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June 6, 2004

Fred Couples


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Freddie, for joining us for a few minutes. You've got to be really pleased with how you played this whole week and especially today, and it looked like you guys were having a lot of fun out there.

FRED COUPLES: Well, Ernie is a great guy. I've always enjoyed being around him, and then when you do get to be paired with him, he's such an exceptional player that I knew going out there today that I would have to play really my best, and I would have needed to shoot -- what did he shoot, 66?

Q. Yeah.

FRED COUPLES: But I hung in there. I was right there the whole time, which was a great feeling for me. Again, this is a tough course. I did it four days in a row. The one day was a little weird, but today was pretty good ball-striking, a couple good breaks, which you're going to get, but I felt like I played with Tiger and Ernie and K.J. and the rest of the guys and did very well.

I know I finished 2nd, but I lost to basically the best player by far. It was close. I was within a couple shots, but the back nine he just turned it on. He got a very, very nice up-and-down on 12 after I had hit it close and made birdie, and then made about a 30-footer on 13, which you can expect, but the great up-and-down at 12, which I'm sure he'll tell you about. But for me, I hit the ball well, hit some quality shots, and I think if anything is disappointing I was a little bit hesitant on what to do on 5 because it was playing so short off the tee, and I blocked it to the right, had to lay up.

And then on 15, I pulled it down there in the junk and I played that hole very well the whole week. I didn't give myself any chance at knocking it on in two and still lay it up in the good spot.

Other than that, I hit the ball well and definitely had a good time.

Q. You've probably played with Ernie quite a bit over the years. Does he always putt as well as he's putting this week?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I think people maybe don't realize how great his short game is. Tiger Woods' short game is phenomenal, Greg Norman's was always phenomenal, and Ernie Els' great, great little shots around the green.

On 16, even his pitch shot in was a foot from being down there very close, and it checked up in the muff and then he makes a 20-footer. He's got such a beautiful stroke, and he knows what he's doing, and I think he's one of the best putters on Tour.

Q. When he hit that shot on 17 and stuck it close, did you say something to him after he hit it?

FRED COUPLES: I said a lot of things. I said, "Great shot." I got used to saying that. Actually, I was kind of joking because I outdrove him, and I would rather have had his ball. Mine was a little downhill and the ball was going so far that he had what I thought was a perfect 9-iron, and then he stiffed it and then I hit a 9-iron that my caddie had said, look, you can't hit wedge, you have to hit 9, there's a shelf back there, and I missed it by about a foot. If it would have, it could have come down next to his ball. As it was, I tapped my putt and it went in, but he's easy to say anything to. You can call him an idiot or you can call him a great guy and he's just going to giggle.

He made putts today. I tip my hat a little differently. I'm a little more sarcastic and I like to have fun with him. The up-and-down at 12, the bomb on -- not the bomb, the nice putt on 13, those are all -- he showed great touch from over 14 to chip it down there two feet.

He was great. I mean, again, there weren't many 66s being shot this week and he shot two on the weekend. That's fantastic stuff.

Q. Are the fans behind you more here than anywhere else?

FRED COUPLES: They're pretty close. I would say here and LA and TPC they're pretty good, and Augusta, but it was fun. As I said out there, I don't play in the last group very often, and I was hanging in there and having fun. The people were certainly screaming and yelling, so it was a great week. My wife flew in last week and watched today, and she hasn't come to any events, either, so I was hoping not to shoot some 75 out there and beat her up over dinner.

Q. You seem to be enjoying golf more now in the last year than you have before.

FRED COUPLES: I haven't really hit it like this in a long time, just very solid. I pulled a few, but I'd rather pull them than hit these big, high rights. It is fun. But this week was special. I was right there four days. I mean, winning Houston was truly a ball, to not have won in a while, but if I can continue to play like this, it will be more fun. It's a struggle. I'm not going to lie about it. F I get the right pairing, I'll definitely be having more fun.

Q. It does seem more fun for you.

FRED COUPLES: I shot in the 60s every round. If I'm not smiling, I should be being told to --

Q. That's what I was going to say, kind of like comparing it to two years ago, "When I play good, I make the top 20," and this was quite a leap from that.

FRED COUPLES: This was a huge week. Again, being in the last group with Ernie Els and having Tiger a couple groups ahead. And K.J. Choi is a very, very good player, and Justin Rose is exciting, so I was thrown in there in a good spot. But I just enjoyed the idea of having a shot at winning a tournament on a course that I can play.

A lot of times it's difficult to go out there when you think about all these shots, but the 12th hole is a hole that I like, and standing up there today, I felt very comfortable, I hit a good shot. There were a couple other holes that were questionable, but that's all a little bit of work. I've got a long way to go, but I had four good days.

Q. His putt on 12 was on about the same line as your putt?

FRED COUPLES: Yes, almost the same putt.

Q. How big was that?

FRED COUPLES: Well, yeah. I sat there on the edge of the green, and I thought, boy, is he going to make this? It had quite a bit of break. I don't know if they had a camera on the ground or whatever, and he rolled it right in the middle. Then we got to the next hole and we both hit good shots and he made another one. The one on 12, that's a big -- not a big blow, but a big burst of energy for him.

First of all, to get that up-and-down, not many guys from over that green -- I've seen guys chip it in the water, whiff it, do all kinds of stuff. He hit an unbelievable shot to get it where it was, and then the chip shot he hit on 14 from the back of the green. I'm sure lots of guys chipped it past down onto the fringe, but he's got great touch.

Q. Ernie probably doesn't need any more wins to validate his career, but to win here and add his name to the names of the guys who have already won here, do you think it's kind of fitting that he's on the --

FRED COUPLES: He's excited, and he should be. This is a great tournament. Jack does a phenomenal job. This golf course this week was unbelievable, from every aspect of what we want to do, and we're all treated so well. There's a great range if you want to practice and all that, but to win this tournament, put your name on it, he's very excited, he deserves it. And like I say, 132 on the weekend, I'm sure he's tickled pink to be shooting those numbers on this course.

Q. You talked about 5, but after you got out from being down in the woods on 15 and then watching Ernie put his shot up left, would you like to have that wedge back into the green?

FRED COUPLES: I'd like to have a few wedges back. I worked hard with this little drill. I hit about 3,000 wedges this week, but I just don't ever remember the pin being over there, and I kind of overthought where is that pin. And I'll be honest, it's pretty dark with the clouds and then those trees. I didn't have any excuse, I just didn't have a feel for if you wanted to be short of the hole. As it turned out, the only spot you couldn't go if you went for the green in two is if you went to the left. Laying up there was an easy shot. I hit a bad shot there. I hit it over the 5th green from 105 yards and made par, but I didn't -- I hit maybe two other wedge shots. I thought I could knock in there close and didn't birdie a couple holes that I would like to. It's not that easy, but I would have liked to have hit some better shots.

Q. The crowd was so crazy for you. Did it ever cross the line? Did they ever root for you so much that it seemed like they were rooting against Ernie?

FRED COUPLES: No. I don't think in two days, especially today, that I ever felt that, but, for instance, when Ernie hit his chip on 16, I mean, I had a 35, 40-footer, but they were going nuts. I mean, they knew what was going on, but they were not really rooting against him, they were just rooting harder for me, and they were certainly -- most of his irons were six or eight feet from the hole, but when I did hit one better than he did, obviously it was louder.

Q. 16 was the shot I was thinking of -- they kind of went two seconds after his shot, almost like a Ryder Cup scene.

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, it was, but I don't think Ernie has got much problem with that, as much as I enjoy them yelling a lot harder for me.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Can we go over your birdies.

FRED COUPLES: Sure. 3rd hole, I hit a wedge about 12 feet behind the hole and made it.

4th hole, I hit a 6-iron, that trickled just past the pin down into the first cut of rough and I chipped in from about 20 feet.

11, I laid up and I hit a sand wedge to about 10 feet, made it.

12, I hit an 8-iron to about 12 feet or 10 feet, made it.

17, I made about a 35-footer downhill bomb.

Then 18, he hit iron off the tee and I hit an iron in the right bunker up by the lip, and then that was -- I hit a very good shot to get where I was and I just made 5 and got out of there.

Q. Was that about as many times as you've chipped in in a week?

FRED COUPLES: In a year, yeah (laughter). I chipped in five times, holed a 70-yard shot, made an 80-footer. I don't usually do this kind of stuff. I get a lot of good breaks, but I don't usually chip in very often.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Freddie. Congratulations.

FRED COUPLES: Thanks, Joan.

End of FastScripts.

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