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June 22, 2005

Fred Couples


THE MODERATOR: Welcome, Fred Couples to the media center. Just played his pro am rounds. Give us a couple of comments on the course in general.

FRED COUPLES: The course is beautiful. Perfect shape. Greens are, I would say, pretty firm for a Wednesday and if we don't get any rain it should be really, really nice. We have a new sponsor in Barclays, which is great for us. They are all excited, the golf course couldn't be better. They took some trees out to give the greens a little more breathing room. They fixed a couple of things in my opinion; they made the seventh hole a lot harder. I don't know how it is going to play; we will figure it out by the end of this week. I am sure it is going to have a little good; some bad. Where as before a handful of guys were driving it near the green and over the trees and last year I think everyone could do it, so they need to change it. And they built a new tee and after this year stick out a bit more because it is a little bit much.

Q. The week after an Open, is there a sense, do you exhale as a player or is this kind of like an okay, play hard, play well, or is there a sense where it gets easier I guess?

FRED COUPLES: I don't want to say no, but I think for me all the tournaments are important that I play. I don't play in that many. This is the fourth in a row, so this is a little stretch where I'm really trying to pay attention to my game and see if, you know, if I have another good week this week, you know, then I know I can still do it and still keep playing. That is what I want to do. I've kind of not done that in a while and I want to play better and I think after the US Open there is a little bit of a letdown. But on a course like this you can't really fall asleep, you know. It is not like it's wide open, the greens are very tricky, and I don't think anyone here is going to not feel like, well, they're just here to play, because you can get going in the wrong direction. I think what happens is people come here, some will play good, some will play poorly whether it is after a US Open or in between any other tournament, so it is irrelevant. But for me, I love the golf course. I think it's great and I look forward to playing.

Q. Is there some relief to get away from those greens in Pinehurst?

FRED COUPLES: I will be honest. I felt like the greens were very, very good but you never really shot for a pin. And that is so unusual. So they did a wonderful job -- some of the pins were over the top, some of the pins here are going to be over the top. If you've been here long enough they put them on the crowns and if you hit it in the wrong spot you can 3-putt from 15 feet. The problem really with Pinehurst is you had to hit such a beautiful shot to get it away from the pin where you were looking and then you would go down an embankment. But you don't know that, it is not like you've never done that. I think it was a great, that is me. You can ask 150 guys, you are probably going to get 80 that liked it, 70 that didn't. In all honesty, it is irrelevant.

The best thing is it didn't get out of hand. I didn't make the cut at Shinnecock; everybody talks about that. When you get 20-mile-an-hour winds on a seaside course and it hasn't rained, something bad is going to happen. They had a couple of holes that were out of hand. It is unfortunate. Go from third to 23 so I can't get too frustrated about it. I felt like the golf course last week was the same every day. In the afternoon it is going to get firmer. Tomorrow I play the morning. In the afternoon if we don't get any rain the greens will be firmer.

Retief Goosen didn't play his best golf. A good round on Sunday was a 72 or 73. It is a very difficult course.

Q. We have a tendency to sort of focus on the main players or established players; what does it say about the depth of talent on this Tour; Michael Campbell is not on the Tour but for a guy that a lot of people haven't heard of to play as well as he did on Sunday or even Bart Bryant, another guy nobody knows too much about, what does it say about the overall depth and talent of this Tour?

FRED COUPLES: Our Tour is the strongest Tour. It has the best golfers. There is almost as many foreign players as there are American players in the Top 125. The US Open brings the best out of players. Michael Campbell is a very, very solid player with a good swing. He had a great week. He won. I don't think it is a shock to most of the players, but I think it is a nice thing to see. I think he's well-liked. He came over here a few years ago and didn't play well at all and I have a lot of respect for the guys that come over here. Some enjoy it, some travel a long way, some buy houses here. So our Tour is flourishing on great play. But the bottom line is Michael Campbell is a golfer and he plays extremely well on the European Tour and he struggled here. People don't know him as well but he is a top-notch player.

Bart Bryant is a guy that had some injuries. We all know he played well, he won last year and won this year. But it doesn't happen all the time. Most of the time the top players win. And the strongest players are Vijay and Tiger and Phil. And they are winning three, four, five times a year. So that is 20 tournaments. Like a Ben Curtis winning the British Open. That is a big surprise. He is struggling but he has plenty of time to play well. You can't win a British Open by not being a good golfer. Shaun Micheel is another guy. Those are big, big surprises to me. Michael Campbell was not a surprise.

But I would also be surprised if he comes over our Tour and decides he is going to play again because he won the US Open. I think it is hard to play over here. You can be a good player and then all of a sudden work your way down to where you are just an average player out here. There is a lot of guys that are very talented players that don't win because it is so strong.

Q. In your eyes are there more guys, be it this week or last week, who feel they can win a tournament as opposed to a few years ago, a greater percentage of players in the field who feel they can contend and win?

FRED COUPLES: You know, that is a great question. At the US Open, I think they're in buckets, the smallest bucket would be the six or seven guys. If Retief would have played well, you would have had Retief and Tiger going down the back nine. You do it enough times on the courses as hard as these, you get going sideways, there is no way to go. I didn't see any of the shots. I didn't know if he was a little off or if he was really playing poorly. But an 81 for him is like 100 for most of us. He has two Opens recently. The first three rounds were phenomenal golf. Most consistent, that is what everyone said. Anyone who could go a round and shoot 69, that is 1-under. Michael Campbell did it.

Can more people win out here? Sure. Do they? No. It is usually the same cast of characters. A guy that pops in my mind, I think Charles Howell is a phenomenal player. Does it make him any less of a player to me because he doesn't win and I think he should? No. He plays all the time. He is a young guy. When he starts to win he may win ten in three years. It is so challenging out here. But the play from the top players is extremely, extremely good. When you get Vijay to win eight or ten times in a few years and Tiger to win eight times, now Phil is winning four or five times, he tees it up, he it takes away from everyone else. Davis hasn't won in a while. They are taking a tournament he could win, so Davis has to gear it up. It goes up and down. If you look at our Tour, they're all coming to play. I think it's nice, but I think it's hard for a lot of guys because they're being pushed out from everyone all over the country. And we have the foreign players are showing their stuff, Justin Rose and Aaron Baddeley is playing well, Ian Poulter. Those are strong players a lot of people don't know about. I just played with Graeme McDowell, who is a very, very good player. He didn't play that well on Sunday, but he is a good player. They are going to continue to keep coming if they keep their cards. They are going to love it over here. We play great courses, great tournaments. There is no other better spot to play. It is only going to get worse. If you are some young guy in the PGA Tour when you think you are going to be a top player, now you are battling everybody.

Q. How hard do you think it would be for one of these young guys to actually breakthrough and win for the first time, never mind just win period, that first win seems to be so hard to pick up. You say with the depth of the Tour and increasing caliber, it's got to be an imposing thing, isn't it?

FRED COUPLES: Later on in the year you'll start to see a new winner too because guys are going to slow down playing. If you are going to tell me a young guy is going to go in Bay Hill or Memorial, Bart Bryant did it. He won last year. He's had a nice little stretch. It is phenomenal stuff. I watched a lot of these guys play, I am 45 now. I am an avid watcher of top players. And there is a nice jump from, you know, top ten in the world down to the other guys, but they can still win. But as you said, it is an elusive win, because normally when you are playing a round, this time you are battling one of those top players. In my opinion they are going to win 60 percent of the time, 70 percent of the time. They go heads-up against you. If you throw in another guy, you've got to beat Phil on Sunday and maybe Retief. But it is a lot of fun for a young guy to come out here and be near the lead. Lukas Glover has played very well this year, he is very close. It is nice to see that. It is not to say that I'm right because I don't feel like there are going to be ten first-time winners this year, but come August, September when we start getting some of the other tournaments, you'll see some guys, younger guys, winning, there is no doubt in mind. That makes it exciting too.

As I said earlier, the only problem I have is the purses. In my opinion it shouldn't be the same with a so-called lesser field than when there is a stronger field, when top players battle it out, it should be seven million. When the field is weaker, it should be two or three. That's my opinion. Everybody's got there opinion. A win is a win. If you can go win a PGA Tour event, you shouldn't worry about what you won as far as defeat and beating a field.

If I was a 30-year-old and never won and went to play a tournament in September and won, that would be so unbelievable. I wouldn't say, Geez, I won $900,000, but I won a PGA Tour event. And that is the way I look at it. If I was 30 years old, it might be a different story.

End of FastScripts.

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