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May 8, 2003

Fred Couples


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Fred Couples, first round 66. You won the Shell Houston Open two weeks ago and you kept the momentum going today. If we could get opening comments from you.

FRED COUPLES: The golf course is truly a great course, very tough. I started out a little bit off the tee in the rough every hole, but I hit some good iron shots and I putted well and then I started hitting the ball better and then I started to make some birdies.

But a very good golf course, fun to play and if we don't get anymore rain, as it firms up, it will really start to show itself. It's pretty long and it's a little tricky off the tees, except now the ball is not rolling very far, but I think if you're going to get it, you might as well get it today. I'm riding this wave and playing well.

Q. (Inaudible.)

FRED COUPLES: Well, it is, so I think if I don't score well tomorrow or have a good round, I don't expect to be leading every single round I play the rest of the year, but it's getting to the point where practice is starting to get a little better.

Like I say, I didn't get off to a very good start. They were pushes and pulls, they were not horrible shots, but they were in the rough and all of a sudden, I started making some better swings and I was able to pick it up. That's a good sign. But this is a tough course. Made a lot of par putts and quite a few 15 -, 25-footers for birdie.

Q. Majority of the low scores came in the afternoon, why do you think that is?

FRED COUPLES: I don't know why. I was so tired after Houston, I slept in until 9:00, maybe it was windy or wetter or longer but usually it's the opposite. Except the greens are soft enough that they held shots, and I'm sure tomorrow we'll find out. I don't really know why.

Q. What do you like about this course, the old style or what was it?

FRED COUPLES: The old style, it's tough. The greens, it's all new to everybody, I don't know how many guys have played here, but you can see what's going to happen, it's going to firm up and the greens are going to get quicker and all this 66 stuff is going to go away. There are so many undulations that where I hit it today, if it was a Sunday, or if the course was going to go like it is Sunday if we don't get any rain, I may have lost, easily, three or four shots, just by the terrain I was going up over.

I think the greens are going to get quicker. I think what I like and everyone else, is that, you know, it's the same thing. It's very long, very tough and you can kind of work the ball into the greens. They are very narrow but they are very long and a few slopes to the right and left. It will be interesting. It's a good course.

Q. Inaudible?

FRED COUPLES: I think some of the starts I've had in the last three or four years are just because I'm capable of shooting some good rounds. Whether it was not practicing much or my swing, I was very inconsistent where I couldn't do it two days in a row, let alone three or four. I've worked my way up to the Houston Open, as I said there, I wasn't expecting to win that quickly. I knew I was on the right track and when I got to Saturday and Sunday at Houston, it all went well and I hit the ball well.

But Sunday at Augusta, I struggled and I looked at it as a good thing, not a bad thing, just to pay attention to what my swing is going to do under a lot of pressure. I did well there. I think I'm on the right track. I know I'm not going to shoot 66 tomorrow probably, but if it's 75, then I know what I did right or wrong. It's going to happen, not really because I want it to; it's just a tough course out there.

Q. Along a similar lines, Nick Price said he enjoyed watching you win in Houston, said it wasn't about rededicating yourself, but it was about getting off your backside, to quote him, going out and hitting balls, you applying yourself more on the range?

FRED COUPLES: Certainly working with Butch has been a big help, a lot to work on. I picked it up pretty quickly and I still have a lot more to work on right out of the box, but hitting a lot of balls helps. The last couple of years I've hit a lot of balls but it's just the swing. If you're not swinging correctly, even though my swing doesn't look that different to a lot of people, it's just a couple inches on the path coming down and I'm able to keep the club square and I'm hitting the ball much straighter. It's not a huge deal, but I have to hit a lot of balls to keep this going because it's all so new.

At Augusta, I didn't contend, but I was in good shape on Saturday to have a good round and finish well and that was disappointing. But at the same time I realize it's a blunder to go out there and think that I was going to do well without playing each shot on the first, second, all the way up. I made a lot of bad bogeys and learned a little bit there, and when I went to Houston, I learned like it was one swing at a time and know what I did well.

Q. Inaudible?

FRED COUPLES: So, the U.S. Open is coming up, yeah. I'm going to have my game ready there. I think when Payne Stewart beat Scott Simpson in Minnesota, I finished third and that's the best I have ever played and that was the closest to those guys. They were, I think, three or four ahead. That's not really my goal. That's a tough, tough week. But I feel like this will help me to play there and the British Open is another one I feel like I can still win, no doubt.

U.S. Open is probably the toughest course of the year. I'm very excited and thrilled to be in it. I was ready to go qualify in Ohio. I tried last year and missed, so this year will be a lot more fun. I can really prepare for it and not have to go out and play 36 holes one day and try to make it.

Q. You said earlier that this course here as a little bit of a U.S. Open feel to it yourself, do you think under the right setup that this course could host a major championship?

FRED COUPLES: Oh, I think so, no doubt. We're going to find out Saturday and Sunday how hard it is with just the right amount of rough. Again, the greens are going to be really, really tough come the weekend. It's going to dry out. If there's a lot of nooks and crannies, I have no idea, it was so wet and sloppy. Tomorrow is going to be a lot faster. I'm sure there will be a lot of spots when I go up there that I'll say, "How do I 2-putt with this big ridge?" But that's part of it, everyone has to do that. Today I made several 5-, 6-, 8-footers for par.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Let's go over your card.

FRED COUPLES: 2, I hit a 9-iron 20 feet and made it.

No. 8, I hit a good drive and a sand wedge to about eight feet.

10, I knocked it just on the fringe to the right about 40 feet and 2-putted for birdie. Hit a 3-wood on the right fringe.

11, I hit it out of the left rough to about 30 feet and made a downhill curler.

14, I hit an iron off the tee and hit a wedge to about 20 feet and made it. On 15, I hit a driver and a 3-wood about 40 feet and 2-putted for birdie.

10 was like 280 down the hill.

And on 15, well, I think like 256 up the hill.

Q. Did you originally not plan to play here and add it late?

FRED COUPLES: You know, I wasn't, but I talked to Johnny Harris at Augusta and he talked my wife to coming. She flew in today. So, we're here, and I'm glad. For a new tournament, they are not trying so hard, they know what they are doing. Trying is when maybe you don't have the greatest thing and you do a lot of things. This thing has huge crowds today in the first round, a great course. I drive a Cadillac and I notice every other player has a Mercedes, which is a nice thing. I think this will be one of the one of the top two except for the World Golf Championships, majors and TPC. It has a lot going for it, and even if I didn't play well today, it was still well worth coming.

End of FastScripts....

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