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March 26, 1997

Fred Couples


Q. Tell us how you feel coming into this tournament this week as the defending champion?

FRED COUPLES: I am looking forward to playing this week. I know I am not playing my best; therefore, you just go play. You can't truly worry about it. You either have your game and do well or you don't or you don't think you have your game and you do well or you don't. It is as simple as that.

Q. How much of a factor is how you played last year or how you played in the past on this course?

FRED COUPLES: Well, it wasn't a factor last year. I was playing pretty well when I came here. This year, I haven't played much in the last month. I thought I would play more. I have not. I think I like the course. I think I look back, and there are some holes here that I play very well, you know, so it all balances out to, again, really how you feel. And right now, I feel so-so. If I can get off to a good start tomorrow, then it just kind of goes out the wayside on, you know, if I am a little tentative or if I am aggressive or whatever. If you are hitting the ball well, you can be anything. On this kind of a course, I think it is playing long. That helps. But other than that, I keep saying, "You are either going to go out and play well or you are not." And the good guys, you know, seem to do well at big tournaments, and they get their games geared up. But, the good guys do well at every tournament. That is why they are good players. So, you know, I think the TOUR is full of good players.

Q. On a related matter, your comment on Nicklaus being named captain of The Presidents Cup.

FRED COUPLES: I think it is great. It will be exciting. It is nice to, you know, have people that you have looked up to your whole life to be around for a week. I think The Presidents Cup, when we played last year with Arnold, obviously we wanted to win, but I think, you know, it is so new. It's more or less having him around for a full week and having him tell stories and having him get charged up and trying to get you charged up. I think that was really the best thing about the week. I know we won, and playing well certainly helps, but as far as having somebody like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus as the captain just makes the tournament that much better.

Q. Being a defending champion, sometimes I know you, those competitive juices start flowing, whether you are playing good or bad, you have that little extra spark. Do you sort of reach inside when you like are defending champ and let it take over?

FRED COUPLES: Well, yes and no. I mean, when I go out tomorrow, last time I played Doral was basically a waste of time. Now I am ready to go. I feel like getting back to where I was in the beginning of the year. I believe this week is a good start for that. I haven't been playing much. But, yeah, I am the defending champion. I don't want to go out there and think I can play well and worry about it. If I don't, that is the way it goes. What I like to do is I like to pretend like the first hole tomorrow I am in the lead of the tournament and I need to focus on what I am doing. Sounds easier to do than you think, but you just need to play well. And whether you dig down deep or if you go slappin' it around, whatever you do, you need to make a lot of pars and a few birdies every day and shoot good scores. Last year, I was in good shape and had a great last round. This year, I am a little bit edgy, whether it is being the defending champ or, you know, just being here and not quite prepared. It is kind of just the way it goes. You would like to be ready, and I don't quite think I am ready.

Q. Why not?

FRED COUPLES: You know, that is a good question. I haven't been playing the last couple of weeks for a reason which is really not that big of a deal. It just happens to end up being a big deal, and I am sure it will come out and people will know. But, no one has died. Just, life seems to go on, but it can be difficult for me for some reason. I don't know why.

Q. You want to be more specific?

FRED COUPLES: That is about it. You know, I care not to comment on it.

Q. So something happened?

FRED COUPLES: Something happened, yeah.

WES SEELEY: What happened is the room got very quiet.

FRED COUPLES: It is unrelated to golf, so we can keep going with golf stuff because that is about it.

Q. Does it make it harder for you to focus on your game?

FRED COUPLES: Sure. This is like, you know -- I guess the best way to say it, I broke up with my girlfriend. I mean, what is the big deal? So, you know....

Q. No alimony?

FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, I can't comment on that just yet. (Audience laughter.) That is the problem. (Audience laughter.) I didn't think there was one. But, anyhow, we wouldn't --

Q. How do you leave those distractions off the course? How do you eliminate them?

FRED COUPLES: You know, it is like, I can't believe there are any distractions. How is that? But there are. I think I'm a pretty nice guy. I think she is a nice lady. But it is never easy. So....

Q. I remember in 1990, you did an interview for me for the Golf Show with Jay Randolph. You were saying at that time, and it was before you like won all this stuff that you had won and become like Fred Couples with quotation marks instead of without quotation marks, but you were saying at that time that you were trying to learn to focus and that was difficult for you to learn just then, to focus on the next shot and the next day and next round, and so have you learned over the last --

FRED COUPLES: I think I will be focused, if not this week, very soon. I mean, to be focused and to play well is not that difficult. To do it all the time is hard for me. I will agree with that. This is a big tournament. I wish I was on my toes. I am not. But, I mean, tomorrow, I look forward to it. I think I will do just fine. I am not a mental midget over this, and I think my problem is I haven't played much in the last two weeks. And, basically that is it. I mean, there is not a big deal. It is, you know -- I mean, you can never like shake hands and say good-bye with me. I don't know why. But, I must be this great person. ( Audience Laughter.)

Q. Talk about how this tournament has evolved and specifically this week, the field.

FRED COUPLES: This is a great tournament. I feel honored to have won a couple of times. It is getting to be, I think, one of the best tournaments in the world. I know the top 50 Sony ranking players are here, but the whole field from top to bottom is good as any tournament. And the course is fantastic. It is unfortunate that it rained. Scoring is good, but it is always going to be good. I think the guys who play well are going to shoot a lot under. The rough is 8 inches tall, but, you know, the leaders aren't going to be playing in that, so they are going to be up. I think the scores will drop down fairly quickly. But, there will be four or five guys battling out because the course is going to be long, going to be a lot of mud on your ball, and the rough is extremely tall. So the big concern really with this tournament is basically how the course has been playing. It is fast, and the wind blows a little bit and the greens are hard. It is extremely tough when it is this wet, and we are going to get more rain maybe. I don't think the course will dry out; therefore, you are going to get wet, heavy fairways, wet, heavy rough, and a lot of mud on the ball, and it is hard to control. So, ideally, is when the course is soft and everyone can shoot a good score. This week, it is going to be soft, but they haven't been able to cut the rough, and I think the fairways are going to be a little bit soggy and a lot of times hard to play from.

Q. We have just been through a spate of divorces down on the Australian --

FRED COUPLES: This is no divorce. This is --

Q. I was just going to ask you. Is it becoming more difficult to maintain relationships --

FRED COUPLES: That has nothing to do with it.

Q. -- in this day and age with the pressures on players?

FRED COUPLES: No. No. I mean, it is -- I can't speak for anyone else but myself. I don't know what other people do, but it was a fairly easy decision and, you know, it is really pretty simple ... To me. What else?

Q. How about 16, 17, 18?

FRED COUPLES: Are those divorces or -- (Audience laughter.) For me last year, they were -- let us not print half this stuff. I mean, never -- I may never get out of here. I think they are great, great holes. I think if you go backwards, 18, Steve Elkington, I think, birdied it to win. Jerry Pate who is sitting back there hit it a foot. It is probably the hardest finishing hole you can play. 17, is basically you know, just you have to make a fairly good swing and basically, you know, as long as the wind is not blowing, it is not that hard. But 16 you have to hit 2 very good shots and I am just going by the holes. I mean when you stand there, you can't get away with a bad drive or a bad second shot on 16 and make a birdie. Last year I hit a good drive and second shot that ended up getting a good bounce, but I mean, basically, it was give or take and I took it and it kicked down on the fringe and I made a 20-footer for eagle. But, they are holes that most of the time, when you get there, a lot of things could happen. I know Colin Montgomerie hit it in the water made bogey. I made a 3. So, I picked up three shots. So, I mean that is where I won the tournament on those two holes. And, I think they are great finishing holes.

Q. Where are you and Paul practicing?

FRED COUPLES: Maybe Houston or I might go just somewhere, I don't know where.

Q. I don't know if you are going to Augusta or --

FRED COUPLES: Well, I don't want to go there too early but I might go in there early enough and have some fun.

Q. One of your friends, who will remain nameless, at this time, said that you will win a second Masters jacket not before long. Would you like to comment on it?

FRED COUPLES: It is my favorite tournament besides L.A. I have played there I can think, you know, a lot of times very, very well. Most of the times I have had good rounds. Basically, it comes to me, there is just putting and I think a lot of times a couple of key holes, the 13th hole if I went back and looked I have absolutely butchered for years. Couple of years ago, I had 4, 6s on the hole. I think I finished somewhere on the top 10 like a horrible back 9, so there are a few key things I need to do. But, basically, I believe I can go and do well and I look forward to first playing here, but really getting out of here, whether I do well or not and then really working with Paul for five days before I get there and then going and playing. So, it is a long time. I mean, two weeks, but that is a long time to really worry about whether I can win there or not. I know I can play well. I have won once and it is a tournament that I think I can win again, sure.

Q. Where do you rank your TPC victories in your career?

FRED COUPLES: Well, last year was great timing. It was one heck of a last round for me. And then back in 1984 I was just -- that was my second win and I beat some very good players on Sunday and it kind of gave me a boost, 10 year exemption stuff and, you know, kind of figuring out just how good you are. But, they were a long time apart. But, the TPC is a huge tournament. And I'd like to say because I have won it twice, you know, it is -- those are critical wins. I mean, they have come at different times. And, last year it was perfect. Perfect timing.

Q. You would put it second and third behind your Masters victory?

FRED COUPLES: Sure. I don't know why I wouldn't.

Q. Another Masters question for somebody who has never putted the greens at Augusta, how would you explain what that is like?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I think you can learn how to putt them and be real tentative. You could have a 20-footer and creep it down there and tap it in. But, a lot of times you basically make mistakes and if you are playing really, really well, what you try and do is really play the course and don't take any chances because you know you are going to birdie three or four holes and if you make a bogey or you get hot, you might birdie four or five holes on the back 9. So, putting, it just comes down to getting the speed of the greens. And, basically trying to leave yourself in a good spot if you don't. If you get it above the hole on 10 and you are coming 35 feet down the hole, if you have never putted them, it is hard to realize just how fast it is. But, you also know when you are walking to the green that you have either hit your 6-iron too hard or you hit the wrong club and you don't want to go past the pin. So, good players, like a Nick Faldo, can pinpoint his irons better than anyone. I think Jack Nicklaus overpowered the course. So they are totally different players by winning it many times. But if you can go out there and hit your irons the right distance, you are way ahead of the game. I think Nick Faldo does that. I don't know how he plays the par 5s. I am sure he does well. But I think Jack Nicklaus and Ray Floyd I know dominate the par fives and Ray Floyd is a great putter. Now, the greens are totally different now than they were, but getting used to them is not hard. It is just having a putt that you think you can make that is uphill, you putt it four feet by; then you miss that coming back; next thing you know is you have made a bogey and you can't believe it. Versus hitting a wrong shot - and I am sure you have seen people putt them ten feet by - you just get in a spot where you can't do anything. That is when you accept that you have hit a wrong shot or made a bad play.

WES SEELEY: We are going to leave it at that so you can get to the clinic.


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