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March 29, 2003

Fred Couples


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Fred, thanks for joining us, currently tied for third, two strokes behind Padraig and Jay. Can we get some opening comments about your day.

FRED COUPLES: It was a good day. It seems like I'm hitting the ball well again, which is nice. You know, the round was good. I drove the ball well, I did miss a few putts. I think everyone is missing putts, but overall I putted nicely today and I need to definitely do that tomorrow to have any kind of chance, especially if they're talking about some of the weather.

You know, my feel for tomorrow is I think -- I don't know how many guys are seven under or better, but I think if Padraig or Jay go out and shoot 68 or 69, it would be an unbelievable round, they would win, but I also think that it could be somebody at seven or eight under shoots 68 or 69 to put them at 10 or 11 under that could also win, especially on this kind of a golf course in those conditions.

For me, I've got a great chance, I need to play one round, I've already played three, and that's how I'm looking at it. The only reason I'm talking like that is because when we finished the guy was telling us the weather was supposed to be mediocre tomorrow. Well, I heard 50 degrees and windier than hell on the range today, so that's not mediocre, that's horrible, but the guy said it wasn't going to be that.

But as far as my round today, I hit a very good drive off 1, hit a sand wedge to five feet, made it for birdie. I turned right around and had a perfect cut 3-wood on the second hole and pulled it left of the green and had all the green to work with and had a mediocre lie and I didn't hit a very good pitch across the green and I left it 30 feet short and three-putted.

Then I hit a good 5 iron on No. 5 to about 10, 12 feet and made it. Then on 6 I missed about a four-footer for birdie.

7 I hit around 8-iron to about six inches and made birdie.

8, didn't get it up and down out of the bunker.

Then on 9 I went for the green, pushed it, hit the cart path and went up into the tents so I got to drop it on the downhill slope and I ended up getting to play it, and I hit a heck of a shot and hit it to about 20 feet for birdie. That was huge going into the back nine.

12 I hit a sand wedge to about three feet.

15 I drove it in the left rough, which really for where I was aiming, on that hole, the left rough, I've seen all kinds of -- you just chip out. I was trying to hit it down the fairway and I cut it -- there's a waste bunker over there and I aimed it left and just pulled it. That was a huge blunder.

The next hole I hit a good drive and a 5-iron and I caught the slope to 50 feet and I two putted.

On 17 I don't know if I got lucky but I was trying to hit a wedge instead of getting cute with a 9 and ended up being comfortably over the water but in the^ must have, chipped it up to six feet and made it.

Then on 18 I hit a good drive, played for the middle of the green, hit it long and I chipped it and made it six or seven feet by for par, and that was it.

Q. You've known Jay for a long time. What do you make of this sort of Renaissance at this point in his career?


Q. For Jay.

FRED COUPLES: Jay is a great, great player. He plays really, really consistently all the time and he's on a nice run. I would never underestimate someone's game like that because he very rarely plays poorly - in his whole career. He's won plenty of times, and so tomorrow is a huge day for him, too. You know, I'll be out there having fun. I know Jay very well, and I know he'll be playing well. He's a guy that just plays well, and right now this year he's done it I think at least two or three times now, obviously at the Bob Hope he had a great shot win.

Q. Fred, how is your putting, pretty good, okay?

FRED COUPLES: You know, it's the same as always but it's been good this week. I hit the ball really, really close. I mean, the first day I did make one 20-footer, but all my birdies have been on par 5s and three and four feet. I've made a lot of good two putts. I've missed some, three putted three or four times. When you get on these greens, it's really not your putting, it's where you put the ball. I can't say a bad 7-iron shot on some slope up on a ridge when I three putt is really my fault for three-putting, it's a mediocre second shot.

I've putted well this whole year, and tomorrow -- you know, I feel I can read these greens very, very well, which helps, but I need to hit the ball solid and good tomorrow to have any kind of chance because I'm not going to -- I can go out there and have the putting round of my life, anyone can do that. If Jay Haas and I play the same, he's going to beat me. Padraig Harrington, he's a great putter, too, so I have to make sure I play not better than I can play, but play like I've been playing and I think I'll do mine.

Q. I have a semi-follow up. Johnny Miller said today that you told him that announcing made you want to play more or something to the effect that announcing kind of fried your brain and it made you want to get back out there and play. I'm just wondering --

FRED COUPLES: No, actually if I said anything, I certainly don't want to quit and be a TV commentator. I did say the opposite. I learned just from those two weeks, you can almost predict what you don't want to do out there, so if I'm up there on the fifth hole tomorrow and Johnny Miller is making a comment, when you're doing that you can almost predict -- if you're good enough, which I felt like I was on maybe a few shots where you know Ernie Els' game, he can get cute and overturn a shot and it rolls down a bank. The one shot I'm thinking about was at Kapalua. You hear that all the time, but when you're watching you don't want to do it. So I learned how some of these guys by watching did it.

Again, as a player, I don't watch that much TV, but when you're doing this all day long you're watching everybody. When I'm playing tomorrow, I'm playing with Jay Haas and Padraig Harrington I'm only watching two guys. When you're doing TV it's four hours and you see everyone on their brother, and you can figure out quickly why this guy is doing well and this guy isn't because you're watching them.

Q. And you learn from that as a player a little bit?

FRED COUPLES: I did. There's no doubt that -- everyone says it. I could talk with you tonight and say tomorrow you've got to go out and hit the fairways and hit the greens. No kidding. You're not going to be a friend and say geez, you're not putting well and you've got the hit the ball better than you've ever hit it. Well, I can tell you that. I think when you're an announcer you can kind of foresee the future. He does it very well. I don't want to do it at all, but I had fun doing that, and I didn't tell someone, wow, I'm going to practice as hard as I can. My wife is the one that said if you're going to do it, you know, I'm not that great but I see a lot of other people doing it differently than you do, and they all have teachers and they're working hard on their games, so why don't you go do it.

I haven't talked to Paul, and Paul has been my teacher for 15 years. I haven't shut Paul down, it's just the fact that I think when I work with Butch it's not friendly teaching-wise. It's not you're swinging good, geez, take the day off. I mean, I hit balls for six hours at the AT&T. I haven't hit balls for six hours in four years. I don't want to waste his time. I told him I'm not going to bother you. When I need you I'd like two hours, not 30 minutes because I can't suck all that in. I need a lot of time. You know, I'm not someone he can come up and say turn your left foot in a little bit and clear harder. I need him to stand there for a long time and tell me that. It's worked out very well.

Q. Where did you work at the AT&T?

FRED COUPLES: Just on the range.

Q. At Pebble --

FRED COUPLES: The tournament range.

Q. Fred, with regards to tomorrow, because Tiger is such a favorite always and because of the obvious talent, do you take note of where he's at going into tomorrow? I think at this point he's not on the leader board but I think he's six off the pace...

FRED COUPLES: Is he six under, five under? No. I enjoy watching him play. Phil Mickelson is another guy who can go out and shoot 64, 65 at any time. He'll be only a few groups in front because he'll be one of those early six unders, which will tee off late. He'll be right in the thick of things. I'm sure right now he knows he's not the guy to beat, but he certainly can win.

But am I going to tee off tomorrow -- I'm pretty much worrying about my game, and if I sneak up there and I'm ten under, whatever that is, and he's nine with four holes to play, I'd be an idiot to tell you I'm not going to be thinking what did he do on 16, 17 and 18. That's fun to me. I've never not looked at leader boards. Playing with Jay is going to be fun. I haven't played with Jay in a long time. I've known him for 20 years and he's a great guy and he's fun to play with. Padraig I know a little bit and he's a great player. I look forward to tomorrow's round just in my own nutshell. I really would like to go out there just like everyone else and play well. That's the understatement of the day by anyone who comes in here. Again, the way I'm playing, I don't know why I can't, and if I don't, it'll be very disappointing and then I have something to fall on going into Augusta and I'm thrilled to death to be in the last group.

Q. Freddie, how much has the mid-sized putter revived you and when did you go to it?

FRED COUPLES: I think it's been over two years. In Las Vegas is when I did it. It wasn't last Las Vegas, the year before.

Q. So a year and a half.

FRED COUPLES: It's revived my putting. Working with Butch and practicing has revived my game enough to make it a heck of a lot of fun, and at Pebble Beach, you know, I played a very good last round, and it was working well. At San Diego I think I shot 74 on Sunday and was way up there and finished 12th or 13th. That wasn't disappointing at all. Then I went to Riviera -- what I'm getting at is in all those tournaments I putted well. You can't come out here unless you're the top ten players on Tour not putt well and do well. So my putting is getting better.

Q. Your mind set from a year ago seems to be way different. Last year a lot of focus about the major Champions Tour with you which some people took as a concession that Freddie doesn't think he can play with the top guys, and now here you are here. Can you talk about how you're viewing things?

FRED COUPLES: That's a great question. You know, last year in a way I wasn't quite convinced that this major Champions Tour was going to be together like, bam, but I thought it would take a couple years, and in that time I would still play, but I played so mediocre the last two years that it's a different -- there's only really one answer for me, and that would be if people are out there saying geez, he's a good player, he needs to practice hard, he needs to compete with the guys on the Tour he's on, that's really not what I was looking at. I was looking at so many guys are struggling and a lot of really, really good players that, in my mind, I felt like we could get together several times throughout a year and play golf in front of a lot of people and not in an exhibition format.

So I wouldn't think if it ever worked that Nick Price would play in this and say I can't beat anyone. I can't put words in his mouth, but he only plays I think 15 times a year. Norman doesn't play much at all. All the older guys don't play well, but I think if they played 15 times on the regular Tour and then eight or nine times went somewhere else, Nick Price would have won probably 50 percent of them. That, to me, was what I was trying to look at, not that I couldn't play golf, that I wanted an easy way out. You know, an easy way out is just to go home or just come out and play golf. I'm not going to miss every cut I play in, I'm going to miss a few cuts but I can still come out here and drive myself nuts.

But from then to this year, I understand why it didn't work. I have no problem that it didn't work, but that's not why I chose to work on my game. Really, as I said, my wife and another gentleman who knows Butch really well said why don't you just go work as hard as you can for a year and see what will happen. You know, I worked hard chipping and putting at the Bob Hope, and I chipped and putted really well. I'm not a big practicer but practice really helps and I can see how top players work really hard. When I did well -- I played a little more, but when I went to tournaments I practiced really hard a few days before, and then when I got to the tournaments. I think a lot of guys, Davis Love when he goes home very rarely plays. He's been a great player forever. Then you get Jay Haas. Jay Haas is having a great year. If you were going to compare other guys you wouldn't compare their careers with Jay. Jay works hard, he's hitting the ball well, but when you look at David Toms and Jim Furyk and watch them bang balls it's ridiculous how much balls they hit. That's what I'm going to try to do for a year and I think I'll enjoy it.

Q. So you're turning into Vijay at 43?

FRED COUPLES: No. I've been home for a month and I played two rounds of golf and my back went out, but I'm really surprised I played this well.

Q. Freddie, you've played pretty consistently for the last three rounds. Is there something with your game that makes you think you can keep this together throughout the major season?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. I mean, tomorrow I need to keep it together, but if I happen not to, and I haven't really been there in a long time -- I don't think it'll be some horrific day, but this is giving me stuff of promise. You know, I've driven the ball really well, so that's why I've played well for two or three weeks. I hit the ball pretty much where I've looked and putted well, so I don't foresee this unless I stop practicing go that way. I think it's just going to get better and better and I think that's the goal of everybody and that's my goal to kind of flip it around. I'm committed to play Atlanta, I'll go there and practice hard, and I'll get to Augusta. That's what I was really shooting for, but now things have changed but now I'm going to shoot for one great day tomorrow.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you, Fred.

End of FastScripts....

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