News PGA Tour Ryder Cup

Fred Couples hasn't played in eight months. So how the heck is he playing in the playoffs?

With just two starts this year, Fred Couples returns to the PGA Tour Champions this week after an eight-month layoff due to a bad back. Unfortunately for the often injured Hall of Famer, breaks in the schedule have become the norm during his career. But this comeback is different than any other.

When Couples tees it up on Friday at the PowerShares QQQ Championship, he’ll be playing in the inaugural Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs. Which leads to the obvious question: How did Fred Couples qualify for the senior tour’s playoffs in only TWO starts? The obvious answer is they were two pretty darn good starts.

Couples finished T-6 in the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in January and then lost in a playoff to Bernhard Langer at the Chubb Championship in February. Then, he didn’t play anymore golf, instead, doing things like going to the Ryder Cup and taking in tennis matches:

But those two starts gave him earnings of $215,800, which wound up placing him 63rd on the season-long Schwab Cup money list. The top 72 players get into this week’s PowerShares QQQ Championship at Sherwood Country Club, the first of three postseason events. For comparison, Couples earned more money than John Daly, who barely qualified at No. 70 on the list, did in 14 events.

Couples will need another strong performance to advance to next week’s Dominion Charity Classic. Only the top 54 will qualify for that, before being cut to the top 36 for the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

It will be a tough task for Couples or anyone else to catch current leader Bernhard Langer. The German led the tour with four victories and made $2,697,459 — more than $1 million more than No. 2 Miguel Angel Jimenez. However, the first two playoff events are worth double points and then there’s a reset before the final event.

In other words, there’s a chance Freddie could win the whole dang thing. In five starts.

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