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March 26, 1998

Fred Couples


WES SEELEY: 34, 33, 67 under par for Fred Couples who is our leader. Some general thoughts about the day and then we will go through birdies and bogeys.

FRED COUPLES: It was a good day. Obviously thrilled to be at 67. Last week worked on my swing a little bit, with my teacher for four days, felt like I hit the ball at Bay Hill. So coming in here, it is a good course for me. I have played well here before. And struggled too, but recently played well, and got off to a great start. I think that is really a key. When I played well a long time ago it seemed like every time I teed off I was under par. Today was no exception, I birdied 2, 3 and 4. I don't know if the second hole par 5, I hit it on in 2, and 2-putted from 20 feet. Third hole, I ended up making a 40-footer. And then the 4th hole I hit a sand wedge to about six or seven feet, made birdie. Really I got a couple of good bounces but I hit a -- from the middle of the fifth fairway, basically shanked a 7-iron, people never even saw it was so far out of the green, made bogey there, then turned around and made birdie on 6. And then number 9 had a fairly easy birdie putt from about 18 feet and putted it by and missed it from the back and made bogey. Went around and knocked it on the 11 green in 2, not too far maybe 30 feet and putted for par. So at this time I am basically giving strokes away right and left. And, next hole hit it about six feet made the birdie. And then got a great, great break on 14. I pulled the drive, kicked off the bank down through a waste bunker, looked like it was going to go through that into the water, it stopped in between the water and the bunker, with a perfect lie, I hit an 8-iron, almost went in about five feet behind the hole. I missed it. But, got a huge, huge break there. Next hole, parred. And, 16, I drove it in the left rough, laid up. Hit a wedge to about six feet. Made it for birdie. And then 17, I hit a great 9-iron to about eight feet and birdied it. 18, basically wimped out and blocked it way to the right, had a pretty naturally lie in the rough, blasted it out as far as I could to about 30 yards short of the green, maybe 55 yards from the pin and hit a great little chip, or pitch to about two feet for par. So, with that tee time, just before 8:00, the course was perfect. It was nice in the beginning, then it started to blow in the middle of the round maybe from No. 5 or 6 to 14 or 15 and then now it is semi-calming down. Overcast kept the greens, you know -- they are very firm. And I would say tomorrow afternoon, if it blows a little bit and stays hot and dry, they will be extremely difficult and just have to see how you go out and play. I mean, I would say anyone this afternoon who comes out and plays a very good round will be ready to go tomorrow morning. That is what I try and do. So, I need to come out and play a very good round in the afternoon to hang in there. I think the greens are very, very difficult. They are fast and they are getting very firm. Which is the way they should be.

Q. When you are hitting the ball well and you are confident, does it matter which course you play?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, most of them I play the same every year, so, what you want to do is play places where you like to play. Now you get thrown in the U.S. Open, or British Open where they change every now and then, so, you have to learn the course. But here I think we all know they have made a few changes. I love the place. I feel like if I am playing well, I can play any course and I don't think this is any different. I think this is a good course for a short hitter, long hitter, medium hitter. Doesn't really matter. You just need to play a very good round of golf.

Q. Are there any kind of changes that they have made, major?

FRED COUPLES: The 5th hole is a great, great hole and it is a much tougher driving hole. I think they have lengthened it and someone knows, 20 yards? So, it is more of a -- maybe a two or three club difference whereas before, a longer hitter can get it out where it would roll a little bit further down a little bit of a hill. So, I am not like there is not any hills out there. But now, today it was a little shorter because the wind was helping a little bit. But you get to the top of the hill if you are a big hitter. And I had 180. I just tried to hit way too hard. I needed to hit 6. Any time that hole is into the wind, it is going to be brutal. The same as -- 14 they have lengthened, I think it is 460 now they have put 30, 40 yards on it. I think I could be way wrong. And that hole, you know, today was with the wind. And I pulled the drive. But in the practice rounds I hit 3 and 4-iron into the green. So, it is much different hole. Nothing really that I saw to the greens, just they add a little length on four, five holes.

Q. What did you work on in your swing last week?

FRED COUPLES: Pretty much take away and I moved a little bit further from the ball. I was kind of -- my back was a little bit stiff in Hawaii and I made the cut and played there and then I practice a little on my own for next week and I basically got in a rut by not making a turn because I was so stiff. And then when I went to L.A., I barely made the cut there and slapped at it and I just had gotten into such a bad swing habit of just picking the club up and making no turn, that, you know, I have driven the ball a lot longer. I am hitting it more solid and, you know, I am going to go see Paul next Friday and see him Saturday, Sunday and obviously Monday through Wednesday before Augusta. So, if I can keep confident, which I have a lot of confidence in myself, and then go home and practice next week and see Paul for five days, I really look forward to Augusta. Although, with this first round here, you know, I think I am ready to play and continue to play well.

Q. Does it motivate you at all? Seems like yesterday you were one of the young lions. Now everybody talks about Woods, Duval, Els. You are almost an old man now.

FRED COUPLES: I have no problem with that because Woods and Els and Duval are winning about every three weeks. So, for me, I really have guys that I like and obviously I don't have too many guys that I don't pull for. But, I kind of pay attention to what I am doing. Greg Norman pulled out. That is unfortunate. If Tiger Woods comes in and shoots 67 or 8 or 70, you know, you don't really worry about him, because he can shoot anything any day. And as far as being young or old, I still feel very competitive, winning the Bob Hope was a great deal for me. Winning any tournament is a big deal, but I am not winning that many anymore and last was the TPC, so any time I can play well, I can't then say well. I am 38 years old and I am not supposed to, otherwise I wouldn't -- I wouldn't even come if I didn't think I could compete.

Q. Have you ever been in a group where everybody birdied 17 here?

FRED COUPLES: You know, maybe on a Saturday or Sunday when there is only two, but we all hit great shots, Faxon, I think, hit the pin it was good to see. He had made a long birdie -- well, a 20-footer on 16 and so after I made mine, it was good that he was still up first and he hit this 8-iron. Rattled around the hole, I hit 9 which, being up first is not that easy on some of these holes, especially when you are -- I just watched a guy, I think, Nick Price carried it too far on the back edge. It one-hopped over. Anything carrying near that pin, I think is going to take a bounce and go over and anything that comes up too short is going to trickle back down the hill. And, I think for us it was -- he hit a good shot. Then I hit a good shot and then Tim Herron hit a good one. It was kind of easy where -- you can go out there right now and see three guys hit it in the water.

Q. What did you guys have to the hole there?

FRED COUPLES: I think it was 146. Honest -- I had my caddie gives me the yardage right to the top of the hole and I don't know -- I am not really worried about too much on that back part of the green, but I think it was about 144, 146.

Q. Did you work on your short game at all last week?

FRED COUPLES: I did when Paul left a little on my bunker game but I think -- my bunker game has been horrendous this year and a lot of it has got to do with the type -- still making a little turn to get underneath the ball and get it out. I don't think I was in any traps today. But my short game is pitiful. That is probably what we will do next Saturday and Sunday before we go to Augusta. It is just something that I don't -- I have never really cared to do it that many days in a row and I am, you know -- I need to work on lag putting, and short game desperately.

Q. The chip on 18 easier than it looked?

FRED COUPLES: Had a lot of green maybe hit it too far and could go down and come up to short. It was fairly easy for a lot of people, looked pretty easy. The way I hit it, it looked easy. It wasn't that hard. I was a good distance and -- from the fairway. But, you know, that is like making a birdie. To bogey there and then come in here, you still - at least I do - I hate bogeying the last hole or any hole, but the last hole in a good round.

Q. Two years ago your walk from 16 to 17 obviously the crowd was with you and everything. Do you still get those feelings and memories and does that pump you through when you did great today through 16 and 17, does that still carry --

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, no, even today Tim Herron and his caddie were talking, those holes have been pretty good to me. Even when I won the first time in 1984 I was so nervous on 17, I hit a great shot and then the year I won I felt like I hit a perfect shot because it was exactly where I was aiming. I wasn't trying to get anywhere near the hole in 1996 and you remember all that stuff. I mean, you would have to be not an idiot -- you would have to be "blank" when you are looking through not to remember good things. I don't know the right word here. If there was only two people, I'd probably say something differently. And I can remember where -- bad things happening on lots of holes also and you try and get those out, but when they are good things, you know, you don't sit there and gloat around and forget what you are doing because those are still tough shots. But, yeah, it is fun walking up the 17th tee to the green.

WES SEELEY: Anything else? Let me just fill in the blanks, going through the birdies the club on 2.


WES SEELEY: 2-putts from 20.

FRED COUPLES: Yeah. 7-iron.

WES SEELEY: 7-iron on 3. 6?

FRED COUPLES: Pitching wedge about 15-foot birdie.

WES SEELEY: And the clubs on 12.

FRED COUPLES: Sand wedge.

WES SEELEY: That is it for me.



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