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June 4, 2005

Fred Couples


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Past champion Fred Couples, thanks for joining us, currently tied for the lead at 12 under par. If we could start with some opening comments. Great three days for you.

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, just real quick, the first day I hit the ball very, very well and thought I played a real good round and the scores were phenomenal. And in my mind, yesterday and today, I just had a little bit more of an aggressive game plan, and you have to shoot you know, it's not that easy, but you've got to shoot what everyone is shooting.

It's worked. I've hit the ball a lot stronger. I've shot at a few pins I didn't think I had to. I played the par 3s exceptional this week. Yesterday I birdied them all. One of the best shots I hit was on the 4th hole today and it hit right by the pin and it trickled over and chipped it down to about three feet and missed it, but still a very crisp iron. Here we are, I birdied 18 to be tied right now with David. I don't know if Jonathan Kaye has made another birdie. So I'm very happy and playing well, and I look forward to tomorrow.

These days are few and far between. I still feel like I know how to play golf. I did last year with Ernie. The last time I won, you had to keep birdieing a lot of holes, and I did that. But I just don't get in this position very often. It's unfortunate, but it's just the way my game is, and when I do play well, you know, I get on a little stretch, but not for very long. That's the problem.

Q. I'll try to ask this with a some decorum, but when did you get the back brace?

FRED COUPLES: I got it Saturday at Augusta.

Q. Did you have it for both days at Augusta then?

FRED COUPLES: I did. Whenever the rain delays were, we finished one day and I didn't think I was going to be able to play, and I went into the trailer and one of the guys suggested wearing it, and it's basically the Payne Stewart you know, it's whatever, the pants down to here and then you just Velcro this thing on as tight as you can get it, and that's what Payne used to wear.

I never wore it before because it's so tight and it's not the easiest thing to get used to, but I didn't really have a choice. It actually worked out well. I ended up making the cut at Augusta and I played with this thing because I felt like it did matter, and I got used to it. It's been very helpful just from a standpoint of keeping things really tight and maybe not moving much because that's when I get my problems.

Q. Even practicing at the range?

FRED COUPLES: I wear it as soon as I get up, all day.

Q. Gardening?

FRED COUPLES: You know, I haven't been gardening very much, but I do like to.

Q. The conventional thinking here is that if this place gets fast like it has been this week, it's going to play a lot tougher, but you said you had to get aggressive because everybody is going low. What's going on out there?

FRED COUPLES: Well, when I got here today, I think Jim Furyk was 7 or 8 under, Brad Faxon was 6 or 7 under, Bill Haas shot 66. I just looked at that, and I thought, "that's what happened the first day when I finished." I shot 71 and turned out to be in 30th place or whatever. And then yesterday, the scores were good, but it was kind of flip flopped. All the guys that were 5 and 6 kind of hung in there, and no one shot another 3, 4, 5 under, so we're all relatively close. But hard and fast means you've got to get the ball in play, and I did that I've done it all week. You know, I've hit mostly pretty solid tee shots. I haven't made any big mistakes, but the aggressive part is just kind of inching your way a little closer to these pins. A lot of times you can use the slopes, but you're still playing away from a little bit.

When you're 6 under par and guys are 8, 9, 10 under, I feel like it's not like, oh, you just shoot for the pin, but I feel like I'm hitting the ball very, very well. So I thought, you know, there's no reason to try and maneuver this round into a 70. That's really not going to be bad, but it's probably not going to be fantastic.

Q. If I can just follow that up, is it not as hard keeping it in the fairway as you would think it would be the way they're running?

FRED COUPLES: Well, it's hard. The first hole, the second hole, with the angles; 18, I hit an iron off the tee and then a 7 iron to the green. But the wind is kind of switched. But there's a handful of fairways. It's not that many, but it's the way the course should play. I mean, the superintendent has this place in the last couple of years absolutely it's as good as any golf course you'll play anywhere, Augusta, any U.S. Open, any course.

You know, the greens are perfect, so if you get the ball in the right spot and you hit a good putt, it's going to have a shot at going in. There's no bumps, there's no bruises, it's just in perfect shape. But it's good to play this course fast. We very rarely get to do it, and I think it helps because this is my 15th or 18th year playing, so it's not new. I mean, at least I have an idea of when some of the fairways get hard what to do.

But ideally, I'm sure David Toms I made quite a few putts today, I'm sure David Toms did, and whoever does that tomorrow is going to win, and in my heart I feel like I can do it one more day, so I have just as good a shot as any of the eight or ten guys.

Q. Did Payne ever try to convince you to wear this brace?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, he asked a few times. I think I put it on but never playing. It's so tight and uncomfortable, but at Augusta, I mean, I literally crawled around the course. It was the worst week I've ever had. But it's my favorite tournament, and I decided to put myself through the wringer there.

You know, he was around, and in the mid 90s, late 90s, I never was really that bad. But now it's getting to the point where it happened way too often, and it might be getting out of this chair. If it can stay tight and do all that, then it's better off.

Q. How far up your back and how far down your leg does this thing extend?

FRED COUPLES: It's underwear with a thing about this thick. So it comes up three or four inches above the belt and it goes down to where it's flat.

Q. Bicycle shorts?


Q. Will you show it to us?

FRED COUPLES: No. You don't want to see it. I'll tell you one thing, it's like 300 degrees in a body suit. That's for sure.

Q. 12 pretty much fire you off on the back, set you on your way do you think?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. I mean, it was not a hard shot but not easy. You know, wedge and the pin was just over, and I hit it perfect and it ended up being a foot. Really, the two shots I hit on 15, I mean, that was a big boost, making eagle kind of gets you revved up. But that was a turning point to the round, but it was a good 2 to have. I've birdied it every day and I have a lot of 2s on my card this week.

Q. I wanted to ask you about 14. Where did your tee shot go?

FRED COUPLES: All the way to the edge of the creek. It was in the first cut of rough all the way I had 75 yards to the pin. I hammered it. As soon as I hit it, I said, "get down, but I didn't think it was going to get to where it was. I hit a good shot off a pretty much downhill lie to about eight feet and made it.

Q. What's a fun week for you, if you have more or fewer than you had before, and how much does the back and constantly dealing with it weigh on you?

FRED COUPLES: You know, my back is not a big deal. I play and sometimes it goes out and then I go home and rest. But a fun week, to be perfectly honest, this is a fun week, not because I play well. I enjoy the fact that it's Jack Nicklaus's place and he does such a phenomenal job from the time you get here to the food to when you go. But the idea of playing a great course, and I'm going to be perfectly honest, we don't play golf courses like this every day. We play some that aren't quite as good, but we don't play many that are better. So that's my week of fun. Next week at Congressional, you know, I said on Wednesday, I can't wait to get there but I can wait one more day. And then Pinehurst. So for me, this is a big three weeks and one of my favorite courses is Westchester. But it's a rush, and it doesn't take you know, you've got Mike Weir and Davis and Vijay that missed the cut, and it's very disappointing I'm sure to the tournament and Jack, but at the same time I'm sure it's one of their favorite places to play, they just didn't play well.

And for me, I just think this is one of the best courses we play.

Q. Would you go through your birdies and eagle?

FRED COUPLES: Birdied 5, I hit a drive and a 2 iron just off the right of the green and chipped it to about six feet, made it.

Next hole, hit a wedge two feet for birdie.

Next hole, had a 3 wood to the green, missed it to the right, chunked it in the bunker, blasted out, made a horrendous bogey on 7.

Then 8, hit a 6 iron 20 feet and made it.

12, hit a wedge a foot.

14, hit a sand wedge eight feet.

15, hit a driver and a 5 iron to 15 feet, made it.

18, hit a 2 iron and a 7 iron 15 feet, made it.


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