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August 28, 1999

Fred Couples


LEE PATTERSON: All right. Thank you for spending some time with us. Nice 63; low round of the tournament so far. Maybe just a couple comments about the day, and we'll open up for questions.

FRED COUPLES: Obviously, I got off to a great start. You know, 1-over, (coming into the round), my objective was to go out there and hit the ball and try and shoot 67 or 68, and birdied the first. Hit it on the second green in two. Birdied there. Then 3rd hole, I hit a good shot to about 10 or 12 feet and made it. So, obviously, I was way ahead of the game. And then it just kept going. I missed the short side on the 6th hole, par 4, with a 4-iron, and chipped it from maybe 20 feet. Then birdied 11. And then halfway block-shanked a shot on the 12th for my only bogey, on the par three. Then 14, 9-iron to about four feet. 16, laid up and hit a sand wedge eight feet. 18, hit a drive in the left trees and hooked a 7-iron out of the rough on the front edge and made about a 40-footer.

Q. You seem to really take your time on 18 on your approach. Is that because you knew that you had a good round going and you didn't want to take any chances?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I was trying -- the 18th hole is -- it's a very tough driving hole. I doubled it yesterday playing pretty well. I just really don't feel very comfortable on the hole. So when I hit my drive over there, I just kept thinking I couldn't really hit a 7-iron on the green, because it was so soft; meaning, to hit a hard hook out of there. I just felt like if I hit a 6 and it would go over, that would be the worst spot; so, I kept walking out in the fairway, just to see what I would hit if I was in the fairway. And I came back and decided I could hit a 7-iron. If it came up short of the green, that would be better. As it turned out, I flushed it, and it bounced on the front part of the green and turned out to be very good. And thought I would make four, and it ended up the putt went in.

Q. Is it possible that today's round was set up by that great par save on your 18th hole yesterday?

FRED COUPLES: You know, bogey for sure. Not really. I never even thought about that. Although, Ernie Els came up on the range, and we were kind of laughing about the second shot and everything else. Today was really set up by the first three holes. Not, you know, could have shot 2-, or 3-under or whatever. But 7-under was a great score. I'm proud of it. The course is playing extremely long. Even though it's soft, it might be playing easier. But the scores are not all that low. Although, Tiger is having a huge day today, too. But I think the course is playing long and tough, and 7-under was a great score.

Q. Having just said that, he just hit what I'm sure he regarded was a pretty poor drive on 17. The way Firestone can get, even the best players can bring them back down. Are you still in the hunt?

FRED COUPLES: Am I? Sure. I'm in the hunt -- and it looks like I might be five, four -- five or six shots back. 17, with his length, I don't know where he drove it. Unless he's behind the trees, he can get it on the green. You know, really, the key is I can't go out there and think I'm five behind Tiger Woods tomorrow and say: Hey, I'm going to shoot 65 and beat him. He's on a roll. He's the best player in the world right now. He's proving that every week. So my game is to go out there and play, and then not worry about what he's doing. I guarantee you, he's going to be worrying about his game. He's going to go out and play a good round. And if I don't play another great round, I'm not going to beat him. But I can't really go out there and say, you know, worry about winning this tournament if I'm five behind. A lot of times when you're playing, second isn't all bad, especially when you're that far behind. If I was one or two shots behind, it's a totally different thing. But when you're five behind that great a player, you know, you can have anyone sit up here and say "I have a shot tomorrow," but they are just kidding themselves. He's got to shoot 74 or 73. And I just don't see that happening.

Q. Are you more surprised that you shot 63 today -- that may not be the low score of the day. Which is more surprising?

FRED COUPLES: I'm surprised that I shot 63, but I'm also surprised -- is Tiger 8-under? Well, that's a phenomenal round. It's surprising because no one has -- there's been a couple great scores, and we have some great players. But I just feel like the course is playing extremely tough. The rough is up. It's long. 67 is a very good score, and I feel like I did a lot of -- I made a lot of putts. I chipped in. I'm sure Tiger is doing the same, but I heard he hit a lot of shots two feet. His game and my game are worlds apart. Our scores may be close today, but our games are worlds apart.

Q. How about your putting today, and your comfort zone there on these greens, and have they changed much since the start of play? Secondly, this round has been running around in you for a couple months now. You've been kind of right there and back and forth?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I putted well to shoot that score. That's an easy answer. The greens are perfect. The golf course couldn't be in any better shape. I don't think they are any faster or any dryer. If you get on one side of the green, the pin on the 1st hole today was in the front. I made a putt from 15 feet. It was so fast, it was scary. But that's where the pin was. The pace of the greens is the same. My game, I don't know how close I've been to breaking out. I played well at the PGA by hitting the ball, and I scored okay. Like I say, the week before, I practiced pretty hard before there. And I practiced last week, and I had hurt my back a little bit on Wednesday, and I got some help Wednesday night and Thursday morning. It was kind of nice to stop play when we did. And I came back out in the morning and played a couple under, and then I played well yesterday and then today. So, I'm feeling much better, you know. But my game is getting better. And hopefully it should, it should even get better than the last few times I've played.

Q. How tough was that putt on 18?

FRED COUPLES: When I hit, it looked good. It was going a hundred miles an hour. If it doesn't go in, it goes eight feet by and might miss it and shoot 5- (under); or it goes in and I shoot 7-under. But it looked good the whole way. I made another good putt somewhere else, but nothing that long. I hit the ball well, but that was a really nice thing to have happen. I was hoping to make four where my drive was. When I hit the putt and it hit the back of the cup and it went in, that was a great thing.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the disappointment of the Ryder Cup, and has Ben said anything to you about if anybody should sprain an ankle, you're the guy?

FRED COUPLES: No. I talked to him Sunday night. And then he left a message on Tuesday after, and I have no problem. I don't know -- I know it's hard, you know, you get two picks. It's really not the easiest thing in the world to do. You know, my game was amongst four, five, six other guys. I just don't feel like I was a clear-cut person to be picked. Would I have liked to be picked? Yeah. Do I think I would have been a good pick? Yeah. But so would Steve Pate, Tom Lehman, Bob Estes, Chris Parry, John Huston or Lee Janzen. I mean, I had my chance. I was 5-under at one time at the PGA with five, six, seven holes to go on Saturday. You know, I had a double and a triple, which was not too good. And then I played well Sunday. But basically, you know, I'm very happy for Steve Pate. Any of these guys that got picked would be good. But my disappointment is really the fact that I didn't play well this whole year. So going by that, once Monday morning came, it really wasn't much of a hard thing to accept. I don't really know how to put it. Sunday, there was a lot of adrenaline going, and I thought I might be picked. When I wasn't, it wasn't -- it was a little tough to swallow. But at the same -- once you think about it, Steve Pate has had a wonderful year, and I think he's a good pick. He'll do very well.

Q. How would you describe this year for yourself?

FRED COUPLES: This year? You know, it's been very boring on the golf course. But off the golf course, at my age, and I've said this a few times, I don't think there's any comparison. If I was 30 years old, I might -- I might hedge a little bit and say that getting remarried and marrying into two kids and being a stepdad ranked way up there. But at this point, so many better things have happened off the golf course than on it that I am way better off. Would I want to play good golf? Sure. But it's not really my life anymore to a point where I get that disappointed when I don't play that well. And the reason why is because I haven't really been practicing at all. You know, I honestly feel like I have a great game. And when I practice and play, it gets better quickly; so, that's a good thing. You know, next year, I hope to come out and practice and play and have a good year. I don't see where I won't. This time, if I'm playing and practicing and not do well, I'll probably have a different answer.

Q. This venue and this field and this course the way it's playing, if you shoot another great round tomorrow, can that be a great springboard into ending what has been a boring season for you?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, it would be a great thing to have happen. If I play well tomorrow and finish up there, again, I'm not down-playing anything. I don't know what Tiger is doing, but you know, I feel like I have a chance of winning. I would like to say that. But it's an outside chance, just because of who we're playing against. People, I'm sure when Jack Nicklaus played, I hope were saying the same thing, because this guy is that good. And it's not easy to shoot 63, 63, 63, 65 on a course like this. So that also is against you and the fact that's playing that well. But to be in the tournament and playing that well is very satisfying. Again, there's 40 guys. So when you weigh 10 or 12 guys probably aren't going to play their best; so now there's 30. And from that 30, if you're playing good, you should be in the Top-10. And if you have a hot round, you might have a shot. These are much easier tournaments to win than a full field of a 150 players. I believe the TOUR needs these tournaments. But if you're going to win one, it's a lot easier to beat 40 guys than it is to beat 156 anytime, anywhere.

Q. Given the fact that you are remarried and very happy with your family situation these days, do you think that once the Ryder Cup matches start that you'll miss it?

FRED COUPLES: I'll miss the whole thing. No question. I think what I tried to say a minute ago is that I had a rush Sunday night hoping that I was going to be picked. In the back of my mind, it was not like obvious that I was going to be picked. So when I wasn't, it was very disappointing. But at no time am I not going to be watching and thinking: Geez, I wish I was on the 10th hole with Davis or Steve Pate and playing with them. It will be fun. I'll watch all day long just like everyone else. You know, it's kind of like I've been on the team five straight times. It's truly a treat. It makes the rest of these tournaments seem minuscule because there's so much fun and there's so much going on. And not to be a part of that -- the No. 1 thing you want to do is to go play and win. Whether you do well or not, yourself, is irrelevant. I feel like when you're watching, I'm sure I'll be nervous watching. Just as someone would be watching me that's a friend, you know, at home. It's a nerve-wracking thing.

Q. Do you get more of a rush out of the Ryder Cup than any other event?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. I think the Ryder Cup really is a tournament that, when you're on the first tee, you -- especially here, when they start chanting "USA" a lot of times, I know you don't really even know what's going on. If you've been in there, you can understand your swing and you're going to miss some shots and do that. But the first one I played at was in -- at the Belfry. And we all know what happened there. The second one was over here, and it was different, too, because of people just chanting. You know, as I said before, when they yell your name, it's great. But when they start chanting "USA" and screaming it, it's almost a feeling that I've never really ever felt. And we won. You know, it was a lot of fun. And it's just kind of stayed there every single time. Tomorrow, if I get to play with Tiger or not, or close, I'd love to play with him. I've yet to play with him in a tournament, whether it was the first day or the last day. That's kind of a different thing, because when you play with -- I remember when I was young playing with Jack Nicklaus, it was just a ball to play with him. Obviously, I'll be on my game tomorrow. But it's fun to watch him play. As you can see, he's 8-under, and he's capable of doing things like that. I will not be out there totally free and just watching him shooting 68, 69 or 70. Whereas, the Ryder Cup is actually -- it's the greatest thing in golf. I don't know what you guys, when you watch, if you have any nerves or like the Olympics where you get a guy that's in the 100-meter run, how can you not feel nervous for the guy. If he gets out of the block slow, he's not going to win. In the Ryder Cup, you wait two years to go on the team, and all you don't want to do is screw up so everyone can see you. What happens is you end up screwing up because you're so worried about it. And I really think the Ryder Cup, a lot of matches, the great matches are won and they seem great. Whereas, other matches are so depressing because a guy will lose a hole, that it really takes a lot of sting out of the whole thing. I remember Corey Pavin chipping in at Oak Hill with Faldo. It was unbelievable; versus a guy missing a 3-footer to lose a match. You don't want to get around him for days. It's totally different. Totally different.

Q. Given your feelings about the Ryder Cup, Fred, would you want to be paid if you were playing in this one?

FRED COUPLES: Would I want to be paid? You know, those are great questions, or that is a great question. I really think that it's a lose/lose situation when you answer that question. And how I'd like to answer it is by saying that, you know, I guess when you see where people make a comment, times have changed. For me, times haven't changed. But for younger guys that are not part of it, and maybe it's not as big a deal to them because they are making $8 million to $10 million to $100 million. Maybe they feel they should be paid. But for me, I mean, I was part of it ten years ago, and I would never dream of even bringing that up. And I'm not any better than anyone else. What I'm trying to say is I can see their points, and I can see an older person kind of being -- having a different evaluation of it. I have no problem -- and I'm not trying to sit on the fence on whoever these guys may be, wanting to be paid, or have charity money. But as far as I'm concerned, I don't see it like that at all. And I don't want to say: Let them go, and bring three, or four or five other guys on the team. That's ridiculous. I've seen those comments. All of them are going to play. No one is ever not going to play in the Ryder Cup that is on the team. And I just think it's their opinion, and I have no problem with it.

Q. Is this week for you just the culmination of the week that you put in this last month? Is there any kind of holdover incentive: I didn't make the team, and I can show you guys I can still play?

FRED COUPLES: Well, what happened is that I worked on my game before the PGA. And my incentive there was to go and play really, really well. Now, I was a little bit without much competition. I kind of threw away a few shots. But I believe I led the week in greens in regulation. I hit the ball extremely well. I just didn't score that well. So if I could have finished in the Top-10, which is maybe where I hit the ball, might have been picked. So once I wasn't picked, I was still playing. I practiced last week. It wasn't like I sat around. This is a huge deal. Again, 40 guys, it's not the hardest tournament to win. Now, after two rounds, 71, 70 is not bad on this course. But you're in the 25th spot, and I needed a good round to move up. And I need another good round tomorrow. And I got it today. The incentive to me is come play well on a very good course. It has nothing to do with the Ryder Cup or not being chosen. And I promise you that if I win tomorrow and have a great round, the last thing is going to be -- they are not going to miss me at all on the Ryder Cup. I think that we have a great team. You know, I think we'll do just fine.

Q. Ben Crenshaw, what's your take on him as a person, and what kind of captain do you think he will be?

FRED COUPLES: I think Ben, to me, has always been great. We've played a few times, practice rounds. Spoken a little bit this year about the Ryder Cup. And I never saw him, really. I kind of hid from him the whole week (at PGA). There's a lot going on. And he, as a person, I think he's a great person. I think he'll be a great Ryder Cup captain, and is. I think, you know, he may have been a little frustrated at the PGA. I know a lot of people may have been, and maybe -- I don't know who was right or who was wrong. It really is irrelevant, too. But as far as captain, once he gets there, his goal is to basically make everyone happy and have a good time and match all these guys up. That's the hardest thing. There's a lot of things that go on in a week where people play together and then the second day they don't play. I think Bill Rogers is going to be there along with Linky. That's going to be fun. I know all the players -- I know Bill Rogers is going to play well. Most of us know Bruce Lietzke, and I know it will be fun for all of them to be running around. But Ben, he called Tuesday and he was -- basically kind of felt like he had killed my dog or something. Poor guy just felt so bad. And I don't -- I don't really see any reason he should. I'm sure he did for all the guys. He probably wishes everybody could make the team, and that's not the case. But I think the world of him, and you know, as we all do, we wish the team the best. But Ben is great. He's always been great. I don't think golfwise he's playing well right now, but he's going to be 50 right around the corner. But as far as what he's doing for the Ryder Cup, he's doing the right stuff. He's getting everyone and trying to get them charged up.

Q. When you think of Crenshaw, do you think of gentleness or passion?

FRED COUPLES: You know, I think of passion. I think he's you know, everything he does seems to have a purpose. He's very -- I've been around him enough that when he's asked questions, you know, he kind of sits there and thinks about it. I actually liked what he did at the PGA, to be honest.

Q. Speaking out?

FRED COUPLES: I really do. I think that was very, very nice. I think some of the players were hurt by it. And I believe Ben was close to being correct. He may have gone a little bit too far, but I don't mind that. Again, as a young person, when I used to be in those meetings, I used to look, and I would never say anything. If Jack Nicklaus spoke, it was good enough for me. (Laughter.) I just don't feel like now -- and I played a practice round with David Duval, and I was talking to him all about the PGA TOUR. He plays 20 events a year, you know. Most young players play 30, kind of like Justin Leonard. But these guys are so good and so capable of taking time off and doing other things, there's really no reason for them to play 30 events. So I was kind of to the point where, "PGA TOUR is going to miss you guys. You're only playing 20 now." It's only going to go lower, and it's not going to come up. That's where I believe tournaments like this are really going to thrive on golf. We're going to enjoy these. The TOUR is going to be better. But as far as golf, it's getting younger and younger, even though there's so many great older players: Payne Stewart, Tom Lehman, Mark O'Meara myself. The younger players are very vocal. They feel like they have as much to do as anybody on the PGA TOUR. Whereas, when I was younger, I was not as good as any of these guys, but I was a good player. But if Ray Floyd and Lanny Wadkins and Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson wanted to do something, it was good enough for everyone else. And that's not a knock on anybody else. Times are changing, and Tiger Woods is the No. 1 guy. Whatever he wants to do should be good enough for he and the PGA TOUR, and I don't really have a problem with that. Age is not a factor. He's the best player, whether he's 19 or 45. You know, he's a good guy to have on the TOUR, and I kind of think we're getting younger and younger. Sergio Garcia, it's incredible. I just sit and laugh. 19-year-old players doing what they are doing; when I was 19, I could barely tee up a ball in front of 30,000 people. These guys, they don't even know what's going on. And it's great.

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