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May 29, 1998

Fred Couples


WES SEELEY: 68, 67, 135, 9-under par for Fred Couples who shares the lead with Len Mattiace. Tell us about your round, maybe comparing today's conditions to yesterday's.

FRED COUPLES: Pretty much the same. You know, I played a lot later yesterday, but nine o'clock was a great time to start. You know, I hit -- I got off to a very good start, birdieing the first two. And yesterday on the 13th hole I hit a tree after my fall through with my wedge. It felt like it bent; it looks like it bent on the 3rd hole. Went out there and I had 131 yards with a wedge and I hit it about 135, so I tried to play around that the rest of the day. It's a 9-iron, so I need to go get that bent. That was a mistake there. And other than that, you know, I hit a shot onto 10 from the middle of the fairway, I yanked it in the bunker in the left and the pin was -- I ran across the green and made bogey. It was a good day. The course is excellent, still playing firm and fast. You know, I just feel like I made a lot of putts. I -- for two days I've had a lot of birdies. You know, you're going to make bogeys out there. The greens are, again, fast and hard. And you're going to miss-play a little shot and it's going to bounce into a trap where you don't have much of a shot. I don't have a problem with that as long as I can keep hitting 7, 8 9-irons and making some birdies. I hit an 8-iron to the first hole about 5 feet. 2nd hole hit a 9-iron 10 feet. 5th hole I drove it in the rough, I laid up, hit a 9-iron probably 10 or 12 feet, made it. 7, I hit 2-woods in the front bunker. The pin was up front. Blasted out 2 feet, made it for birdie. 8, I hit a 6-iron probably 15 feet. Made it for birdie. 10, I whacked it in the bunker and made bogey. 14, I hit an iron off the tee and a sand wedge 15 feet, made it. Then 18, hit a 2-iron off the tee and hit a 7-iron probably 20, 25 feet and made it.

WES SEELEY: And the bogey on three.

FRED COUPLES: And the bogey on three was, you know, 120-yard dink wedge, and I'd hit it and I never hit it the rest of the day. It just went into a back bunker. I pitched it out of the bunker straight down the hill towards the water and chipped it up very close and made it for bogey.

Q. How many times do you have to hit that way?

FRED COUPLES: That's the only way I hit it.

Q. Leading up to that?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I tried to lay up or -- there weren't too many holes where I had a wedge to the green. So I'm going to go -- I think they'll have a shop here or something. None of the Tour guys are here. I'll get a wedge.

Q. You got into some trouble at 11.

FRED COUPLES: 11, I hit a good drive off the tee and went for the green and hit it way right in the trees up behind the tree and actually had a shot between a gap. I got it down there and it clipped the tree and bounced back towards, well, short of the front of the green, probably 20, 25 yards. And then hit a great chip out of the rough, probably a 40 yard shot to about 5 feet and made it for par. Which was a big hole after bogeying 10.

Q. After the interesting tournament that you played here in '90, I think this is only the second time you've been back. Has it just not fit into your schedule or have you been leery of the weather up here?

FRED COUPLES: You know, I think for a couple years, you know, I was a bit -- I thought it was, you know, kind of a bad break. I think if it was 1997, I would never have maybe played the last hole. I know that's stupid to say, but a long time ago I didn't know any better. And, you know, I was watching Don Pooley's drive and he was watching mine; it was basically raining and dark and I think I was tied at the time. You know, I hit a drive down the left. But in the rough, we never found the ball and looked for it forever. You know, I really wasn't too thrilled about it and then we never played the next day, so I ended up, you know, finishing wherever, third or fourth. And that only hurts yourself not to come back, but I have never played great here. I mean, I've had some good rounds. And then after not coming, it's easy to, you know, not come. I have nothing really against the golf course. I just felt that was a bad, you know, that it was a bad break. And, you know, if I could have come back and played every year like this, it would have been my mistake. I hope to keep playing and keep playing here. But a lot of it has to do with where it fits in. You know, I played the Byron Nelson, Colonial. This is the first time I've played, as I said, three weeks in a row without a very short week. In San Diego, I didn't play a practice round and missed the cut, and then I went to Hawaii. So that was three weeks in a row, but really not any practicing. Here, I played Tuesday and Wednesday. I pulled out of the prime at Colonial, but it's hard for me to really play that much.

Q. You seem to have brought the Texas weather with you?

FRED COUPLES: It's hot. I mean, I wore the wrong knit shirt.

Q. You aren't too pleased following the round with the way you hit the ball.

FRED COUPLES: Well, I was really stiff. I was in a bad mood. It's hard to -- you know, I was 1-over the front and in a bad mood and playing bad. And in the back I had some very good holes, but some people -- I mean, you know, when you're sore and stiff all day, it's kind of hard to really -- you know, you watch every step you take; you watch how you bend over and line up a par; you watch how you mark your ball. You know, today was a lot better. Tom Boers came in and worked with a few of us last night, and I saw him this morning; I feel good. So, you know, yesterday my legs were killing me and my back was really stiff. But, you know, I'm -- it's been like that a lot. So I can play a round; it hasn't been that way for a while.

Q. Did you think twice about playing these three in a row? I mean, did you want to test yourself to see how it would be?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I wanted to play here because I hadn't been here in a while. And, you know, I really think you should play here. You know, it's a great tournament; it's got the greatest player in the world running it. And, you know, there's never been a -- anything to not come here. I just felt bad about what happened, so I skipped it. And like I say, you know, once you don't keep going, you don't know what you're missing besides milk shakes and brownies and all that. But I do like the course. Obviously when you're playing in the rain a lot, it's hard. I've never come here and then said, "Hell, now I know why I don't come," because I like the place. It's just that I've skipped it a few times, and, you know, it's a great spot.

Q. Physically, was it a risk? I mean, did you feel like you wanted to see how it was?

FRED COUPLES: No. I never really felt -- maybe one year my back, you know, there's a few times where it came up. I remember not going to the Westchester one year. I don't know if this was near that or not. You know, and I skipped it a couple times. I went and played the Kemper Open, which that I know I won't be going back to for a while. I'll play here instead. I can't play there to save my life. But, you know, today was a good round. You know, the course is in tremendous shape. There's some poa annua on the greens, but the greens are ideal. And, you know, if I keep playing like this, you know, I can't complain.

Q. You looked pretty blown away when that ball flew over three. Did you know right away what had happened?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. I mean, I knew it yesterday. And then Joe went and asked someone downstairs, and they don't -- I know they have a vice or a thing, but the kids in the caddie thing, so I went out and hit it a few times, you know, on the range, you know. I didn't walk it or anything. Yeah, it carried. I have a pretty good feel. You know, it's sitting right there 120 yards and I hit it up in the back bunker which, you know, was never even close. So I'll definitely -- I did bring another set this week, so I have a wedge. I just didn't think it was bent last night even though it kind of looks a little -- I mean, I smoked the tree, so I'm sure it's 9, 9 1/2.

Q. When was the last time you really played three weeks in a row? You mentioned you kind of had a half week --

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I don't know. I really don't know.

Q. Probably since before you got hurt?

FRED COUPLES: Well, maybe just after that somewhere.

Q. And are you playing, in this stretch, you know, going all the way back to the Open this year, would you feel like you're playing pretty close to the way you played, you know, around '91, '92? It seems like you've put up a lot of good scores.

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I'm playing -- you know, I'm putting better lately, which helps. You know, it's not as easy. Today I played very well. Back then, you know, when I teed off, it was very easy. I hit the ball so much better. So I still have a long way to go. I mean, I'm practicing and working on my game and get rid of three bad shots and get it to two and some day get it to one. Some day I'll -- right now I have a lot of good shots and a lot of -- like the one on 11 where you're standing there and you hit it 40 yards right of the green. I mean, that was a hard -- I mean, I had to be skilled to get there. If you go a little left, you're in the creek. But, you know, that wasn't very good. So swings like that. I think I'm close to playing to that, but not anywhere near there.

Q. How many bad shots are attributed to you maybe flinching on a shot because subliminal?

FRED COUPLES: You know, like today, none. You know, yesterday, even with a 9-iron, I hit a couple, you know, mediocre shots. And there's a little bit -- it's not so much a flinch. It's the way my body, the body comes in and it stops and the divot goes to the right and you feel it, so you flip at it. When you do that with a 9-iron, you're okay. When you do it with a 2-iron or a driver, it's going to go anywhere. But I feel good. There haven't been too many rounds where it's been that bad. I mean, yesterday I was just really tired and sore, but I was -- I played okay.

Q. I think the tournament found out Friday close to the deadline that you had entered, and I was wondering if you were checking the long-range weather forecast?

FRED COUPLES: No. I commit for tournaments every Friday. It's just easier than to say, "I don't feel good; I'm going to withdraw." Then they have a problem with that once in a while. I mean, it's not a big deal. So now I just commit every Friday.

Q. A lot of your better rounds have been 1, 2 and 3 and you've had some tough luck on Sunday. Has any of that had to do with being tired when you get to the last 18, or can you explain it another way?

FRED COUPLES: No. I think, you know, really like at Augusta this year I played very well on Saturday. I feel like that was the day that hurt me a little bit by not scoring one or two shots better. I mean, if you look back, I mean, every hole I was in good shape. I ended up bogeying the 18th with a bad drive. But Sunday I played a very good round of golf. But for, you know, one hole or two shots, nothing -- you know, I could have played another 18 holes. I played in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup 36 holes. Once I start, I can play all day. I'm tired on the first hole. I'm just as tired on the 18th. So some of these last rounds, at the Byron Nelson, when John got, you know, closer and closer, you know, I started to feel the pressure he was putting on me. And you know, I didn't really use the word choking, but I was not hitting it as well. I started to kind of like hit the ball. Then I tried to hang in with him, versus being ahead the whole time and playing. You know, on 17, I have no problem with that. I really didn't hit that bad a shot. Smart shot, stupid shot, whatever, it just got a little higher in the wind. I may have been the only guy to hit it in the water that day, but it wasn't from a standpoint where I was so nervous I didn't know what I was doing. I mean, it looked like it was going to be good the whole way. So as far as being tired, you know, I would love to shoot 67 on Sunday. You know, but it better happen real quick, otherwise I'll keep doing the same things and struggling. But, you know, it's hard. You know, it's been a very good year. It could be a fantastic year. But, you know, for what I've done in the last couple years, you know, I'm thrilled to death. I mean, I have not really been leading too many tournaments. The TPC I won I shot 64 the last day. You know, it was easier a long time ago. And now, you know, when I get there I feel very good. At Augusta, you know, it was not that difficult to play. And so that was a good sign, because I thought I would be -- you know, I've been in that position, you know. At the Bob Hope, different kind of course, not that hard, but still have to be a lot under par. So, you know, it's been a pretty good test. At Augusta and the Byron Nelson and so far I'm 0 for 2.

Q. Are you going to do anything different to prepare for a win this week?

FRED COUPLES: No. You know, I hope -- I hope I play well tomorrow. You know, I think I will. And, you know, it's such a logjam. I mean, you know, if you go out on Sunday and shoot a 70 or 71, you're just not going to win. And I consider that to be an okay score. But you just have to play. When you get, you know, in that situation, I'm sure the guy's going to have to hit a good shot on 15, knock it on the green and make birdie, and, you know, do all the right things on the back 9. Because I just don't see anyone not being able to shoot 66 or 67 and coming out of the pack and winning. So it all depends on what the leaders are doing. You know, and like I said, I hope I'm there on Sunday to give it a shot.

Q. Do you play aggressive on Sunday or do you play conservative?

FRED COUPLES: Well, if it stays dry, you've got to play, you know, the course. You can't all of a sudden, you know, start saying, "Well, I need to drive it down there where the fairways are real small, because it's so hard and fast." So you just have to hit really good shots. The idea of playing aggressive is always misleading to me. You know, I mean, did I play an aggressive shot at the Byron Nelson? No, I hit a normal shot. Aggressive -- if a guy is hitting his irons great, he's obviously doing that because he's leading the tournament. If you're not playing well on Sunday, how do you shoot for pins if you're, you know, a little bit scared of making a mistake? You can play safe, but I don't think many people actually play aggressive. They play a great round. You know, I've never really understood that.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Harrison Frazar, just what kind of game you see in him.

FRED COUPLES: You know, I was thinking he's a lot like Bruce Lietzke: Hits the ball a long way and he phased every shot. The same mentality: Kind of walks around and hits it. He's very good. I don't know where he's been up until May, but come the Byron Nelson, he's been on the leaderboard every round. Why? I think he's -- he hits the ball incredibly well. He's very long. He's your typical, you know, guy who hits it a long way and putts well.

Q. Have you spoken to Davis much about his back, compared x-rays or given him hints or anything?

FRED COUPLES: Actually, no. Last night we were there and he was being worked on, and Tom said he looked pretty good. And he saw him this morning just for a couple minutes. So I think Davis was just a little hesitant yesterday and had a great round. But, you know, I talked to him last night and he said he didn't hit that many shots really hard. But, you know, he's got the game to maneuver around the course. But I think he's fine. He's always had a little bit of a hip problem, and then it kind of bothers his back because he protects that. At least this is what I hear from the way they talk.

Q. Where is Tom from?

FRED COUPLES: Columbus, Georgia, Houston Clinic, yeah, and Glen Day sees him and Faxon, so he saw a few guys last night.

Q. You made mention to Bruce Lietzke there, and you just said Frazar sort of walks around like Bruce Lietzke. I mean, Bruce is, among us, is held in awe as a guy who plays little but plays great when he plays. Can you expound on that?

FRED COUPLES: I don't mean Bruce Lietzke at this age. I mean Bruce Lietzke 10 or 12 years ago. He hits a hard cut, you know, his physical game. And he has a great demeanor. I don't think he gets too flustered. I didn't see him last week, but I guess he had a mediocre ball-striking round on Sunday, and he was getting it up-and-down. That's a good sign. A lot of times, you know, you get a guy in that spot, he shoots a 76. I don't know what he shot, but he ended up even. He was pretty messy.

Q. Very.

FRED COUPLES: That's what he said. But he plays that way, and Bruce always hits a hard fade, and, you know, at the Byron Nelson, there were some pretty good shots, and he would just aim it down the left side and cut it. You know, he's got a very good swing and a good game.

Q. Can a game like that work well in major championships where you might have to work the ball both ways or --

FRED COUPLES: You know, that's a good question. I mean, does he have, you know, a game to do that? I think he's got a great game. Only time will tell. I don't know if he doesn't do well in The Masters or British Open or whatever because he fades the ball, you know, I can't tell you that.

Q. From your experience at The Masters, the high draw, is that overrated?

FRED COUPLES: You know, that helps, but if you don't have it, you have to play somehow. I mean, not -- I think, you know, if you play the U.S. Open, it helps it to hit it 250 and straight. If you play at Augusta, it helps to hit it right-to-left, high and south. You know, in the British Open, you know, it helps to have a lot of bump-and-runs and low shots. So most guys who win those, you don't see guys that hit the ball straight up in the air that do well in every Major. You know, I think that's why a lot of times guys are there. Not every time, but they're good for a reason, and they're good because they can fade a ball into a pin. They can hook a ball into a pin. I think, you know, Harrison Frazar can draw the ball, but it's not his bread-and-butter shot. And, you know, I hope he doesn't change and try to draw it for a couple times a year, but he's very good.

Q. When did you switch to soft spike and does it help your back?

FRED COUPLES: You know, a long time ago. I wasn't one of the first guys, but I think at the end of not last year, but the year before, so it's been almost a couple years. And it helps, yeah. It's soft and easy on the concrete.

Q. Is this year the most fun you've had overall since maybe '92?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I keep saying that. Yeah, you know, I think it's fun to play good again. I think I enjoy the -- not everything about it. Getting out of the house, traveling, you know, it's not much fun to keep doing this. But once I get there, I feel like my game is pretty sharp. Whereas, a little bit last year and years before, for some reason, you know, after Houston, I didn't play at all. I said 13 days. I guess it was 9 days, and I came to the Byron Nelson and almost won by not touching a club. But I think my swing has been in a little bit of a groove, so that really didn't hurt. So, you know, when things go well, you know, you keep going, and I hope to take a couple weeks off after this and practice, and then go to the Olympic Club which is a great spot and play well. I would, you know, love to play well there.

End of FastScripts....

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