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March 27, 2008

Fred Couples

Jay Haas

Q. Fred, what's the thinking going with a guy from the Champions Tour versus a younger guy? I'm sure you and Jay must have talked about that since he's been kind of out of the loop for a couple years?
FRED COUPLES: Well, we did. My thinking on that was Jack Nicklaus was a captain who wasn't on the TOUR much, and he had Jeff Sluman, and what my thinking is, I won't kid you, there's probably two names that popped into my mind. The first one was Jay, and then the second one was Davis, and Davis I want to be on the team.
So what I felt like was I needed to make a decision. I don't want to make it sound like it was a gut-wrenching decision, because again, Jay was my No. 1 pick, and of course Brad Faxon was another guy I played in several matches with.
But I still think that when you go doing it -- I'm going to hopefully have Jay play in a tournament next year where we can both play. I'm going to be out a lot. And then he can bump into guys. But I think once you get in there Sunday night -- I mean, Jay knows, he's been on teams and he sees guys. They were really excited. Tiger, Furyk, Mickelson, you know, everyone kind of lit up. I think they would have lit up with -- not saying anything bad about anyone, but I think Jay has a lot of respect, and I've known him a long time, and he's a very good decision-maker. And he'll be 60 percent of a captain, I'll be 40, but I just have more authority to nix some of his decisions. But I don't think that's really an issue at all.

Q. Could both of you address this? This isn't exactly a couple of drill sergeants out there running this team, but are these guys you don't have to worry about cracking a whip to get motivated to play in these events?
FRED COUPLES: I'll let Jay answer that first.
JAY HAAS: Just from what I've read in the past, the way Jack has handled the team the last couple times has been semi-hands off from what I've gathered, just go out there and have fun and who do you want to play with. You know, one thing that Fred I remember saying at this dinner we had back in Ireland, that had to be in -- when was that, four or five years ago, that on all these Ryder Cup teams he'd say I want to play with Davis, I want to play with Davis, and the captains are not in their heads, and then when the pairing came out he wasn't playing with Davis.
I think what I've seen that Jack has done is more or less kind of guide them but not force them to do anything or be any kind of drill sergeant, as you said. I think these guys all know how to compete and how to handle themselves on the golf course under all kinds of pressure situations.
I don't know, I think that -- obviously you need some kind of structure in practice rounds, things like that, but I don't think either one of us are going to be stubborn about who plays with who or that we've got to have it a certain way.
FRED COUPLES: And just to finish up, I think Jay is exactly right. I think that when we go in there, all the guys will -- I mean, so far everyone, the younger players want to be on the team. I mean, it's a Ryder Cup year, but they don't have to go out of their way. I think what Jay is trying to say is when we get there, the structure, they all know what they need to do. I don't post a practice round at 8 o'clock. That's pretty much the PGA TOUR when we go. They need to be up and they need to go, and if they're screwing up, one of us will say, hey, we didn't really like what you did here today.
I've never had a problem on any team. As Jay said, Nicklaus was phenomenal in asking who you want to play with. If I can pair you against someone, who might that be? He went out of the way in that.
But as far as being a drill sergeant, he was as far from any captain -- I think I had him three times -- as any captain ever. It was just a lot of fun. It's a very relaxed event, first of all, and the guys seem to love it.
What we can do is basically get in their way, not -- that's the problem you have is trying to tell people what to do and they've been doing it for upwards of 15 or 20 years.

Q. Fred, sort of two unrelated questions. First, what in your mind is the significance of Jay's role? How much impact can he make? And two, I know you said you wanted to cool down on the Jordan-Williams talk, but have you approached him? Will Jordan be there and could you sort of clarify what their roles will be?
FRED COUPLES: Well, Jordan I've talked to, and Robin Williams I saw watching Billy Crystal play baseball, so I'm sure he's busy. I have not spoken to him, nor do I know anyone who knows him. That's something that if he's heard, he might have gotten a chuckle out of. And if he can come help the team stay loose and have fun, that would be his role in that, certainly not to walk around the course.
And then with Jay, I mean, people who know Jay, he's not a drill sergeant, but Jay has probably played 32 years on both Tours. Besides everyone -- I mean, I latched onto him early, spent time at his house, with his family, and we've had lots of talks and lots of fun, and I think when you pick this, it's just someone who will get along with not three or four people but all 12 people, including myself.
I think it's -- I mean, it's a no-brainer. Everybody likes Jay, and that was -- my big decision was not just do I like Jay, and he's one of my best friends, but basically I looked at the 15 or 18 guys that may make the team, and besides the younger players who I will try and spend a little time with, the Nick Watneys and Hunter Mahans and J.J. Henrys but those guys will look up to any older player, and my main thing is how consistent Jay is, and he's very savvy.
When you get guys that know what they're doing, it's just an easy thing. There's not any question that I would have in saying, well, maybe I need this guy or that guy.
Again, we all know my friendship with Davis, but Davis, there's no way I could pick him and he's going to make the team or be very close. So that was my next guy after Jay, and Jay was my main pick, besides one of my very, very good friends. It would be the same situation with whoever I chose after Jay if Jay couldn't do it.

Q. In comparing Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, it appears, at least in recent years, guys who play The Presidents Cup are loose, they're confident, they perform really well. Ryder Cup they seem to be tight, insecure, and they don't perform as well. Basically they're the same guys. Can you explain that to us?
FRED COUPLES: I've been on four or five of each teams. I really can't. I can throw something out there. Maybe Jay can, too. I just feel like we have a great -- it's such a new tournament comparatively speaking compared to the Ryder Cup, and our record is phenomenal. If you have the Florida Marlins come in and win two world championships, World Series, you would kind of chuckle at that. But they've done it.
And in the Presidents Cup we started out with a ball of fire, and if you go way back, of course, we won every Ryder Cup, but the last 20 years, it's tense because I think we know it's tense and it's a different crowd, whereas at the Presidents Cup pretty much the crowd is the crowd and they know the international players as well as the U.S. players, and most international players play our TOUR, whereas in the Ryder Cup every now and then you get a few people that basically don't play both Tours except for a handful of events. You don't know much about them, and people make a comment or whatever, and it kind of gets a little bit -- actually whereas The Presidents Cup rarely does that, and when it does it's under the table in about an hour. That's my take.
I really have no answer. I don't know what Jay thinks.
JAY HAAS: No answer that's very intelligent other than basically you have the history of the Ryder Cup involved. The old guys in an era beyond me would say, well, you just go out there and play. It doesn't matter who plays, just go out there and play. That's kind of the way they used to do it back in the '50s and '60s because the European team back then had about three or four guys who were maybe competitive with the PGA TOUR guys, and the rest of them were just kind of club pros probably. They just weren't as competitive, and it just was a matter of fact that by the end of the week it was a foregone conclusion that the U.S. Team was going to run away with it.
I think the number one thing is these guys are very, very good. There is a little bit more -- they still have the idea that they're the underdogs. The Europeans do, I'm saying, that they're the underdogs, and they play that role to the hilt.
Now, I would think that during the last three or four Presidents Cups, the U.S. Team has been on paper the underdog. You go down the list of international players, and they're fabulous. On paper we've been, in theory, the better team in the Ryder Cup, which I don't think the players agree with that, but I just think it's so even anymore, either match, it's a coin toss. You get going one way or the other, it's just like -- Freddie mentioned a baseball team there. You look at the Celtics and the Rockets playing or whoever. I mean, these teams can go play ten games and each one would win five. Or they might go on a ten-game stretch and then the other would win eight or nine.
I don't think there's any definitive answer, but I think that they -- all the stuff that I read about the U.S. Team is not emotional enough, they're not passionate enough, they don't care, there are 12 taxis bringing them to the course and stuff like that, I don't go along with that. Freddie can attest, the teams that I've been on, we had a ball in the team room. You know, you get around guys and just have as much fun as you've ever had in any kind of golf environment. The guys are just very, very good players now.

Q. I'm just wondering, do you have any preexisting philosophy on captain's picks yet? Would you be more apt to pick somebody with personality given that you stated you want to keep the team -- a guy like Woody Austin or Mark Calcavecchia, even if they're 15th or 16th?
FRED COUPLES: Right. That's a great question, and I've looked at a few previous lists I've received, and there was guys from obviously 11th through 30th. I think there's a lot of ways you can do that. If you want to be chastised do you pick guys that don't play well and worry about it -- it's a one-week thing. You say, geez, here's a guy who's played well five or six weeks, and he goes -- and you have all these other guys to pick. But I think chemistry -- I would talk to Jay about it. We haven't yet, but my take is he may sit down -- I think The Presidents Cup is a very easy thing to pair people. Everyone plays except for one afternoon, so you don't have 12 great players that you've got to sit four guys at all times. It's an easy pairing. I think we won't mix a lot of pairings.
But I'll answer that question by saying that I feel we need the two guys that we pick certainly need to immediately go with the other pick that we make and be a pairing, or they need to go right in with somebody and not just pick two guys because maybe they're slightly better at the time than someone else. You look at the pairings, and let's say it was Jim Furyk, who was 11th, which would still be phenomenal play. You would pick him in a heartbeat. But if Jim Furyk was 23rd you still might pick him in a heartbeat.
It's so far off to worry about, but that's my take. I want to get someone that's right there, and it would be easy for Jay and I to have a very, very top player be somewhere in the 11th to 20th category, and there wouldn't even be any hesitation at all. But if it doesn't work that way, then he and I will sit down and I'm sure we'll have other people help us, too, and we'll figure out two guys.
JAY HAAS: But I misunderstood, when you called me, I thought you and I were going to be the picks.
FRED COUPLES: (Laughing) I already told Azinger, if you pick me for the Ryder Cup, you're in for The Presidents Cup. You know, we could do that. As well as you're playing, we could pick you and one of your buddies on the Senior Tour, and that would really spice things up. I'm sure that would really go over well.
But I don't know. Jay and I, we're very -- we get adamant about a lot of things, and we like to pick on each other, and for people who don't know, we'll play practice rounds, and I just like to stir it up and he likes to continue to stir it up, and we get very stirred, and by the end of the day we laugh about it. It's all fun.
But this will be a fun evening or couple days or -- I don't think a week, but it should be figured out pretty quickly.

Q. Fred, could you clarify, given that Jay is on the Champions Tour, would you go out of your way to see more PGA TOUR events than if you had chosen an assistant captain on the PGA TOUR? And sort of unrelated, you mentioned that Jordan is in. What exactly role do you see him filling?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I think he's maybe one of the greatest -- there's several of them, but one of the best athletes of all time, and he is someone that if I was going to make a team and said, wow, Michael Jordan might be around, my eyes would light up. I've been saying it from the beginning because I believe he's been at every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup I've ever played in, and I thought that was kind of neat.
This isn't like charity and saying, wow, Michael, thanks, go ahead and I'll have you. But what he'll bring is Jay can go out and Jay can tell Tiger that Phil just hit a 4-iron here and was on the back edge. Michael can just be out there and in full spirit. I could see him saying a couple things that would help out.
What I'm trying to do is -- again, The Presidents Cup flows really, really well. Last one I played in, Jack Nicklaus wasn't around a night and a half, he had things to do, so Sluman ran one. So if Jay is there -- there's no rah-rah speeches, no nothing, so that's part of it for Jordan.
Then the first question, I was confused. Whether I'm going to play a lot of events next year?

Q. Not so much play, but to be out there and see the younger players. Jay obviously is playing a different Tour, so he by definition won't see as many as if you had chosen Davis or someone who's on the PGA TOUR.
FRED COUPLES: Right. I just felt like going with Jay from -- as soon as I walked up the hill at Riviera when Tim asked me to do it, I just felt it would be awkward -- again, if Jay would say no, to be honest with you, you wouldn't want -- Davis Love is the obvious choice to probably everyone there. Davis Love has played on every team forever. I just felt like it wouldn't be the right thing to do.
Now, if Davis doesn't make the team, and I say, hey, Davis, can you come out and be there and show up, he would probably come out and do that. But Jay is my guy obviously. He'll come out -- I'm hoping he and I and his son Bill can play a practice round. We were thinking about Memorial because that's always middle of the year, and we have meetings and stuff. So that's one. Jay had said that would be great.
But as far as me, I've already played quite a bit with Nick Watney, hung around with Hunter Mahan, we played nine holes at Bay Hill. It's irrelevant what we do right now.
But I just want to show these guys that, hey, I'm kind of watching you and I like the way you play, and obviously way back when when I played and I was a young player, everyone said, wow, you'll be on this team forever, and that's kind of how it happens.
And the J.J. Henrys and Hunter Mahans now will start to be on these teams. I don't know them that well, although I know them. But next year I'll play with some of the young players, J.B. Holmes or Bubba Watson, just to see maybe what they're like. If one of them is close and they can hit it 340 yards and you can pair them up with a dicey wedge player, I don't know how that wouldn't be a good team.
There's so much to do and so much to worry about that for me playing, knock on wood, I'm hoping to be playing next year, so I'll be out, and I can cover that. Jay is a huge mainstay. He doesn't need to be around them. There's no -- like I say, Jack Nicklaus was our main captain. He was never on the PGA TOUR, and he was captain three years in a row. It's not a huge deal. I mean, Jay and I could actually show up the week before and say, hi, you guys, we're ready to go, and they'd be ready to go. I would think so, wouldn't you, Jay?
JAY HAAS: Your point about Jack, he was pretty far removed from the PGA TOUR, and yet he seemed to have pretty good success.

Q. Fred, I've been looking into some information about a story I'm doing on Amen Corner at Augusta, and of course you had the same shot there in '92. Is that area anything like anywhere else in golf, meaning the three holes are kind of a separate course within a course?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I would say that there's a tournament coming up in May in Jacksonville where the 16th, 17th and 18th are about as wild of a finish and you'll ever see, and that's sometimes -- you'll see consistent golf, sometimes you'll see people go eagle-birdie-bogey or par or whatever.
But Amen Corner has just got the rich history, and when my ball stayed up on the bank, it basically -- several things happened. It was a huge sigh of relief. I mean, I've played rounds of golf there where I've been on the third hole and I've got a little 8-iron in my hand to that green, and I'm thinking about -- unfortunately the 12th hole is the same shot. I don't know if that's good or bad.
You know, the 13th is a par-5, which to be honest, I've always struggled with. And 11, you know, it's not one of my favorite holes, either, although it's more now because it's much longer. I don't know why that is. The last couple years I seem to play it better at 500 yards than I did hitting the green with 7-iron and three-putting half the time.
That's one. The stretch there at TPC, and I'm sure there are others. But it's a unique spot where now length on 11 and a little accuracy on 12, and then of course 13 has been lengthened and not as many people go for the green. It's a little different hole, 13, but the rest of them, 11 and 12, are certainly thrilling shots and fun for the gallery and for history, too.
And the same with the TPC. Those last three holes, a lot of memory. I had one of them where I went through there in '96 with an eagle and a birdie. I believe I parred 18. I'm sure there are others, too.

Q. I'm wondering if you ever had -- do you think that there might be a team when the captain of a Presidents Cup or captain of a Ryder Cup, that they'll ever change the rule to have won a major, and do you think that you would like to try to be a captain or maybe lobby for it if things go pretty good next year at Harding Park?
JAY HAAS: I think that some day perhaps will be changed, and it is kind of an unwritten rule. You know, you look at a guy like Jeff Sluman who won the PGA, and he was a great captain. There's guys that won major tournaments that played on Ryder Cup teams that were not Ryder Cup captains.
Now with the Champions Tour you've got to look at that window -- Fred, are you 48 yet?
FRED COUPLES: I am 48, yeah.
JAY HAAS: So a guy in that area who's maybe playing not as much on the PGA TOUR but still wants to play on the Champions Tour, does a guy 50 years old want to give up -- going to be a captain at 52. I think The Presidents Cup is maybe -- I don't know just from what Curtis has told me, maybe less of a commitment than the captaincy of the Ryder Cup. I don't know, but I just remember when Curtis was the captain, he was fielding 25, 30 emails a day a year out. So this is a huge commitment, and do you want to give up two of your best years on the Champions Tour. I think that's an issue right there.
But I think there's plenty of guys that qualify on both counts that are major winners and Ryder Cup players.
Now, if Tiger keeps winning every other major, there's going to be a gap there where there's not going to be any of those players anymore, and if you get some international winners -- there may be a time where there's a guy who doesn't qualify in theory or unwritten rule that he's done both, and there may be a guy who's just a great leader or just a guy you gravitate to and everybody would kind of campaign for him. I would never do that and I would never say that is something I'd really love to do.
I guess I never gave it a thought, and I'm kind of like what Fred said about Davis. You would think that what he did would make a great Ryder Cup captain. I think in Davis' situation, he's coming off an injury, he wants to get back to where he was player-wise and has no thought at all right now of being a captain.
You know, I certainly would not campaign for it, but again, to me there's plenty of guys that fit the bill that would deserve it more than someone like myself.

Q. Fred, I just wanted to ask you about, how did your game for Augusta grow over the years? And also could you talk about your consecutive cut record and how that record you think would be viewed as opposed to some of the other records at Augusta National?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I love Augusta because everyone gets in the event. The first year I got in the event I just fell in love with the place because it suits my game, or I thought it did. You know, I think '83 was my first year, and I believe I might not have been in it one of those years, '86 or so. But after winning in '92 I played every year but one because of my back.
This cut streak, it's a very, very nice thing. I am looking forward to playing this year and trying to keep it going.
But last year I kept it going by showing up and playing, and that was probably a bigger deal than this year. This year I'm certainly looking to do more than just play on Saturday and Sunday, and if something happens, it certainly won't be because of not liking the course and not playing, but there were other years I remember making a long putt on 18 for birdie to make the cut on the number, and other years being right near the lead. So if you can go both ways -- but to have a streak, I mean, it's a very nice thing. I don't think it's one of Augusta's great, great records to have. I mean, that would be winning this thing when O'Meara won or Phil won. Two Masters jackets would be a lot better than making these cuts.
But as they say, in a very positive way, it is what it is. I've felt very good every year that I've gone there stepping on the first tee, and it is a place that I really, really like and like everything about it. That's very positive for me.

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