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April 24, 2003

Fred Couples


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Fred Couples for joining as you after 7 under, 65. First things first, brand new course, and looks like you enjoyed it out there today.

FRED COUPLES: Beautiful course. I played yesterday, and as I just said up on the TV that the course I think not only my eye, but most of the players, it's got a great look to it. And it's just something that if you hit the ball well, you get going. I hit driver on every hole but one, and that was the 18. I think the players love that, so I am no different than anyone. It's just that I had a good day.

But everyone has talked about the course. It's exceptional, and there are going to be some very good scores, but when the course gets set up with a little rough, it grows and the greens get hard. It can be very, very tough. It's a fun course to play and today, for me, I hit a lot of very good shots, made a lot of putts, and I played well.

TODD BUDNICK: You have been doing that now for the last 5 events, four Top-20s in your last 5. You are having a very good year.

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I have been hitting the ball much better. Today it was one of those rounds where I made the turn in 2-under and really hit one bad shot on 16 from just off the first cut of the rough. Wasn't a very hard shot, ended up scrambling to make bogey, then missed a couple of birdie chances. Went to the first hole, which was my 10th, missed a birdie putt there from 35 or 36 feet. Kind of kicking myself, then four holes later, I birdied a nice string there and got to 4-, 5-under and then birdied 7 and 8 get to 7-under. So it happens quickly, and today there were a few key putts, made a very nice putt on 2 from about 15 feet, then I made, probably, a 25-, 30-footer on 3, the par 3.

The rest of them were short, very makeable, and I stroked them well and front side shot 30, missed about an 8- or 9-footer for birdie on the last, but it was a good day on the greens and tomorrow is another day.

But again, seems like Sunday at Augusta I was pretty excited to play and I didn't have a very good day. That was a little disappointing. Then the other time I played -- hit the ball well was at the TPC and that was more you know, just a little bit of unlucky thing here or there. I shot 74 in some mediocre weather but I hit the ball well. It is been getting better. Every time I get in this position I need to work on that, I get back to where I can get out of the Top-20s, into the Top-10s, then maybe do some damage on a Saturday, Sunday there sometime in the future.

Q. Have you been feeling like you are on the verge of putting together --

FRED COUPLES: I did it at the TPC and L.A. I played very well. Augusta I had a good third round to put me up where -- it felt like a 67 or 68 would have been a good score and I kind of learned a little bit there that you just go play the course. I didn't do that there and struggled a lot. But my game is to the point where I kind of challenged myself with the help of my wife to start working on my game and once I did that, really now the challenge is to play well and then see how I handle it. There have been some times where I felt a little edgy working on this swing under pressure; then there have been other rounds where I just cruised right on through it and haven't putted well which is something that you have to do and I haven't been in any kind of contention for three or four years. So for anyone who tells you it's like riding a bike it's not like riding a bike.

Q. What is it like?

FRED COUPLES: Well, it's fun. It's nerve-wracking and when you do things correctly it is fun. I have been someone who has putted really well at times and then putted mediocre at times. That's something that I need to address and I need to get much better on the greens if I am going to crank through and win a tournament no matter how good I hit the ball. All of that has to gel, and if you are Davis Love or Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh you are used to doing it. I was used to doing it ten years ago, eight years ago. And now it's getting back to that point. I feel like when I go out there tomorrow the challenge for me is not to play another round and be in the lead or near the lead because I am sure there's going to be a lot of guys at 7, 8, 9, 10 under by the time I tee off tomorrow. So what I have to do is go out and just play the course and hit the ball well.

Q. Birdies came in bunches today. Is that coincidence or --

FRED COUPLES: I don't think it is a coincidence. I had 8 birdies - they are kind of hard to scatter around. But I did hit some real aggressive shots in there and some of the holes I didn't really play away from the pins but as I was talking to my caddie, new course there's a few holes where you go long left or long right you go down an embankment and we paid a lot of attention -- I came up short a few times, because I didn't want to go long. Tomorrow I will know a little bit more about the course. The pins will be on the other sides of the greens, but I didn't really want to make mistakes because I felt like I was hitting the ball really well. Oddly enough, the par 5s in the front, are good holes. I didn't birdie either of them but the ones that I did birdie I drove the ball long and very straight on those holes. Had nothing but wedges except for the long par 3. That's kind of where I played this course and tomorrow if I go out and don't drive it well, you can be in trouble -- you can't play this course from the rough all day. The rough is not that thick, but you have got to keep the ball in play and when you drive it in the rough then you have got to get it on the green. Par 5 lay it up and get a good yardage for a wedge.

Q. Is it fair to say today was fun out there?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, sure it was fun. Fun to play in Houston. I enjoy coming back. And the best thing about it is it's a hell of a course. I think Peter and Jim Hardy -- I saw them yesterday and I really think that this is a golf course that you can't dislike. It's got every kind of shot. They tried to make it really long. It wasn't that windy today, I drove the ball really well, didn't seem that long; tomorrow if the wind blows on a few key holes, especially 16 or 17 and 18, those are some extremely you have tough holes to keep a round going. My round, I played well the back. Then I got the front, I think if it was vice versa it wouldn't be that easy to shoot 2-, or 3-under on the back nine after cruising around the front.

End of FastScripts....

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