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May 31, 1998

Fred Couples


FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, obviously I'm thrilled to death to win on, you know, what I consider is a very good -- very tough golf course. You know, I felt like I played a great round today. On the positive side, when I got here, you know, the wind blowing, I felt like that might be a bonus because I'm hitting the ball extremely well. I thought the course was going to play hard, which it did. I felt like if I played anywhere what I was capable of, I was going to win. I didn't think anyone could shoot a 66 or 67 out there. As it turns out, you know, I kept the lead and stayed in the lead, so it was, you know, a little easier than I felt like it was going to be. But, you know, any time you're playing with a two- or three-shot lead, you don't have to do too many crazy things. When I 3-putted No. 10, I felt like that was really ridiculous. You know, all of a sudden, I'm -- you know, on the other hand, I got it up-and-down from a plugged lie on 8. Had a wedge to the 9th green, hit it over the green, hit an unbelievable pitch. On 10, I felt like I was going to make everything. I ran only 3, 4 feet by. But in that situation, you don't need a birdie there. You get your par and you walk out of there and I 3-putted. As Jack said, it was good that we had a delay. I went back and I kind of thought, you know, just -- I got it off my mind. When I went back out there, it gave me the whole time to think about what I was going to do on 11. I was going to hit an iron, I laid it up perfectly, I hit a sand wedge and made birdie. Then I was back to where I felt like it was a good enough lead to hit the ball and get it in.

Q. You talked yesterday about being closer to what you were some years ago. Does this add yet another boost in confidence that you're back?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. I mean, I think there are tournaments, you know, I always felt like you know, to sit here and say I played in here, you know, some guys have played however many years it is in a row. I've maybe played here eight or nine times out of 17 years on the Tour. As I said the other day, it only hurt me not to come back. And sometimes I felt like, you know, I should have gone and didn't. You know, and I will say that, you know, he's never come up and asked me to come. He's got the greatest field in the world, and if he wasn't sitting here, I would say the same thing. Whereas, a few other times Arnold would come up and say -- I didn't play in his tournament that many times either -- he would come up and say, Will you play? What are you going to say? No? For me to come back and win on Jack's course, Jack's tournament, it means a lot. Next to winning Augusta, I would say this is it for me. There are tournaments you always want to win. I think the champions he's had here have always been great, great players. That means not a lot, but a little. It tells you how hard the course is. I felt like 17-under is a lot under par here. I know it played fast and the greens were hard and they softened up a little bit the last couple days, but this is a great course. And for me I felt like for four rounds, I played extremely well. You know, I won easily. You know, when the score 8 or 9-under is a good score and I was 17-under. I felt like I played as well as I could.

Q. When it became apparent somewhere about 14 or 15 that you were going to win, was there any urgency in your mind to get it done today, get it over with, beat the weather that sort of thing?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, we were trying to, you know, we were not -- when we were going down 17, there was a big bolt of lightning, and Davis and I started walking quicker. We thought maybe we could get it in, and obviously they had to get us off the course. You know, when you're out there playing, I try to take one shot at a time. Colonial, obviously I failed there. Here when I was on 14, there's no real easy shots. I mean, you can make, you know, a double bogey at any time. I don't know of any easy holes out there. You know, if you hit the fairway and hit it on the green as good as the greens are, it's never going to look hard. For me, I just kept saying, you know, one shot at a time, and it kind of backfired at the Byron Nelson. I really felt like on the front 9 I had won. I panicked, and then today, you know, people were yelling, you've got it, you know, do this and make pars, you know; they were correct. Pars were very good, and that's what I was trying to make.

Q. You addressed Jerry's question about being back as if you were talking about your feelings specifically. Can you address just Fred Couples being back period?

FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, I think I'm playing, you know, as well as I can play right now. You know, it would have been incredible to win at Augusta, to win the Byron Nelson, but I didn't. So right now, I feel great about what I've done this week. I think, you know, before when I've come here, it's a demanding course. You know, I mean, it's every shot. The fairways are a little wide, which helps me, but the second shots are brutal. And today, you know, I felt like I struck the ball extremely well, and that's -- you know, I didn't try and put too much pressure on myself. I mean, I don't consider Augusta was a bad thing. I think the Byron Nelson was bad, and today I made up for it. I would say the next time I'm in the lead in three rounds it's certainly not going to be any easier.

Q. When did the headaches and the nausea pass, last night or after you got a good night's sleep?

FRED COUPLES: Actually, when I got home last night, started feeling much better, relaxed, and today I felt great.

Q. You said after Augusta that you thought you were a good player, not a great player. When you're playing this well and you stretch, does your self-analysis change?

FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, I've been on the Tour a long time. I feel like I could have won several other tournaments. And, you know, I think there are guys that have won a lot of tournaments. Lanny Wadkins has won 20 or 22 times. I don't consider him a great player; I think he's a good player. Great players, you know, have records. There's only one Jack Nicklaus. But you look down -- and I think Ernie Els is a great player. Nick Faldo is a great player. I consider myself right underneath them, which is fine. I can only do what I can do, and so to say I'm a great player, you know, great is -- you just don't throw the word around. So I consider good not too bad.

Q. On 11, you had gone for it in two a couple times this year. Did you make a conscious effort going in today you weren't going to make the three shot --

FRED COUPLES: On 10, I hit what I thought was a decent 3-wood but I didn't turn it over. The wind took it straight to the right. So on 11, it was the same wind and I felt like, you know, the only spot you don't want to go is in the creek. So where are you going to go, to the right, the wind is blowing that way. I felt like it would be a 2-iron, a layup and I would have a wedge. You know, I didn't throw it up there close. At no time, even if I would have parred No. 10 and we were still playing, I would have hit an iron.

Q. You talked the other day about how in the early years maybe your first eight or nine years here you did not play well here at all. The last three times you were third and 90, I think you were fourth the year Zinger won and now you've won. Is it the maturing of your mental game?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. I think when we first came here this was one of the hardest courses we played. It's had greens faster than Augusta. It's had sometimes banks -- one of the best things they do here is they change the banks: Sometimes they'll be saved; sometimes they'll be rough; sometimes the par 5s are reachable; sometimes the, you know, the hardest thing really is if we would have played Thursday and Friday and would have gotten no rain, Saturday and Sunday would not have been easy out there. And so in the past, you know, my game, it was good. But, you know, you're talking about almost a U.S. Open type course, and I struggled. And now I think I know how to play a course. I didn't hit many drivers this week, and it was playing fast and even today. You know, you just want to get the ball in play. You can play this course from the fairways if you're hitting your irons well. If you're in the rough, you almost can't hit the greens. If you're chipping around here -- I don't know if anyone saw the shot I had on No. 9. I mean, I was over the green and I flipped it 3 feet in the air. And I thought it was perfect, and it rolled all the way down, you know, 40, 50 feet to 3 or 4 feet from the hole. It was probably one of the hardest shots I had all day. If I hammered out of there, it could go in the water, and -- or close to the water, so I feel like I'm a much better player. I can play most courses now, and, like I say, this week I played very well.

Q. Fred, yesterday I asked you about why not play more and you said you're right, why stop? Does today make any difference as far as maybe adding a few more tournaments and seeing just how far this season can go?

FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, I have to be honest. When I sat up here yesterday, you know, I always -- lately I feel like, you know, I'm going to win when I sat in there Saturday in these other tournaments. So after winning, I don't think I'm going to play too much more. You stick to a schedule, I mean, Jack has done it forever. You might pick up a tournament somewhere, but, you know, I must say that I've, you know, practiced and played pretty hard the last couple months. And, you know, you reap the rewards. I still feel great about the way I've played, you know. So to play more, I just don't think that would do me any better. I mean, I'm going to take time off and practice and play. You know, as I was talking to Jack on the putting green, I'm definitely going to be in the Presidents Cup now. So there are other tournaments that you look forward to. If it's a Ryder Cup year, you know, you play around that time. At Presidents Cup, I'm going to play late in the year and then go down there and play. So it cheats the PGA TOUR a little bit, but the Presidents Cup is our tournament and I physically can't play that much. I mean, this has been a grind, the last, you know, from Bay Hill to here, I've been on nonstop -- I would love to be 32 years old again and keep this pace. I would play next week and the next week, but I can't. It's just too hard. Ask Jack a question, please.

JACK NICKLAUS: I'm just up here as the host. You don't need me for anything.

Q. You get the 10-year exemption now for winning this tournament, so will you be back here for the next ten years?

FRED COUPLES: I will be back here every year, yes. Now, is it ten years for this or the TOUR? I have no problem coming back. I really am thrilled to win here. I can't, you know, there's a lot of pressure. I will say it's not your typical tournament. You know, fortunately Arnold Palmer is the one I won. I won by eight or nine strokes. Today, I won by a lot. I would not want to be one ahead with one or two holes to play here, and 18 at Bay Hill, I feel fortunate to have a big lead going into those tournaments.

Q. Did you play today the way you would play at an Open, in terms of playing conservatively, hitting fairways and greens and given the momentum that you have now, would you assess your chances in the Open?

FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, I would love to -- you know, this is almost -- the Thursday and Friday was as close to a U.S. Open, except the fairways were a touch wider. But as fast as they were, you know, any ball going a little left or a little right was going to find the rough. So for me, you know, if next week was U.S. Open, I would feel like, you know, a 3-wood off most of the tees, you need to shape the ball a little bit there, and really what I am doing well is I'm putting, and that is a big key for anybody. If you can putt, make a few key putts, you're going to do fine.

Q. Were 8 and 9 perhaps maybe the key to your round as far as just kind of --

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, 8 was a real difficult shot, and I plugged it in the bunker, close to the pin, and I tried to get cute, and it came out perfect and rolled up about 4 feet. No. 9, you know, I hit a driver and I knew where the pin was and I felt like, you know, it's easy for me to cut it into the wind, and I smoked one and I had 102 yards, and I tried to clip a wedge, and I flew it. It actually never hit the green. It flew over the green in the first cut of muff and pin's 8 on the green and I'm 30 yards past it. I don't know if I misplayed -- obviously, I misplayed the wind. To get that up-and-down was really, really huge.

Q. It's that infamous wedge?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, it was just, you know, basically flip it. I mean, Davis's shot didn't look that bad, and it rolled, you know, almost off the green. It stopped 12 or 15 feet past the hole.

WES SEELEY: Take this moment to go through the card.

FRED COUPLES: I bogeyed the 2nd hole, hit an iron off the tee, and the pin was way to the right, and I played a safe shot left, and I pulled it and I probably had 40 feet. I putted it 10 feet by and hit a very good putt. It lipped out. And the par 5, I hit a 3-wood off the tee and a 3-wood on the back fringe, and I chipped it down to about 4 feet, made it. Then I hit two great shots on 7 on the back edge, almost, you know -- just past pin-high and chipped it to a foot, made that for birdie. 10, 3-putted. 11, laid it up and hit a sand wedge a foot. 15, I hit a good drive and a 2-iron, right in the middle of the green and 2-putted from 30 feet. And then 17, I hit a 3-wood and a sand wedge a foot, foot and a half.

WES SEELEY: And it was 11th tee and 17th fairway the two rain delays.


Q. Were you surprised that Davis didn't make more of a run today or could you tell early that he maybe didn't feel as well?

FRED COUPLES: You know, Davis played very well in the front -- on the 9th hole, he made double. You know, and that obviously -- I don't know -- I mean, as well as he played, he could have shot 5-under on the back or done something, but I think that took his chances out. And then the back 9, you know, he got it around, but I really -- the weather was perfect. I don't know what Andrew Magee shot, 3 or 4-under. That was a good round. I don't know what the low round was, but for anyone up there to shoot 5- or 6-under at 9-under to get to 15, I really didn't think they could do that. The course played very hard, and, you know, so for some of the guys, I know Jim Furyk had a good round. I don't know if anyone struggled -- I don't know what Duval finished. But it was a good day.

Q. There has been so much talk on Tour this year of the 20-somethings taking over the game. I'm not the one to say that 38 is old, but I wonder if you see yourself as the defender of your generation now?

FRED COUPLES: You know, I think the guys around my age are Mark O'Meara, John Cook, Tom Lehman -- there are a lot more, I'm just kind of blank -- you know, they're terrific players, and I feel like I can play at any time, you know. There are sometimes when I feel tired and old, and there are other times like today, you know, I. (Mr. Nicklaus winces.) (Laughter.) So, you know, age is -- I mean, Tom Watson won last week and he's 48. I'm 38, so how old are you, 58?


FRED COUPLES: So maybe he'll win the U.S. Open at 58. But, you know, I firmly think that if you play and play the game and you've been a good player for a long time, you know, I think I'll do fine forever. I don't think I'll ever, you know, become a bad player. I really don't. I don't know how that sounds, but I think I'm very capable of playing at 38, 39, 40, as well as I did when I was, you know, 32. I just had one great year, and people keep trying to get me back to that year, and, you know, it's not easy to do. I've had a great month, two months, but two months does not create a whole year of good golf.

WES SEELEY: Will that do it? Okay then.

End of FastScripts....

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