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September 1, 2005

Fred Couples


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Fred Couples to the 2005 Deutsche Bank Championship. Fred, having a great year, with three Top 10s, 32nd on the Money List, talk a little about that.

FRED COUPLES: It's been decent. The times that I've played well, I've hit the ball really, really well, and then the other times it's really so it's not really hit and miss, but just kind of how the day goes. And the couple of times, again, like at the British Open, I think I was close to last in putting and still finished third, which is promising, but haven't hit the ball that well in a long time. Today I played pretty mediocre at best. First time I played the course. I did play an outing in the last year, I played the last nine or ten holes, but it's a great course, really nice and tough.

But my game is okay and what I'm really trying to do is play well, but I had all last week off where I wanted to get away from it because I knew I was going to play here and practice really hard next week and then go work on my game in Pennsylvania and the Presidents Cup. I'm sure will play probably Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday, also. So that's a lot of golf. I'm not very good right now, but I was before I took the eight days off and I think I'll start to improve a little bit the next few days.

TODD BUDNICK: You mentioned the Presidents Cup, you had a nice surprise a few weeks ago, can you go through that a little bit?

FRED COUPLES: I think it wasn't a shock shock, but I was very happy and thrilled to be chosen. I know there were probably several people, Tom Lehman, Zach Johnson, Ted Purdy, there may have been two or three other people in his mind. I did play a practice round with him at the British Open and I played really, really well that day, which is useful to that point, but nothing else.

And then Thursday through Sunday, I played well and I think that had something to do with it. At my age or anyone's to see Brad Faxon win, it doesn't happen very often and obviously Vijay and Davis, they are just in their 40s, but for guys like myself or Brad, we're not knocking on the door six or eight times a year. So when you punch through, it's a nice feeling and to be chosen for this team is an even better feeling. So I'm going to be ready to play, I'm going to be playing every day for the next, whatever it is, three or four weeks before we get there. So that's big for me because I don't play that much anyway. So I will definitely be ready to play and hopefully whoever I'm playing with, I can keep them going and play well and have a good time.

Q. Inaudible?

FRED COUPLES: To be honest I played again, I came and did an outing here. I thought it was a great course. I grew up in Seattle, so when courses look kind of like that, I enjoy that look. I know it's soft and I know the scores have been good here, but it played hard today and it's long. So the Presidents Cup had probably a 50 percent help in that. But I could have then said, well, I'll skip here and play in Vancouver, because I grew up in Seattle and it's a two hour drive, and then play Pennsylvania and the Presidents Cup. Instead I felt like this would be an easier trip and a very good spot to come play. I'm going to stay on the East Coast after this tournament and practice this week and actually go into RTJ and play there three or four days, just take and easy and play.

I've heard a couple of things. Some of the greens have been redone and they are not in very good shape at the moment, so I'm going to get there and check it out. I don't know whether that's true or not three or four of the greens have been totally resodded? I'm sure they are closing it down and the grass will grow. We have another three weeks.

Q. One on, one off inaudible?

FRED COUPLES: Well, for me, or leading up to that tournament? It will be two out of three weeks and then the Presidents Cup. So I'm just afraid if I play two in a row and play all of these practice rounds at the Presidents Cup, that's going to be a bit much. Instead, I can get up and I can play 18 holes and take my time and not be stressed out, blah, blah, blah.

But throughout the last several years, I've tried everything, of not playing, which I do good, of playing very little, and my body, I just don't bounce back. Really playing today, I practiced pretty hard yesterday because it was so windy, I thought why go play the course and then I come out today and it's really like I'm a two handicap; whereas before, I could take ten years ago, I could take three weeks off and not play any rounds and come back, and that was one of the things that maybe was a problem. I felt like I could be right where I was in two quick days. So the goal is to play, but in the back of my mind, I want to go play well here. I'm not here just to get it over with, but I need to play, so that's the way it is. Play, then take a week off, then play.

Q. Are you one that goes into these competitions saying I'd like to play with so and so?

FRED COUPLES: No. I always thought I'd play with Davis and I very rarely play with Davis. I don't know why that is. I mean, I've certainly never had the guts to go to a captain, the ones that I've had, Watson and Ray and Lanny and Tom Kite and say, this is the way it should be, they all know what's going on. Davis also could play with anyone. So sometimes with my personality, the way I hit the ball, you always feel like you can play and play well. But there are a handful of guys, and I think Tiger would be someone who I'm probably going to play with or I hope to, but you know, all of that can change. There are quite a few guys. But I know Davis has played well. I want to say Kenny Perry, I'm not sure but I think they have played well.

So when you get there, everyone can play with anyone, but we all think that. Sometimes that's not quite the way it is. I'm sure Jack and Jeff Sluman, assistant captain, have it down, and I just need to be playing better than I'm playing right now, which I'm not really worried about. So therefore, when I get there, it's not the end of all worlds.

But sometimes you play with a guy you know really well, and if you're not playing well, he understand that is and helps you play a little better. It's not a pressure thing, it's a comfort thing. In the Ryder Cup, I think everyone is nervous, in the Presidents Cup, it's not quite as nerve wracking yet, but it's a different feeling when you get out there, especially in alternate shot. That's a very difficult thing to do. Because I can surely drive it in the rough most of the day, and you'd better know how to play out of rough and I'm probably better out of the rough than the fairway. So if I'm playing with a shorter straighter hitter, this wouldn't go well. So all of that is a pretty easy thing to do.

Q. You have a lot of experience playing Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches, is it a goal of yours to some day be captain?

FRED COUPLES: I actually gave it a little push last year to be the Ryder Cup Captain. Yeah, I think it's a goal that any older player that's been in these things it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun to participate and it's just as much fun to be the captain. To be on these teams, it's a remarkable week. I think for me, to be on it, again, the Presidents Cup, and to be around a lot of guys I really know well, and some of them I don't, I enjoy that.

I like to sit and look to see what guys are doing. I know Chris DiMarco is phenomenal at these things. I know Tiger Woods totally enjoys them. He's had tough luck in a lot of these things, but a lot of that you have to look at it, it's very tough to play with Tiger, whether it's the Deutsche Bank or the U.S. Open; it's extremely tough to be his partner because you want to do so well. I did play with him in Australia and the first day we beat Ernie Els and Vijay, like 6 & 5, and we had a ball. The second day, literally, I don't think he played his best, but he doesn't need to play his best. I really killed him around the greens. I missed a few putts and we ended up losing on the last hole when I think Craig Parry chipped in from 70 feet. If I can just hang in there and play to a certain level, and if I have him as a partner, I think we'll do fine. But it will be mostly on the other guy's body when you're playing with someone like that. I look forward to that and I hope I at least get to play with him a day or two.

The captain part of it tends to go in the same routing where you get to see these guys and what they are like. Some day I believe I will be a captain in one of these things knowing that Chris DiMarco is extremely feisty and you want to put him with another feisty guy. So all of this stuff, it's a very entertaining week to say the least.

The main thing, we all want to play well and we all want to do well, but we know all of those guys. They play our tour. It's a little different than the Ryder Cup. It's not as cutthroat or when things are said, they are usually fairly polite. And not that they aren't with the Ryder Cup. It's just when you hear from someone you don't know, it kind of is a little different feel, and very rarely does anything ever bother anybody in reality. I don't know if it's worn on too many guys, usually it's a smart little comment, but it becomes a bigger deal at the Ryder Cup.

Q. If you have a chance to play with Tiger in the better ball, do you know what his record in the Presidents Cup is?

FRED COUPLES: I have no idea. I really don't.

Q. 0 6.

FRED COUPLES: Better ball? That's best ball, that's when you use his seven or eight birdies every round? That's pretty surprising, but again, I've watched a lot of it, and I think he's ready to change all that. That's just I mean it's all shocking to me but again you have to go the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup I will say this and I've said a lot of times, when you're out there playing, sometimes you'll win a match, I know you can be 4 under par in best ball and everyone is saying, oh, my God, and then someone will lose the match and will be 9 under with two eagles. So a lot of time when you win or lose, it's just the way the ball goes. I'm quite positive that from what I've seen, a lot of times I've played with Tiger twice on TOUR when it really mattered and I played three or four other times; it's extremely difficult, not as much when you start doing it a lot. But if you get a guy that makes the team and you throw him in there and you put him in there as a partner, I guarantee he's not going to perform to his ability because it's just such a tough thing to handle.

I have really never been one, I get disappointed, I get dejected, but when you have a partner, you play as hard as you can, you go down as a partner, if you miss a 4 footer, it looks like you're the one who missed it, but it's not the end of the world/ and for him to be 0 6 for me is very surprising that he has not won a match. It's not easy. He could go 4 1 this year, 5 0; it wouldn't surprise me.

Q. (Inaudible.)

FRED COUPLES: That it was difficult? No. Because I try and I think the worst thing that happens to people is when you start patting them on the back to "play better" or "that's okay." I am not not my own game. I can walk down the fairways and I'm pretty good at changing the subject, like: "Hey, that's all right you missed that putt, we'll get them in the next one, how about the Atlanta Braves," and how about this and that, and that's what you do in every day life. If I'm playing the Deutsche Bank and I'm on the 69th hole and I'm playing with someone and he misses a putt, you know, you're going to leave him alone, and you should leave him alone if he's your partner in the Presidents Cup. I don't think too many people will be intimidated playing with myself, but maybe ten years ago, eight years ago maybe but not as a partner, no.

Q. Inaudible?

FRED COUPLES: Well, that was the fact that he had such a great short game, there's no doubt. If I have hit the ball a mile down there and he wedged it on the green, my short game was much better then. But basically, if you look back, most of the stuff we did is when I hit a ball on the green and he would make putts or hole chips.

And the fact that I think even though he's intense and he handles most of the situation out there, which made it easier on me, I mean there were a couple of times where there were some matches that things were said, especially Kiawah Island, he just said, you go right up ahead and I'll stay back and handle this deal, and we'd laugh about it at the end of the day. But we were also winning and having fun.

That's what I'd like to do, if I was to play with a young player now. I'd say: You just play golf and I'll talk to whoever and don't worry about it, because there's nothing I'm going to do. A lot of that is, he's knows what he's doing and he's a professional golfer and he's great at playing. My personality was I would laugh at this stuff and he would handle it.

Q. (Inaudible.)

FRED COUPLES: You know, I did, I did at Augusta, and in the practice rounds, I played with Duval and he had an extra putter and then it didn't feel that comfortable. My back went out on the seventh hole Thursday and I just felt like I couldn't step down that far. One of the things I have to do is maybe try an extremely long putter, which I tried a long, long time ago from Ray Floyd. Ray always stood real tall, and my eyes have a way that I use them to look down, and by standing, I couldn't get over the ball. But that's kind of what I base it on, my back was it was basically the thing at Augusta was a joke. I should never have played. The only thing, I was doing great, I had my back worked on, and just by still my problem is, when I bend over, that's when I get a little bump. So most of the things I do, when I bend and stretch, I get on the course, I try to get my legs separate when I tee a ball up, but when I actually bend down and up, it's a problem. I would rather maybe go back to conventional but the two days I really worked hard at doing it, I could feel a little stress, and then again Thursday on the sixth hole, par 5, as soon as I started the back side, it literally went out and I just don't think I can go back to that putter.

Q. Did you watch this tournament last year?

FRED COUPLES: I did not.

Q. Just trying to get a sense of from a player's standpoint about Tiger, what would it take from a year ago when things were not going all that well, what the talk was amongst you guys about his swing and where it is now.

FRED COUPLES: That's a great question and I do pay attention to that stuff. I have worked with Butch for the last three or four years. He's got a swing up there of Tiger that looks about, and I'm not a golf guy, I don't really know, I can tell a couple of things, but it looked absolutely unbelievable. It's been at least two years or three years since he's gotten Hank I mean, time flies.

Anyway, to make a long story short, by watching him, I think he's so talented that you can visually see the swing change, where four years ago or in the late 90s when he won Pebble Beach and all of these tournaments by 10 and 12, 15 shots, he was clearing much harder and wasn't as off balance as much. And I think what you can tell was last year, a lot of the times with the speed that he has, he was a little bit off balance. Some of the times, when you make a swing, mis hit the ball a little bit, it's going to go off line, but when you're actually off balance because of his power, it's going to go really off line.

One of the things if you ever watch a guy like John Daly who swings really hard with a driver, he's never off balance. And now what I see is Tiger swing better, but more on balance 99 out of 100 shots. So he hits the ball so far that he's going to hit it further off line than most people, and I think any long hitter he's not going to pick on them. But if you're a stat person, you're going to say, well, he's really way down in driving, but in reality when you're hitting what is he hitting, 330? As the fairway goes, 330, 30 yards longer than most people, so when he's in the rough, it's not a big deal. And when people look at it, in the old days he was using a baby driver, he was using a 3 wood as a driver and he was hitting it long and he was hitting it much straighter. Then people were catching up to him. So with the big headed drivers, they have to be longer and now he's picked up length that's incredible, but he's got incredible balance.

So his swing is getting tighter, getting better and he's getting back to a point which he's dominant, which he's been this year. He may come in here and he's going to tell you. I'm more comfortable, my swing is getting more grooved, but a lot of golf is balance. He's not falling down, 130 miles an hour, the driver, if you're a little off, you're going to lose some accuracy.

Q. Are players talking as much about it anymore?

FRED COUPLES: Well, he won two majors, finished second and fourth in the other. So that's what he's geared his whole life around, TPCs and Memorials and the Deutsche Banks and the World Golf Championships. So he's winning those and he's playing well every week. He does take time off and when he comes back, very rarely is a guy going to win right away. So he'll take five or six weeks off. So if you take his record amongst when he's playing, it's pretty remarkable. If you take six weeks off and come back at I can almost guess, Byron Nelson, I think he usually takes off after Augusta. And a lot of times he'll come back to the Buick in Flint; although he shot 61, I think it's pretty remarkable.

So what I see is a guy who certainly is not out there to make mistakes, so when he's working on a swing, a lot about the game of golf is swing and he knows what he's doing and he's trying to perfect his swing. Would I be shocked to have him do this for three or four more years and then do something else? No. He's that talented. There are not many guys that can change their putting stroke, let alone a full swing when you swing 135 miles an hour, and he's able to do it, because I honestly believe he's probably the most talented player on the Tour and certainly when he plays his best, he's usually unbeatable.

End of FastScripts.

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