IRVING, TEXAS - Two former tournament champions, Ernie Els and Fred Couples, withdrew from the GTE Byron Nelson Classic yesterday, both citing back injuries.
Els, who ranks seventh on the PGA Tour money list, won the 1995 Nelson. Couples won the event in 1987.
Els told tournament officials that his injury surfaced Sunday during the final round at the Compaq Classic of New Orleans, where he closed with a 73 and finished in a tie for 50th.
Els, who has earned $1,292,715 in PGA Tour events this season, said he was unsure how long he would be sidelined.
Couples' withdrawal came three days after he joined the field just before Friday's commitment deadline. Couples missed the cut in New Orleans after shooting a 76 in Friday's second round.
The two vacancies in the 156-player field were filled by alternates Bobby Cochran and Emlyn Aubrey.