Fred Couples photo

Fred Couples

The field for the 2017 American Family Insurance Championship has received a last minute dose of star power with the addition of Fred Couples, tournament officials announced Friday.

Couples, the 1992 Masters champion and one of the marquee players on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, joins a field that includes local stars Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly and 37 of the top 40 players on this year’s Schwab Cup points list.

Couples, a 15-time winner on the PGA Tour, has played a limited schedule in recent years because of persistent back pain. He withdrew from this week’s event in Des Moines, Iowa, but still submitted his commitment to play in the American Family tournament June 23-25 at University Ridge Golf Course.

He will join a 78-player field that includes high profile players making their debut in the event, including Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Corey Pavin, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ian Woosnam.

“This year’s field is tremendous and one of the strongest on the tour this year,” said Nate Pokrass, tournament director. “With the new players and contingent of returnees, we like our chances of surpassing the 56,000 spectators we had last year and, in the process, raising more money for charity.”

Kirk Triplett will return to defend his title and will be joined by most of the top names from the inaugural event, including John Daly, Tom Lehman, Jay Haas and Kenny Perry.

Bernhard Langer, the tour’s No. 1 player, is not playing this year because of a family commitment.

The field includes 12 players who have won majors championships: Mark Calcavecchia, Couples, Daly, Faldo, Todd Hamilton, Lee Janzen, Lehman, Larry Mize, Pavin, Singh, Bob Tway and Woosnam.

Nine players have won Champions tour events this year: Stephen Ames, Woody Austin, Couples, Daly, Carlos Franco, Jimenez, Lehman, Scott McCarron and Singh.

In addition to tournament host Stricker and Kelly, players with Wisconsin ties include Milwaukee area native Skip Kendall, former University of Wisconsin men’s golf coach Jim Schuman and Rhinelander native Dan Forsman.

Schuman, a two-time Wisconsin State Open champion, is one of five players to receive a sponsor’s exemption. Others are University of Illinois coach Mike Small, Jay Don Blake, Rod Spittle and Steve Pate.

Four more spots in the field will be determined in a qualifier on June 19 at The Legend at Bergamont golf course in Oregon.

Bucky!

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