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March 10, 2004

Fred Couples


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Fred Couples to the interview area, a winner here of the Honda Classic back in 1993.

FRED COUPLES: Is that why I'm in here? Why am I in here? I'm still trying to figure it out. (Laughter.) 1993. You've got no one else that will come. (Laughter.)

Q. Nicklaus is next.


JOE CHEMYCZ: It's a new venue for this tournament, you've got a look at the golf course today, maybe talk about the surroundings and the new track.

FRED COUPLES: It's hard. I don't I wouldn't know where to start the wind blew a little bit. It's in fantastic shape. It's just very, very hard. I don't know what a normal wind is. It's a couple people in the gallery. The Honda guys were all over the place and no one is from here, so we didn't know. But I guess, you know if it gets cool and the wind will stay that way, which we are having fun trying to figure out what way the course will be tougher, and my mind, it doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter what the wind does. The reason being, it's hard to put any spin on a ball when you've got to hit it in one little certain area, and if you don't, it just rolls am I saying anything different than anyone else so far?

Q. You're saying it better.

FRED COUPLES: It just rolls wherever it's going to go. And to finish off with that, I would just say that in any tournament, I watched last year, and they were in the 20 unders or very close to that, but this would be one way of stopping that just to build a course like this. There will not be any 20 unders. There might be some, whatever, high 70s or it would be a lot of things. It's a very hard course.

Q. One of the years at Eagle Trace, I think the year Kenny Knox shot 80 and still won, somebody called it carnival golf.

FRED COUPLES: That's because the wind was blowing 40 miles an hour. If the wind blew like that. I think you'd see some guys not even tee off, it's no hard.

Eagle Trace, I was playing with Curtis one year and shot 78 and I did not win shooting 80 but I was in the last group and I made a triple and a double, I think and I really didn't hit I just decent pull the shots off, water everywhere and here, if the wind really starts to blow, it will be different. But you are right at Eagle Trace, and the reason is there was so many hard shots that you physically just couldn't keep hitting them in that wind.

Q. Why is it so hard? Is it just strictly the greens?

FRED COUPLES: Well, it's long. I played it one time, I'm just trying to think, I don't know the wind but there was some holes. The back nine is extremely long. Obviously the 10th hole is a short hole, the first hole is a very good driving hole and short hole, but you're hitting a lot of 5 , 6 , 7 irons. I'm sure we're not even going to get into long hitters but for the average guys. And you've got to hit it right here to keep it right here and if you hit it over here, it's going to roll down the embankment.

Q. What did you do on 9; do you remember that one?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I did. I hit a real good drive. Were you out watching.

Q. No, should have been.

FRED COUPLES: I hit it long left, but I didn't know what was over the green and I hit it too far but it was not in the wind and I misjudged so obviously tomorrow, knowing that, if I was in the same spot, I would say there's no way I'm going over the green, but if you do, then you're chipping up a very steep the fringes are cut like this, no different. And then on that particular shot, it was into the grain going up the hill, so really there's nowhere to go.

So the Pro Am, I was trying to get cute and it rolled up top and came back, roll to the top or you could have just hit it hard and ran it over to the other side of the green.

Q. Good options there.

FRED COUPLES: Again, this guy is an incredible designer and builder and I just wish maybe he would be here to say, hey, in a ten minute spiel, this is what I did. I designed he certainly didn't design this course how could I put it for the public to play. I don't think. I think he designed it because there was a PGA event here, I really do. And he did one tough design. It's not worth me to say he went overboard. It's not worth to say it's a bad course because it really is a beautiful, beautiful place. It's just one hard golf course. I think at the end of the week, you're going to see a heck of a lot more guys spent than you are guys having fun.

Now if the wind doesn't blow, we'll have a ball, but I don't know about the wind not blowing around here.

Q. Did it remind you of anything?

FRED COUPLES: No. I mean, just because it's so slope I've heard Pinehurst. If we went and played Pinehurst next week it would be a piece of cake. (Laughter.) I wear to God, it would be a piece of cake.

I mean, Pinehurst is here, and then if you miss, it just rolls off and you've got a tough little chip. But these greens seem to sit a little higher and they are bigger. And just because they are bigger, the middle of the greens there's not much else can't talk about my golf game. Can't talk about what's coming up. Can't talk about anything else.

So we'll talk about the course, which is fun, but we should get off that because I don't really want to I don't want to go any further. It's just really hard.

And I'm just telling you, at the end of the week, you know, don't sit behind the 18th green and interview every player. (Laughter.) Just save your energy. And I'm going to be honest, you guy, I will say this on behalf of the players, you guys should know, and it would be nice that we don't get anyone if I was 35, I wouldn't be saying this and now I'm a lot older. But you're going to get some guys come off here and they are just going to, you know, go ballistic.

Q. Just don't take it personal, is what you're telling us.

FRED COUPLES: No; don't put it in the paper. Take it however you want. Just don't put it in the paper.

Q. As a follow up to that, this tournament has had problems because of courses over years to attract a field. How important is this week as a litmus test for the players to like it or tell the guys who aren't here, how important is this week for the future of the tournament in your mind?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I'm a Cadillac guy and I've played with the Honda people a couple of different times here. I played with them yesterday and had a ball. So for them, they have been a sponsor for, I don't know, for a long time. They certainly don't have four of the tournaments like Buick but they are a huge sponsor. So for them, they are having a ball and it's very important.

For the players, you get guys that don't want to go to a tournament because they lowered the 18th tee and it's 30 yards longer at Riviera now; so they may not want to go. That stuff I don't get. You know, that's not a big deal.

This is a big deal because it's just very hard and I think for us to play and have a good time, we'd better hope the wind dies down.

I don't know what Davis said, but I'm just saying, for me, I'm not expecting to go out there and I'm hoping to be playing a little better, but I'm looking to kind of get another event and get the wheels going. I might play Bay Hill to get a stretch going. But I just feel like it's going to be honestly, if it's I think 75, if they put pins in spots, you know, I think 75 is going to be a mediocre score and that's we don't shoot there that and that's not done because the guy put water hazards everywhere and he's got a par 4 that carries 280 yards into the wind; if you don't get over the water, you make triples. It's just done because of the greens, have a lot of slope and they are hard.

But again, it's Wednesday. We could come out tomorrow and the staff could set the pins in some good spots and guys might shoot 66 and 67, I don't know. But I only tell I was in this Pro Am and it was hard to make a birdie.

Q. Throughout the majors and THE PLAYERS Championship, how many regular PGA TOUR stops are harder?

FRED COUPLES: I don't know. Bay Hill. Memorial, Colonial can be to par. But we've had ever had an event here. So once again, I might be missing it. 14 under might win. I don't really know.

But Tom Fazio, again, is one heck of a designer. He obviously maybe the field staff will figure out and some of these holes will put the pins in some easier spots. But, you know, Sunday night, I think a few guys will be able to tell you how hard it is.

Again, if you're playing at Doral, like the first two rounds, I watched a little and the wind is blowing; Doral is pretty hard. And then Saturday is and Sunday, the scores, there were a lot of good scores. So any golf course you get with wind, you go to Augusta National and play that thing in 20 mile an hour winds, you can forget it.

Q. I know we said after the final round of PLAYERS Championship last year, it was Davis's round, do you still have a high opinion of what he accomplished that day?

FRED COUPLES: Well, my opinion has not changed. That was probably the best run on TOUR, just winning a huge tournament and shooting 64, it was the best round of golf I had ever witnessed. I still think that because I saw it. There have been guys that shoot 60 and 61, even 59s, but on that kind of a day, he wore his rain jacket the whole day. So obviously it was cold, it was windy and it was easy. He hit a drive to the left on 16, but it really wasn't a bad drive and it didn't hit a tree and it got down there and he hit an iron, beautiful shot and made eagle.

But other than that, he was in the middle of every fairway and on every green and making eight foot putts.

Q. What perspective can you put on how good of a year he had last year and winning where he did, didn't win a major but the four victories were all pretty significant tournaments, pretty good courses, what kind of year was that, considering everything he had to deal with off the course?

FRED COUPLES: For Davis? Well, for anyone it was a phenomenal year. You know, you have to ask them, and I'm sure he's told you that, sometimes we could make it more difficult than it is and when you're doing well, sometimes you can play well no matter what's going on. And I think, obviously, in that instance, that was the case. He could have had a horrible year and said, you know, that was part of the reason, sure.

But Davis Love is one of the top players in the world and he kept going, and he had a little bit of a rut where he figured things out. And then I actually stayed with him and spent some time with him at the U.S. Open and that was, I think, after a few weeks off. I believe he played maybe the Kemper. So he was rusty. He missed the cut there. But then he got the wheels going and it had nothing to do really with what happened. That was a big loss. The money thing is irrelevant. But, that was somebody in the family that had a little bit of a problem and then made it a huge problem. But I think he fought through that and golf is probably a nice vice to get away from Sea Island and keep playing. He's a machine.

I just played against him in the match play and wouldn't have beaten him once probably in 50 rounds. But he makes it look the reason I like him, he's such a good guy. The reason I like playing with him is he makes golf look so easy. I like that.

Q. You've said the last couple of years that you really thought you still had another Masters in you. Having won last year, how does that does that give you a big lift going in there?

FRED COUPLES: No. It doesn't give me a lift going in anywhere. I tell you, last year going into Augusta, I was really, really playing well, working on my game, did well at the TPC and I did well in Atlanta. So I was ready to go and I didn't putt very well. I paid so much attention to everything else that I just didn't score.

So right now, my game is not very good. I worked with Butch a little on the West Coast but I'm going to see him a couple of times before then. It's not, like, poor, but I need to really turn it around.

But getting to Augusta, I think I'll be in good shape and I love the course and I know it very, very well. So I'm not anyone to beat there. Let's first get that straight.

But I feel like me, I'm only worried about myself and when I get there I feel like when I tee off on Thursday that I can do pretty well.

Q. You've always been one of most popular players with the fans out here, what's your approach to interacting with fans during a round, and has it changed over the years? And also I'm wondering if yours or maybe others that you know of, players approaches might change because of things like what happened to Davis at The Match Play?

FRED COUPLES: Well, why really know exactly what happened with Davis. I haven't seen him and certainly won't ask him because I think it's for me irrelevant. I don't really know.

But the fan part, if I could say anything, I beat Davis at Riviera in a playoff and 99 percent of them were rooting for me but they weren't making any comments. They were just very excited for me.

I think if we played match play every week, you go to a tennis event, you ever seen Pete Sampras win the U.S. Open, they are screaming yelling during match point. They are not they are yelling "Pete, Pete, Pete." If I'm the other guy, you're used to it. So the Match Play there was only Tiger and there was Davis. You're either going to root for one or the other. So I think in this particular point something was said and if affected Davis so we are not used to this one on one golf.

But fan wise, I think we have incredible fans. I have a lot of them. Why that is, I've never even figured it out. I just think that, you know if you're a good player I don't really go out of my way to be any different. I hit the ball around and you certainly can't talk to people out there because once you talk to somebody, they all want to possibly say hi or hello. I think it's the way you play. Everyone loves John Daly. If you looked at certain spots, there would be a lot of people that maybe don't like John Daly and there's a lot of people that don't like Greg Norman as much as Nick Price. Greg Norman was the best player on TOUR for ten years, eight years.

So as a player, it's hard to figure out why. I've never seen Greg Norman do anything wrong. Sometimes he finishes and wouldn't do this or wouldn't do that. But as far as the golfers, I think we all are very respected and we all have huge fans and they are also close. So I think any time something happens, they go away with a sting that this guy didn't do this or this guy didn't do that. Whereas every other sport, no one gets near you. I think sometimes, maybe Davis's case, to have a guy root against you that's ten feet away, if that's what it was, it had to have been. Probably was a little unsettling in a huge that was a huge day. You're trying to beat Tiger Woods. It's not easy.

Q. Because fans are so close to you, is there a sense that you try to kind of put yourself in a little bubble and not make eye contact there or anything?

FRED COUPLES: No. Actually, I stand there, I look everywhere. I look at little kids, big kids, anybody. It doesn't really matter.

The worst thing you can do, you make eye contact with somebody and they are your good friends and they are waving at you, they are not your good friend. They want someone to say, hey, I know that guy, and I don't ever do any of that. The Pro Am had some people I had not seen what while and give them big hugs and stuff. But you go to a tournament you're playing, once you shake hands with somebody, even if whoever they are, you'd be surprised how many more people think that you're going to do that with them. You just don't you make contact with everyone. You just kind of hi and nod. It's fun. It's a heck of a lot more fun playing in front of 5,000 people than 50.

Q. You remarried to a woman that had kids; how do you think that will affect David Duval and the state he's in?

FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, my wife and I we were just talking about that the other day. We went to Sun Valley and met his wife and three kids and they are adorable. She's a very, very great lady. The first thing my wife said, "Can you believe David? I mean, he was so different." And I just know David and when I thought, yeah, you know he was having a great time and we talked a little bit about golf but mostly about all of this other stuff.

Then we had New Year's Eve dinner with him. She went back and she really loves David Duval and she said, "You know, can you believe it?" She said, "Were you like that this?" I said, I don't know. I was so giddy that I didn't have any idea when I met her. It was just kind of one of those things.

I don't know if it's going to help his golf game or not, but I would say, it doesn't really matter. He is marrying into three kids, it's going to be different. They are going to live out in Colorado. They go to school out there and they are going to travel with him.

The only thing that will help his golf game is if she can tell him: "Just get the club a little inside or outside. It looks good to me." (Laughter.)

Other than that, she's a great person. We've only been around her three or four times. But Davis, I'm embarrassed to say we didn't get to the wedding because of something else, but Davis and Robin went and said it was great.

Everyone gets married. And people don't get married. But to sit here and say, I think it's not going to hurt him. He's extremely happy and, you know what, he wasn't miserable last year. I mean, this guy is incredible. People don't know him. Davis and I played a lot of practice rounds with him. I have a lot of respect for David Duval. For a long time, it was his golf game. And then it was how he handled himself. He was No. 1 in the world, and for a time he couldn't break par or 73 or 74. He's a better man than me. I would really have struggled with that. He has been practicing and playing and hopefully it will click around. But at that time that it wasn't, he wasn't really worried about golf, which was a good thing.

Q. I want to go back to something you said about 30 minutes ago, a 20 mile an hour wind, we have not really seen that at Augusta since they revamped it, the dry conditions the windy conditions. What happens if we get that this year? What does that do for the tournament?

FRED COUPLES: Well, it would be a very hard golf course.

Q. You've already said that, Fred.

FRED COUPLES: I think Augusta is really primed for that; meaning, if the changes they have made, if they get that, then they will set up and be really proud of what they have done. Really, what they have done is they have made it longer and harder. And I don't really have any kind of problem with that. When you play at Augusta and you play that the first hole and you stand up there and you miss it to the left, you really kick yourself for 140 yards. Now it's 180 yards or 160 yards but you can't miss it to the left. You play to the middle of the green and you 2 putt and go to the next hole.

A little bit of the TPC, before we really knew it, how hard that was and guys would say, oh, it's like hitting to the top of Volkswagens. It really was.

Augusta, there was so many birdies and eagles that you could make so it kind of made up for some of your blunders. Now you get the fifth hole and the seventh hole, and they have lengthened 10 and 11 and 13, 14, every hole.

So it's now a definite ball striker's course. You have to really, really hit the ball. And you can be short and you can be long, whereas before, length was a huge factor. So have they made it easier for Tiger? No. They made it easier for any long hitter that's great player. You get a long hitter that is not very good, he's going to be at no advantage. You have to be able to control your irons.

So 20 mile an hour winds there make it extremely hard because you've got to be you've got to judge your shots. I think maybe the year that I lost to Mark, the very first day, I think I shot like might have been in the lead or it wasn't a very good score, maybe 69 or 70. Where were a lot of 75s and 76s. That's what you'll see.

Q. What about the firmness, as well?

FRED COUPLES: Last year when I played on Sunday, it was the hardest golf course I had ever played. You couldn't I never even bent over and fixed a ball mark. It was in a practice round and I was hitting good shots and it was brutal. Then we got rain, the par 3 contest and it just destroyed it, for that. But it made us feel a little bit at ease.

But you get rock hard greens there and as fast as they are with the length, you're not going to be able to get the ball exactly where you want it. Not everyone. There's only 40 something guys that make the cut so once you get to that, you're going to see your handful of guys and you're going to see I don't foresee too many guys getting back in the tournament that are out of it. Meaning, years past you might get a 65 or a 66 on a Saturday, some guy will come out of nowhere and work himself right back in there. I don't see that happening too many times, which is kind of sad because we're used to huge roars on 13 and 15, and even 2 and 8 and they have lengthened it.

If you check your records, probably a third of the maybe a 10th of the eagles that there used to be. I used to love that. You'd be on the 12th hole over there and you would hear a roar on 15 that would knock your socks off. Now you hear a roar from a guy birdies the hole.

Q. Retief has had a nice Sunday charge though. It can be done.

FRED COUPLES: No doubt it can be done, yeah.

Q. A guy like Davis, how much has Tiger what Tiger's done taken away from Davis and some of the due that he should be given, how much does Tiger overshadow?

FRED COUPLES: I think we're talking about a guy that he just, whatever, he broke another record, quickest to 40 wins. He's going to be the quickest to 41 wins and 42 wins if we're keeping track.

In my mind, I'm a player and I'm out here and I pay as much attention to Ernie and Davis and Vijay that I do to Tiger. But I'm not going to ever come in here and say that Davis Love is ready to overtake Tiger. But I think that's not a slap to Davis Love. I think Davis Love, is he 3rd or 4th in the world. And he can work his way up.

But I don't think it takes any of his due away by how much he's winning and playing because he is right there. And so when he gets on a Sunday and he goes up against Tiger, I would like to see him beat Tiger. But he's going to have to play his absolute best.

Tiger, I don't know if Tiger has ever given away a tournament; it's amazing. The guy Jack Nicklaus had 100 wins, 100 2nds and 500 3rds. I just was shocked the other day when I saw Tiger has only had 12 or 3rds seconds. You would think that he wins every single time. Obviously he's not going to have too many seconds.

Q. You had a run at No. 1. Do you think there's a frustration in that maybe from players who look and see, there's no chance to be No. 1 in the next three, four, five years?

FRED COUPLES: You know, yeah, I can't answer that for those guys. When I was No. 1 is was Ian Woosnam and then Greg Norman for a long time, and I don't know if Faldo played enough if he was up there.

Yeah, you probably would say. But I don't think it's affecting anyone. Vijay is trying to answer that in a polite way. If Davis Love was to come in here and say, my goal is to be No. 1, of course it is. And then you're going to get people that say, well, you've got no chance, you've got Tiger Woods.

So the goal is to win. And if Tiger Woods is only going to play 18 times and you're going to play Davis is going to probably play every one of those weeks, if I was Davis, I would base on: I had a great year, I won four times and I did beat Tiger Woods.

The No. 1 part of it, this guy is going to be No. 1 for a long time. He's the best player that I've ever seen play. So if I was 35 and if I was Davis in their shoes it would never I would never even worry about it. I think it would be incredible if one of these guys could get a run, and I guess it's points, get very close in points. But it would have to be you'd have to win six times. I don't know many guys out here that are going to win six times. But at the same time, I don't think any of them are losing any sleep over it, because to be Phil Mickelson, he's going to work his way back up the ladder, but I don't think he's worried about working his way to No. 1. I think he wants to work his way to winning, which he's doing and playing well. And to do that, you just play better golf.

And the rest, if there's something in my contract that says I get to No. 1, I get $10 million, then I would sit here and say, that's a big deal. It's not overrated, but he's just there and then everyone else is battling to really win tournaments. Vijay was the Money Title last year. That's a huge deal. And at the same time, I don't think Tiger Woods is that worried about it. If he wanted to win the Money Title, he would have played six more times, two more times. So it's kind of all what you want. I don't think Tiger is out there saying, well, Vijay won that, but I'm the No. 1 player. He doesn't need to tell anyone what he is. So big kudos for Tiger and I have kudos for my man . Because he won so many times and I appreciate the golf.

I guess it's weird if you're a player. If there was ratings when Jack Nicklaus played, you know, they have still heard of Julius Boros and Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller and all of these other guys but they would never have been No. 1, not ]even close.

Q. It was a couple of years ago that we were looking to see who would challenge Tiger, and everybody is pointing at these young guns and all of these guys coming up when in actuality it was the guys who are already there that stepped up, Davis and Vijay.

FRED COUPLES: I think it's Tiger. I don't think it's any other guy. I think Tiger, you know, he can't bang balls every day for 20 more years; he's going to kill himself. I think it's his run. If you really look at him, he had one year, I don't know, what year it was where he won? What year was that, 2000, we're going to kind of base it on last year to, me, he won five times. He was by far the best player. Didn't win a major, but he dominated a lot of great events and won.

I just think that Davis would have to have I mean, help me out, two or three incredible years to pass him, right? Can't be done in a year. Because Tiger's not going to all of a sudden start finishing 30th.

So my point in that is, as a player, we have to get off that because what these other guys are doing is incredible stuff. So I guess to answer it in a way is that Tiger Woods is the best player on our tour and he's ranked in a spot where it's going to be extremely hard for other guys to get No. 1.

Now that doesn't mean at the end of this year, Davis Love can't be No. 1 on the Money List and win maybe one more tournament than Tiger. He can be Player of the Year. But if Tiger Woods slips, it will be because maybe for two months, he's not out there beating balls every single day and maybe his game slows down a little bit. But when he turns it around, he's just won The Match Play. He's probably going to be the guy to beat at Augusta. He'll probably be the guy to beat at Bay Hill. He's going to be the guy to beat at every tournament, so that's a good thing. If I was fourth in the world and I could go away winning a tournament and beat him, that's a huge deal. But other than that, you know, you're out there playing for No. 2 in the world and that's a good story in itself.

Q. What I was getting at, any explanation for the 40 something guys and 50s, Stadler and Jay Haas, all of these guys had such great years last year, O'Meara just wins this past week, what is it with the 40 somethings?

FRED COUPLES: I guess most of that has been answered in time. Kenny Perry is blossoming into a great player. He's a little older than most. He's a great player. Mark O'Meara has been good for 20 years. Vijay has won all over the world. Peter Jacobsen, was a surprise, I'd be the first one to tell you. Was me winning Houston a surprise? I would be the second to tell you. (Laughter.) Ut I was working pretty hard and it came and I had a great nine holes and the last battling with Calc and Hank Kuehne, I could have easily shot 1 under or even and lost in the playoff and I'd have gone home pretty happy, but it was surprising.

But for Jay Haas, I'm sure Jay Haas would love to win and that would be incredible, but what's incredible, he doesn't look 49 and he's a great player. So to me, none of that is surprising. Some guy in his mid 40s that's never won out here and he comes out and wins, that's surprising. We're talking about guys that have maybe slowed down because of age but have won lots of tournaments. Craig Stadler is a great player. So, I don't have an answer to that.

Just like if Aaron Baddeley started winning and Charles Howell and Hank Kuehne and help me out here, Adam Scott, they are Adam Scott

Q. Ty Tryon?

FRED COUPLES: Who? Who did you say? Greg Kraft?

Q. Ty Tryon?

FRED COUPLES: Where is he?

JOE CHEMYCZ: Nationwide.

FRED COUPLES: They would all be talented. You wouldn't say that's a shock, for Baddeley to have won in Tucson, the guy is a phenomenal player. But it would be surprising for some guy you didn't know came of Tour School at 12 to win. So that's how I kind of look at it.

JOE CHEMYCZ: Thank you.

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