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April 27, 2003

Fred Couples


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Congratulations, Freddie, on your victory here at the Shell Houston Open.

FRED COUPLES: What a day.

JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: I don't know if you are happier or the City of Houston is happier.

FRED COUPLES: Well, we'll call it a tie. To be the first U of H guy to win is -- I don't think it's any different for any of the rest of the guys. It's different for me, and what a school, what a great, great school to go to, and as I set out there, this was a great course. The Woodlands, I played all right, and I will end it with that and coming to Redstone, I loved this golf course from the start. My caddie is around here somewhere. We were laughing because we saw Elkington talk about 20-under par may win here, I said yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, right, and four days later, there were a lot of guys under par, but I think that's -- we didn't have much bend and the course dried up, but someday when they get a little bit more rough and they play, it will be phenomenal score-wise. It's a great golf course.

I feel honored to win again. I played a very, very good round of golf, and there were some other guys doing a lot of work, and, you know, someone asked me if I watched the leaderboard, and I watch it all day, and it went up and it went down and then it went up again, then Calc went crazy, then Kuehne went nuts then Appleby. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it. Just to finish strong and make some birdies and get a big cushion was a nice feeling.

Q. You were emotional there when you were talking --

FRED COUPLES: I am always emotional when nice things happen to nice people (laughs). I just -- I don't know - it's an odd thing - a lot golfwise and I have been practicing, and I never really thought I'd win , I don't want to say, this quickly, but I thought I could win again if I practiced and played and it just hit me so fast, as you can expect you are grinding so hard, and I told my caddie in the last hole, I am going to -- I don't know what to hit. I was afraid to ask him to hit an iron. I am sure half the world said hit an iron. But I wanted to hit a 3-wood and try and make a short swing and do all this stuff I have been working on and I hit a good shot off the tee and made birdie. Then it ended, just that quickly (snaps fingers).

Golf is a weird game. You play that much and you play that hard and you know arcs lot of times. I didn't ever tell myself I was going to win today or be ahead, and as you said, when I putted out on 18, I could get through talking to Mark, I had a great time, I told him on the 18th hole, you know, I know we played well, but I felt like I won because I was paired with you, and I seriously mean that because we play the same. He's aggressive, as I said, we had fun, you know, he went in the water played that shot on 17 which, again, gave me a minute to breathe, and things like that, you can at least talk to the guy and have fun. That's what we tried to do.

Q. Would you have rescued him if he had fallen in?

FRED COUPLES: No, I wasn't going anywhere near him. He said it was like quicksand, I kept sinking. I told Joe I thought he rolled up his pants, I thought he was taking his shoes off - feet and all. Joe said that is typical of Calc.

Again, I hate to say it, his putt should have gone in, but him bogeying it gave me a 3-shot lead, and I felt pretty good about that, not him bogeying but having a 3-shot lead on the last hole.

Q. How were you feeling in the middle of the day when like you said Kuehne went nuts, Calc went nuts, and --

FRED COUPLES: Well, I was sick on the 7th hole. No execution, it didn't feel like that bad a swing, and I have had one tough time fading the ball, and there was a tree there and I just thought could I aim left and cut it, and I actually just pushed it right of the hole and cut it and, you know, the way I have played for a long time, I really felt that that was it. I didn't think I would be able to bounce back from that.

To be honest with you, I looked at a scoreboard quickly and I saw where Calc and I were a couple ahead, so that gave me a little bit of a sigh of relief that there weren't 6 other guys even with me. Then as I said, as the rounds went further, it got to be Hank was up there, Appleby -- I watched him hit on 15, stuart bombed a drive, and I stepped right up after and made birdie, then I hit the shot of the day on 16 with the same 6-iron that, you know, I shanked on 7, and I just kept looking at it and looking at it and telling myself to aim left and aim left, and I hit it right at the flag and it was a tap-in. That was huge because I know I think Hank bogeyed 18 and then Stewart must have bogeyed 16. So then it was just Calc and I and he made a great par on 16 when I was making birdie to keep it very close. I hit two good shots, 17 and birdied 18.

Q. How many different thoughts are running through your mind on the putt on No. 8 as you were watching it?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I was trying to judge the speed, then when I got up over the hill, I said it looked good, you know, stop just get up near the hole and it kept going. I said hang on, to myself, and it went in, and you know, it's not even one in 100,000. It's just potluck.

But a critical time, and the next hole, you know, was critical too. Calc knocked it on in two a long, long way away, and I played a very nervous shot off the tee in the left rough and laid it up and hit a full wedge into about ten feet. I made it and he missed, which was a big turning point for me to tie him on 8, somehow, he had a 2-footer for birdie and I make an 80-footer; then I picked up a shot on 9 when it looked like I'd lose another one.

Q. Do you think putts like that what --

FRED COUPLES: I putted very, very well today. I made a nice 4, 5-footer on the third hole, which, you know, as you look back, I have been known to miss those and I made it. I birdied the next hole and then, again, I made a lot of nice putts. I lagged the ball close, Joe and I, we talked about how fast the greens had gotten. I tried to pay as much attention when I had a long putt to just try and get the speed, don't worry about the line, just try and get the speed and nestle it up there, 2, 3, 4 feet away or whatever. I made, I think, most of them today.

Q. What do you think word of mouth about this course will do to the attendance next year?

FRED COUPLES: Well, Houston --

Q. Attendance for the players.

FRED COUPLES: Oh, you know, they had a great field this year. To be honest with you, I don't ever look at who is here, who is not here. I always giggle at that. It is nice to have the better players, but, you know, you get David Toms and Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh and Ernie Els, those are pretty strong guys. I think this tournament I am going to push it as soon as I see Tiger, I am going to tell him let me tell you something, if I can win, you can win (laughter), but it's -- again, there's a great field.

I don't -- I like playing when Tiger plays because it's a buzz when he's around, but, again, there are strong players out here. Shell has been one of the, if not the top sponsor on the Tour forever, and I feel very lucky to win this tournament because I know most of them from all the Shell's matches. I have played in 7 and I know all these guys and they have been great to me and to win. So I will push the place. I think the course is one of the top five, six courses we play for being a first time, you know, that -- I won, people are going to say yeah, yeah, yeah, he likes it. But I said it on Thursday, it is one of my favorite courses. And I played it very well and so did a lot of other guys. But I think everyone left really liking the course.

Q. Can you describe what is going through your mind when you are walking off the 18th green?

FRED COUPLES: I saw Peter Costas come up. I mumbled a couple of things; then basically wanted to get the hell out of there. I needed to regroup a little bit. As I told Melanie it's fun to win, but, you know, it's different. I haven't won in five years. I haven't played really well in five years, and I worked hard on my game, and it meshed. And to win, it's a great bonus for Joey and myself and my wife and his family, but, you know, I have a lot of people to thank. That's kind what was going through my mind. Didn't get it out very well.

Q. Is there a feeling of relief as much as triumph?

FRED COUPLES: I think there is more a feeling of triumph. Relief is if I would have played well today and maybe finished second or third and the said geez, I played well. You know, I really hit the ball extremely well the whole week. I didn't know what to expect today. I didn't go out there thinking I was going to hit every shot. But I tried to play aggressive, not baby the ball around the course. It worked out great. But I really hit some very nice shots the last few holes and it was a lot of fun.

Q. Does the time it took to you get this win give you maybe a different sort of appreciation than you may have had when you won previously?

FRED COUPLES: That's a great question. I appreciate golf a lot more than I did -- I have more fun playing than I did in the '80s and '90s. There is no doubt. It's a simple answer when I played really, really well, I expected to play well, I wanted to win, I won enough. I didn't win a lot, but I won enough and seemed to win a few times, but you know, now, I didn't have any goal when I was trying to change this thought process of working with somebody different than Paul. I chose Butch because I used to work with Dick Harmon and Paul and they are a little ways away, life changes, but what happened with Butch is that I knew if I went there, I would continue to go because I didn't want to shame him into working with me two or three times and then you know, say, thanks, and I feel better and bye. I want to work with him a lot. And I used to do that with Paul. I had great, great, great success, so the triumphant part of it is that I know I can play and I just showed, you know, hit a lot of good drives today. They were not easy holes to hit in the fairway, and I got it into play on really 12, the last -- after the 11th hole, every fairway coming in which made the course play a lot easier.

Q. Kind of a short way from laughing yourself into AT&T?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. (Laughs). Yeah, it was different, hitting balls with them watching trying to hit a 9-iron and having him say your swing is pretty bad with a 9-iron. As we went to an 8 and a 7, it didn't get a whole lot better that day. But I started to catch on a little bit, and you know, I am sure he's chuckling now and I am sure that shot on 7 was on TV, and as Paul used to say, you know, and he used to be around a lot, and he'd say the same thing as Butch, geez, make a better swing and hit it anywhere, and believe me when I was hitting the shot, I was trying to hit it hard and long and over the water and I didn't do it. The last five or six holes, I basically when I was on the tee, I told myself that Butch -- it was like I was on the range with him watching him telling me to swing short because sometimes Joe will try and do that and I get a little edgy and I will scream at him. But I just told myself, the shorter I can swing, the better off I was going to be and I hit the ball really, really well. As I said, it was a good day. I could go played in two weeks and be in the same spot and struggle, but today was a lot of fun.

Q. Did you feel like 16 is kind of a moment --

FRED COUPLES: I didn't note how close I was. The people were going crazy but I knew I'd hit a really, really good shot. It wasn't an easy shot because you know, I hadn't hit in a lot of bad shots except for the one and I didn't -- get it on the green, get it pin-high, and I hit it, it was going right for the pin and it ended up being a foot away. So when I hit that, I didn't look any further. I just went to the next tee and I hit another good drive and a good iron there, passed the pin, but that was really a huge shot, a huge shot on 16.

Q. Do you have any special sense of the crowd?

FRED COUPLES: For four days, yeah. And I have heard it for 20 years, I think I have skipped this tournament a few times, not many, but you know, they are always out there. They always scream for Blaine and I and Elk and Billy Ray, and Lietzke or whoever else was here in the old days. It was a lot of fun today. It is tough. You know, a lot of times you walk to a tee and you could only get patted on the back so many times, and you know, there's 15,000 people watching our group I am sure and they are all screaming really for Calc and I - more for me, but it was a good day, I am sure you know, if I was sitting in the locker room and Mark had won it would have been a nice day for me still, but it's a lot more fun for me than Calc or Kuehne or any of the other guys but it was a fun day.

JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Freddie and congratulations.

FRED COUPLES: Thanks, Joan.

End of FastScripts....

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