under. Van der Walt, the last player to get into the field, had a 65, and Mayfair, Hend and Beckman shot 68s.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson and two-time Buick Classic winner Ernie Els were 5 under. Mickelson had a 68, and Els -- the Memorial winner -- shot a 69.

"I think 5 under is within striking distance," Mickelson said.

Harrington put himself in contention for his first PGA Tour victory.

"I really struggled with my swing, to be honest, but I worked the ball around the golf course well," he said. "If the U.S. Open wasn't next week, I would just work with what I've got -- just put up with it and see what happens and hope it would go away. But with the U.S. Open next week, I'm going to try and figure it out."

Divots
Donald failed to qualify for the U.S. Open. "The U.S. Open is gone. I can't do anything about it," he said. ... Jacobson also had an eagle in his opening 64, holing a 60-foot putt on the par-5 fifth. ... Defending champion Jonathan Kaye was 3 under after rounds of 73 and 66. ... The cut was at 1 under. Mike Weir, Chad Campbell, Jesper Parnevik missed by a stroke, and Lee Janzen, Shigeki Maruyama, Darren Clarke and David Toms also dropped out after two rounds.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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