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June 11, 2004

Fred Couples


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Fred Couples, thanks for joining us, great round today, 65, birdied your last two holes to take the clubhouse lead. Just talk about your first two days here at the Buick Classic. Good ones for you.

FRED COUPLES: Well, it's about two good days. I've kept the ball in play, which is a key here. There's a lot of rough, and I think it'll play harder because I think the greens will be a little harder.

But I hit a lot of good shots, made a few key par putts yesterday and today to keep up there and keep going, and then yesterday I birdied the last two holes; today I birdied the last two, so hanging in there and then getting a little bit of a rush was good.

But today I really hit the ball well, had a lot of birdie putts, and it's been -- whereas last week I chipped in a lot of times and made a few bombs, this week I've hit the ball better. I want don't want to say it's not as hard a course, but it's not as tricky. A lot of shots I played safe shots. I heard Vijay say when you only have wedges in, you can shoot for the pins, but you've got to keep the ball in the fairway, otherwise you can't shoot at anything out of the rough.

Q. Your back was killing you yesterday when you left. You got treatment. Talk about how you felt today compared to yesterday.

FRED COUPLES: Well, I'm very tired, but this back thing, you think it's old for you guys, it's old for me. I very rarely get it where it's throbbing like a toothache, it's so uncomfortable. I told my wife -- she didn't want me to play at all and get ready for next week, but I kind of smoothed the ball around with a 3-wood, and I hit it well and got through with the round, and then I had this acupuncture done, and today I felt less pain, but my back is just really tight.

We'll find out. I don't know if it's a good thing that the pain -- whatever she's doing is keeping -- the pain in my back certainly doesn't feel great, but the pain is gone, so when I walk and my heels hit the ground it doesn't really hurt. Getting started yesterday it was hard to stand still and putt and watch the guys play. Today that was all gone.

To me it's unbelievable what they can do or what she can do because I've never really tried this before, and I'm going to give it a shot, keep trying.

Q. You had it after the round yesterday?


Q. This morning, too?

FRED COUPLES: And then this morning, right, and I'll see her tomorrow morning, too.

Q. Do you know what her name is?

FRED COUPLES: Dr. Snowball. Yesterday I'm playing on the table, and she says, where are you guys from? My wife was in there, and we said Santa Barbara, and she worked in Santa Barbara for five or six years, so she's got a couple people there. Things are like falling into place here, pretty nice.

To pick Santa Barbara, what a weird spot.

Q. Does Dr. Snowball have a first name?

FRED COUPLES: She does, it's Halina.

Q. Does she make house calls like at Shinnecock next week?

FRED COUPLES: You know, I don't know. The people -- I've got to be honest. To make it real clear, I went to Korea and this happened, and I was like in shock. You know your back, you know your ankle, you know whatever, and I played. I would not have ever believed that.

And then coming here, immediately, as soon as I left her office yesterday, I didn't have any pain in my back. I don't get it, but I'm going to keep trying it.

Q. How did you hook up with her?

FRED COUPLES: Through a friend in California, his daughter lives here, and we called her to kind of tell her -- I was so tired on Wednesday, I wasn't going to be able to go to have dinner with them. They live ten minutes away. My wife said, you don't happen to know an acupuncturist here, and she said, oh, we actually do. So that's how it happened.

Q. This conversation that you had with your wife about not playing, how long did that last?

FRED COUPLES: Actually it lasted all night Wednesday, and then I teed off early, snuck out of there on Thursday, so she was still sleeping (laughter). I've been doing this so long. She came out and watched me play on Sunday, and I played very, very well at Memorial, and she was just thinking, give your back a rest and play the U.S. Open because that's -- she knows enough, but I kept saying, man, you've got to come out to see Shinnecock, blah, blah, blah, and she said, well, if you can't play, what a waste of time.

She's downtown with the kids. She'll come home and I'll tell her I'm close or leading and she's going to have a heart attack (laughter). It happens.

I must say, again, if it was eight years ago -- I mean, you learn to play with things, and I've said a lot of times, I could have a bad thumb, and you can't really play with a bad thumb or a wrist like David Toms came back from. I just learned how to get my body to swing, and I am swinging pretty well and things are going well, so it's really not a big deal.

If I wasn't swinging well, I'd be all over the place, but I'm not stuck and my back is rotating and moving, so it's a good thing. It's just hard when you have this throbbing and you're not real used to it. So it was a little bit freaky and hopefully she can continue to fix it.

Q. Did you at all consider not playing?

FRED COUPLES: No. I mean, I listened to her several times, but again, it's just if I can go out and play and my caddie is from up the road and his dad is out here watching, so I thought I'd give it a shot. My good buddy Duffy Waldorf withdrew today. We travel a little bit and our kids are hanging out, and I feel bad because he's won here and he's looking forward to playing and just qualified for the Open, but it's a fickle thing. He withdrew because he just didn't want to -- he had to shoot 6-under today to make the cut, and instead he flew to see this Tom Boars and now he's going to go to the U.S. Open Saturday night or Sunday, but it can happen.

Q. You've got the deals in your ears. Is there anything in your back that you're wearing?

FRED COUPLES: Not -- last night, and then she takes them out. For some reason -- she ripped these in there and it hurt like heck, but they just stay in there for a while.

Q. Did you not hit driver at all today?

FRED COUPLES: I hit driver on 15, a good drive, and then two days in a row I hit horrible drives on 18, and then I hit driver on No. 5, 7 and 9.

Q. Would you say that you were more controlled these two days than you were at Memorial?

FRED COUPLES: I hit a lot of really, really good short irons this week in the right spots. So far I'm having so much fun, but I had so much fun playing with Ernie and Nick Price, and then playing with Ernie Saturday and Sunday, and I felt like I had a few loose shots, and I'm sure I will tomorrow, and I'll just have to get around them. But in control, it's getting better and I'm hitting the ball well. I'm hitting my 3-wood last week a lot and this week a lot, just by design, and then I'm sure at Shinnecock, I'll hit it a lot there, too.

It's fun when you can say, geez, the pin is way in the back, I want to hit a 9-iron just short of the ridge and you do that, it gives you some confidence, even though people think you're going to attack the pin and one hop it over the green and chip it 30 feet by and two-putt for bogey, so that is a little bit of control.

Again, as I heard Phil and Vijay say, if you attack a hole, even if it's with a pitching wedge, it's got to be a hole where you can get to the pin.

You'll see so many people from 120 yards and you can make a bogey very quickly if you attack it a little too much and don't hit a quality shot.

Q. You brought up the fact that you finished up with two birdies yesterday, finished up with two birdies today. I know they all count the same, but does it feel different? Do you feel differently about your day when you finish like that?

FRED COUPLES: Well, to be honest, yesterday I had a five-foot par putt on 15 and about a six footer on 16 to keep the round going, then hit it close on 17, made birdie, and hit a full wedge to 18. Most people are driving it and knocking it on the green. So those were two good birdies to get to 4-under, which turned out to be in great shape.

Whereas today I birdied No. 8 which is one of the harder holes, and then No. 9 hit a good drive and an iron just over the green, and making birdie there, the more I can do, I'd like to birdie the last two every single time I play, but yeah, it's a good feeling. It kind of jump starts you if you get off to a good start and then it makes the day go easier when you finish with a good finish.

Q. I know you don't want to look too far ahead, but with the back and all, are you allowing yourself to think next week I can contend and be in the mix?

FRED COUPLES: Well, now I do. If you had asked me last Thursday at Memorial, just happened to walk by and say, hey, I'm in the tournament, just going to go and have a good time, it's got nothing to do with my back. My back is always going to be like this. But it's just odd that it feels so bad but I'm swinging better, and I've been working on my game a little bit and I've got this little drill, and Butch has helped a lot.

So yeah, I feel like I can play tomorrow. I'll be paired with Vijay and have a ton of guys trying to catch everybody, but I'm starting ahead of everybody or I'm going to be, I don't know what's going on out there, but basically that's a good thing, and this is a very tough little course, and I need to be careful of what I'm doing, and no matter what I do, I'll still go with a good attitude into Shinnecock thinking that I can compete there, too.

But it's that same old thing, I have to hit the ball in play, and I am making some nice par putts. But nobody, Phil Mickelson or Vijay, if they don't hit the ball solid at Shinnecock, you can't really compete, and that's what they do. That's why they play well because they hit the ball solid.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could touch on your round.

FRED COUPLES: I started on 10 and laid up, hit a sand wedge to about eight feet, made it.

14, par 3, hit a 9-iron to about three feet.

17, I hit a sand wedge to two feet, then made about a ten-footer for par on 16, then butchered 18 and went to No. 1 and hit it pin-high left of the green and made a great par up-and-down out of the rough, which was nice.

Then par 5, I knocked it on the front edge and two-putted, making about a five-footer from probably 50 feet.

No. 8, I hit an 8-iron to about eight feet and made it.

No. 9, I hit a driver and a 3-iron just over and hit a great little shot out of the rough to about two feet.

Q. When your wife gets home from New York tonight she's probably going to be shocked. Are you shocked at all considering all you've gone through here the last couple days?

FRED COUPLES: Well, yeah. It was shocking last week. But when I went out Saturday and played with Ernie it was a great pairing, and I played well, and then I thought, geez, Sunday, just go out and play your best, and I went out and played very well.

Then coming in here, you know, I'm swinging well, and I just figured just to massage the ball around, and my swing feels good. It's holding up, so tomorrow I feel like I can get up and maybe see this lady and have her help out.

Last week was shocking. I mean, 2nd place, and I felt like it was a battle. It was a lot of fun. But in the back of my mind, you know, it was very surprising. I don't want to say shocking. It was surprising to play like that. I did it last year a couple times and I haven't done it in a while, so it's always fun to do it, and it'll be fun tomorrow to be in the last group.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Fred, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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