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January 6, 1999

Fred Couples


Q. After so many years at La Costa playing so well, how do you feel about the change of venues?

FRED COUPLES: It's fine with me. I've played well here. I love the place. Actually, it was easy to get to. It's an easy week. I got in Saturday, hit some balls Sunday, played yesterday and today. I think the course is fantastic. I think guys will miss La Costa. There have been times where you'll hear complaints about that and you'll hear complaints about here. I'm sure if the wind gets blowing 50 miles an hour, some players will have good rounds, some won't. All that thrown out the door, I think it's a good spot. It really is a good course. It's very playable. It can be very hard. If you went out there and watched guys play now, you can 3-putt. You can make bogeys on any of the holes by getting it in the wrong spot, but it's a very playable course. When the wind blows, there are a lot of holes that are hard, but you can drive a couple par 4s. You can do some unique things. On the same token, you can get the ball going anywhere. That's the kind of course it is.

Q. Those are things you didn't have to contend with at La Costa?

FRED COUPLES: No. La Costa is a very good course. We're playing the Matchplay there. We'll still get there, but I like it there, too. So I'm looking forward to having a big tournament like that there. You know, being here, I'm convinced that it's a good 30 guys. Maybe next year they'll have 40 or 35 or whatever the number may be. But it's a good-sized field for this kind of a course. It's difficult for the gallery on some of the holes. The driving range is small. To have 30 guys is very easy, very low-key.

Q. Do you like the changes they made?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, yeah.

Q. More fair, do you think?

FRED COUPLES: I think definitely more fair. On the same token, you'd really be careful on a lot of those greens. You have to actually play to where you would -- even if you had a wedge and the wind is blowing, you can't get cute and leave it to the right of the hole. You physically couldn't putt down grain and get a ball to stop where you could tap it in. 120 yards or 110 yards, you'd aim 30 feet left and have it hit the green and roll 40 feet, try and 2-putt and go. Now on the fourth, I think the fourth is going to be a very difficult hole because they'll have the pin up to the right at least two days, and the no wind, it's a very simple hole. With the green flatter, you'll see a lot of birdies there. Of course, I think 15 is a pretty good two-shot par 5. But the greens right now, yesterday I played early and today early, much firmer and faster. I thought they had a lot of speed. Wasn't that easy 2-putting from 30 or 40 feet down green.

Q. Does it feel strange there's not much of an off-season this year?

FRED COUPLES: I guess the 26th, after Christmas was over, I couldn't believe we were going to get on a plane six days later, came over here the 2nd, was that Saturday? On the same token, we're very lucky. I guess it was different. When the year came on the west coast, I used to play every tournament, except maybe Phoenix one year, Tucson next. Then as I got out of that rut, it wasn't that big of a deal. We're here. I'm going to play every other week. I'm going to play -- I think LA and the Andersen Consulting are the last two on the west coast. I'll play every other week, then play those two. Then I'll play every other week probably up till Augusta.

Q. Stick around and play next week?

FRED COUPLES: I was going to, but I'm not. I'm going to play the AT&T, which I haven't played in a while. I felt it would be better if I just came here. I was planning on playing Sony, but I'm going to play Pebble instead.

Q. Every other week thing, did you look at the tournaments or just look at the week and say every other week?

FRED COUPLES: I kind of looked at the tournaments. When I decided not to stay over here, I felt like I didn't want to take too much time off at some of these tournaments. I decided to play AT&T. It just fell that way, if I could do that. Last year I played and then took three or four weeks off, then came out and played, took three weeks off. It worked out fine. But the end of the year, I was a mess. I very rarely played. I would rather not do that. I would rather play and get going, play a little better, then get into a routine of skipping a few tournaments, then playing a little more.

Q. After Memorial, you didn't play much at all. Will you play a little more this year?

FRED COUPLES: You know, maybe not. I mean, last year the PGA was in Seattle. I was looking forward to that. This year, obviously I think The Majors are in great spots. I really think after the British Open, you know, I could be really slowing down again. It's just I don't want to do it. I want to play, and I think to get in 16 or 17 events, in the short time I do it, I will play some. I think it's best for me to do it that way and not be seen for two or three months, versus when I get home, I don't ever play golf. That's why after three weeks off, not touching a club, I'll go play Bay Hill, be nothing. That will get me ready for the TPC. That's hit or miss. I don't want to do that. I feel like if I can play up to the British Open, I kind of ruin myself maybe for the PGA. But if I play a -- if I take a lot of time off, play a week before that every day, I might be ready. But I don't want to play, you know, this 11-month stuff. I don't have any incentive. I don't have any motivation to do that anymore.

Q. Valderrama?

FRED COUPLES: I'm going to go play Valderrama, but that will be a tough one. The other two, the World Series, I will play. I won't take three weeks off and go there cold. That's stupid. But Valderrama, I can't play and play and play and get ready for that, but I will go. Probably do better.

Q. Do you like the idea of starting in Hawaii? Is that the best way to get Hawaii into the schedule, do you think?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. I mean, I think the Hawaiian Open always had a tough time with the fields. It just was unfortunate. If you look back, a lot of people feel like a lot of the west coast tournaments had a tough time. I played in them because I felt like I would do well. When you look back, a long time ago in Hawaii, I always felt like I did very well there. I had a lot of eighth to 15th place finishes, but I just stopped going and I never came back. Kapalua was at the end of the year. My parents came, my sister and brother. My brother played in the tournament. It was more of a bonus. Coming here the first part of the year obviously is going to help the Hawaiian Open. I'm going to enjoy this week. It's good to come. That's kind of how I'd answer that. When I go play at San Diego, I think it's a pretty good field. I think guys shoot a lot under par on what I consider two fun courses. One is a little harder than the other. But I don't really look at these things as weak fields if Ernie Els and Nick Price and Greg Norman aren't there. I think they're strong fields, and I think they're fields that aren't quite as good, but I don't see how you can consider too many PGA events really weak. They're tough from a standpoint of you guys wanting the top two, Greg Norman, Ernie Els. Instead you're going to talk to guys that maybe aren't quite the greatest players in the world. I don't know. So they kind of get ripped. That's kind of unfair. But when you go down to the end of the tournament, the better players are always there, even if they're not quite the elite players. When you play Riviera, you may get a guy there that you think is unusual that he won, but he's going to beat three or four great players. When you get to Florida, sometimes for some players that's when the year starts. Some guys are in South Africa playing now. If I was in South Africa, I certainly wouldn't come all the way over here and play. I don't blame them. The Hawaiian Open, I think it's great to be here two weeks in a row. It's good.

Q. How different is this week going to be here at Kapalua, remembering all the internationals you played in, the low-key atmosphere?

FRED COUPLES: It's still low-key. I'm playing practice rounds at 7:30, trying to get back to the beach. The hardest thing is the tee times we're going to have. The week really ends on Wednesday afternoon, whereas the Invitational, it was six days of fun at the beach because we would play -- you'd leave the tournament, be on the 10th hole Saturday at 6:30 or 7:00, and you'd say, "Wow, this is kind of unfair." At 11:30 you're done, on the beach, having a good time. That's what that tournament was all about. This one is prime time TV, Mercedes has to like that; we'll like that. Really, it's a very short week as far as body surfing and getting a sun tan because in the tournament, my tee time tomorrow or Thursday is 1:00 or something. That's basically like being anywhere else.

Q. (Inaudible).

FRED COUPLES: I just got done doing this. There's a great beach in San Diego. There's one at Miami. There's one at Fort Lauderdale. Jacksonville has a beach. It's just here you have that mentality. Every year you go to Kapalua, you know, you're done and you go right to the beach. That hasn't changed for me because it's the Mercedes. But in San Diego, I wouldn't get in there till Tuesday. I'd play the ProAm, probably practice, see a movie, then the tournament starts. The day I play late, nothing to do. The day you play early, there's times you go look at some cars or do different stuff. Here, very little galleries. It's an easy walk. The course is tough to walk, but not many tough spots where there's 30,000 people out there. I'm sure they wish there were, but we love it. It's fun. This could be a US Open. It would be the same thing. I just think Kapalua has instilled that in all the players' minds that it's an easy, fun week. You know, it's no fun if I finish 28th place this week. On the same token, you'd rather do it here than in the rain at Pebble Beach. But I'm going to go back to Pebble and see what that's like. Hopefully I'll have good weather.

Q. Do you like the idea of this being televised prime time?

FRED COUPLES: Doesn't really matter. I think it's good. As a fan, I would think you'd get home from work, turn on the tube and we're on. What time are we actually on back east?

Q. (Inaudible).

FRED COUPLES: I think that's pretty unusual, especially since a lot of those states have just gotten a foot or two of snow. They're going to see 80 degree weather and golf. I know I'd watch. I watched a lot of the years they've had the Grand Slam on TV, from four or five o'clock on the west coast. Kind of fun.

Q. How much is your knowledge of the course going to help? Do you think you have an advantage over most of the field?

FRED COUPLES: I think I have an advantage to me. I don't think I have an advantage over any other player. I think I have an advantage that when I come here, I have a lot of confidence. I know I can play well. When it's calm, it's totally different. I still feel good on the greens. If the wind starts to blow, I've been here before. Lots of guys have been here before, but some guys have never played it. But my advantage can't be over any other players; it can just be that I know that this is a good course for the way I play.

Q. Do you expect the wind to blow? Do you hope it does?

FRED COUPLES: I hope it really blows, yeah. I don't want to have it be calm. I think that would be also an advantage for guys that have played. I would like it to be calm tomorrow for all these practice rounds; on Thursday have it blow about 40 miles an hour. But it's the first tournament of the year. I'm not exactly hitting the ball fantastic. Hitting the ball in 40 miles an hour winds, I could shoot anything. On the same token, I'd like to feel like I would be at more of an advantage if it was blowing.

Q. You talked about no incentive to play more. Total purse is $131 million, not counting what the majors have kicked in. Do you think there will be incentive for some players?

FRED COUPLES: For sure. I remember finishing my first -- my first good finish was I think fifth at New Orleans in 1981. I think I made $12,000. $12,000 nowadays is about 40 or 35th. Money is not an issue to me anymore. Again, I won $76,000, 78,000 my first two years on Tour, and finished just outside the Top 50. Golf has gone crazy. When you compare it to other sports, it gets old. I'd never do it to make it feel like we're getting a bad break. I just feel like when people look at the guy who wins - I've always said this - when I live in LA and see someone -- wherever you live, when you see someone talk about how they win, they say , the radio says, "Davis Love just won the LA Open, won $380,000," that's a lot of money for four days. At the end of the year, Davis in a good year would win a million and a half or a million three. When you compare that, that's nothing. You hate saying that because that degrades a guy who has been in baseball for a long time that is being picked up by all these teams that are going to the playoffs or the World Series. He must be a great player or can step up to the situation. In some tokens, you get some guy that has never thrown a pass in the NFL, he signs, gets a $12 million signing bonus, five years for $30 million. You're sitting here, played the game all your life, you have a great year and you make a million two and people think you're the greatest thing in the world. You are, but money-wise, I don't go that direction anymore. I'm not going to go to Valderrama without playing to say I'm going to make $50,000 or $60,000. I'm going to go with the idea of beating 50 great players. That's kind of why you go. When I went to Jamaica, it was a good field. Some guys wouldn't go. It was windy there. The course wasn't "great." You can't help players when they don't go to spots. Some guys, yeah, they do go for the money. There will be a lot of guys that will play a lot of events. I'd like to be David Duval right now. David Duval is going to shatter every money record there is. But that's the way it goes. It's just how fast you do it. I've been on THE TOUR a long time. Whenever I am on the all-time Money List, in three years from now I'll be 15th. But I'll still be playing, but I'll be getting passed by a lot of people. In the same token, I think David Duval is going to do it in six or seven or eight years just because he's our best player and he's going to make a lot of money for a long time. I don't think he's going to be too concerned four years from now whether he makes $2 million on THE TOUR or $2.5 million. He's going to play because he's young and he's one of our best players. I'm a lot older than I was when I was 30, which is kind of hard to believe. I don't care to go do it anymore. If I was 30 years old, we were playing for that money, the next tournament was $3 million instead of $1.5, I would play another week, no doubt about it.

Q. (Inaudible).

FRED COUPLES: I don't blame them, sure. It's hard to figure out what any one person is going to do. I sat at home one time, I got a bee sting in Florida, didn't go play somewhere. I called the tournament director up. I said, "I got stung by a bee. My hand is swollen. I don't want to go." You almost don't want to make up a reason why you don't want to go. Ernie Els is getting married. That's a pretty good reason. If he called up and said, "I don't want to go from South Africa to Hawaii," you have to come up with a reason, "I got bit by a dog," whatever you say. So guys that don't go to Valderrama, you're going to get guys that are going to come up with some pretty good reasons. They may not be that good to a lot of people, but they're going to be pretty good to them because it just takes away from not going to play for -- is it five million or three million? -- whatever it is. It looks crazy. Valderrama is a long way to go and get off a plane and maybe not feel good, finish in 40th spot. I think these things are good. Six or eight is what we're talking about. That's way too many to be going all over the country. It would take away from every TOUR. To have the three or maybe get four and spread them out. Obviously, in the US there's two of them, but I think it's great. I think we deserve to have some tournaments to where you just get the best players. That may be selfish. When you go to the Andersen Consulting and you get 64 guys, is that what it's going to be, Matchplay, I think it's going to be thrilling. If you go have a TOUR event and have 144, I don't think it's quite the same. I'm not knocking the guys from 65th to 144. I'm just saying you can build it up, and when you do build it up, you know the good players are going to be there, and it can be an interesting week. I am sure you can almost put Tiger Woods in the quarterfinals or semifinals because of his record. Even I would want to see that, unless I play him in the first round. I would hate to not see him that far. I know his record in Matchplay. He's the guy to beat. Not Greg Norman, not Ernie Els, not anyone. I think Tiger Woods would have to be licking his chops when he gets to La Costa.

Q. As fine a line as there is in talent between 1, 2, 3, 62, 63, 64, you could easily get a final of 42 against 23.

FRED COUPLES: You can get anybody. You're talking about one round. I can't think of a 50th player, whoever they have, I can't see that big of a deal for Scott Verplank to play against Ernie Els, certainly not like Ernie Els is going to win nine out of ten times. If you're in Las Vegas, you're going to favor Ernie Els. We're talking about 15 holes, 18 holes, whatever it takes, a lot of weird things can happen. That's where Tiger, when you see him playing, he is mentally tough. Sometimes when you're playing the whole field, mentally tough means you're not just beating one guy, you have 12 guys shooting 33 or 34 the back nine. When you get a great, great player, he's going to be there, or should be there, in the whole match. When it comes down to the 18th hole, you could have the greatest player that ever played against a guy that has a 12 handicap, 2 or 20, hits two of his best shots ever, birdies the hole and wins. It's going to take a great match to take Tiger to the 17th or 18th hole, that's for sure.

Q. Can you talk about the two tournaments that got you here? Any significant moments that stand out?

FRED COUPLES: The Bob Hope was set -- it set the whole year. It was a lot of fun to play. To be in contention Saturday, playing a good round on Sunday, playing with my good Buddy, Andrew Magee was leading, but at that time winning a tournament was the least thing I had going on. But winning, that kind of made me revamp and try and figure out that I'm back to playing and I can still win and do all this stuff. I really felt like I could have and should have won four times. Losing to John Cook, I basically hit it in the water on 17 which lost the tournament, but I played very poorly the whole Back 9. I struggled, made some good pars, all that. John played a very good round. In Augusta, I felt like I should have won. That's not to say anything bad against the other guys. It's just that there are some tournaments where a guy beats you, whether you're winning from the 1st hole on, which at Augusta I was ahead the whole time. I just felt like I should have won. It could have been my best year ever. It turned out to be a very, very good year off the course for me, which made it great on the course. Getting married was a highlight. I feel like winning the two tournaments was great. Playing well at Augusta, which is something I always cherish, leading up until Mark made his putt, was a big week.

End of FastScripts....

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