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February 8, 2006

Fred Couples


CHUAH CHOO CHIANG: We have Freddie Couples. Freddie, thanks for coming in. Welcome to Perth and the Johnnie Walker Classic. It's been a while since you've been to Australia. Just tell us about your feelings coming to Perth.

FRED COUPLES: I didn't realize it was that long ago, '97, and I had a great time. I don't want to say hot like it's bad but the warm weather is great and it's warm again. The course is beautiful.

I've had a lot of success in the Johnnie Walker, and maybe it was the Johnnie Walker the last time I was here I'd have won, because I've won more Johnnie Walker events than any other tournament. So it's nice to be back and with such a good field and to see everybody. So I'm thrilled to be here.

CHUAH CHOO CHIANG: You've played a couple of events this year on the U.S. Tour already. Are you pleased with where your game is right now?

FRED COUPLES: I played okay. In the third you know, I played decent at the Bob Hope, and then San Diego, I shot 80 the third round, which was horrible. I didn't feel all that good and I was starting to come down with this flu and felt horrible. I think that had a lot to do with how my back felt, by getting a cold. I just couldn't hit the ball. I went out Sunday and played a little better and practiced last week and came here and had a good practice round yesterday. I played with Stephen Leaney, he set up a game, so I played with Brett Rumford and Brad McIntosh, a young player who hits it a mile.

The new nine very tricky. I'm hoping today it's a little breezy and try and figure it out. Yesterday we played and it was very calm, and the course is in great shape. It's really nice.

Q. At a time when so many people around the world are saying Americans won't cross the road to play now, because there's too much money around to come all this distance, it can't just be because of Johnnie Walker and all the money or anything like that; it must be something other than that to bring you back.

FRED COUPLES: Well, for me it's good timing. I am trying to pick up my game, and I enjoy it. You know, everyone knows they do pay you to come over here, but I've played a lot of times and I've done well.

You know, Johnnie Walker has been a great tournament for me to play in, and when they asked me to come, I said no problem. Next week is really my favorite tournament, the L.A. Open, so when I get back, I'll have a couple days to rest, but I'll be playing.

You know, I enjoy coming over here and playing against different competition. There are a few guys that don't go and there are some other guys that go a couple of times a year. But for me, it's really the competition. You know, for no other reason, when guys say, well, I don't really want to go, sometimes when there's a tournament, you know, I missed the Phoenix Open this week because I came a day early, and then Pebble Beach is this week. This to me is more important than to be there. You know, it works out well.

Q. Why is it that Americans won't travel these days? Is there too much money on the U.S. Tour these days?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I don't really know. I don't know who Chris DiMarco went (to Abu Dhabi) and just won. Phil Mickelson didn't really play much, but, you know, he's when I was younger and playing really well, I totally enjoyed it. So I think it's just I don't really think it's the money. You know there are some guys that if they played an extra tournament or two, could make a huge difference on the Money List or whatever they are trying to accomplish. I don't foresee many of the top players that really worry about it.

I feel like some guys, they have kids and they would rather stay at home. There're a lot of reasons. What happens is almost everyone wants to play the PGA TOUR. So I think what really happens is young guys like Adam Scott, he'll travel all over and play. You know, he started on The European Tour, so he knows all those guys and he knows all the tournaments. He knows the tournaments that he likes. I give him a lot of credit. He's young and he travels, and he plays well all over the place. But I think if he was an American, he might not travel as much.

So it's just that when you get everyone coming over, it's like all of the other international players travel much easier, and the Americans, you know, don't. They go to the British Open and they will go to another tournament on The European Tour or they will go play in Singapore or somewhere, but I can't really speak for them. Back when I came here, I played two weeks in a row, and I've always tried to play, besides the British Open, at least two or three times. It's refreshing. They are long trips, but the competition is different and you see different people. To me it was always refreshing to play against other people.

Q. Tiger was saying last week that in Dubai he felt that all players had a responsibility to actually taking the game to the world. This is a week that it's now turned out that all of the WGC events for next year will be played in America. Where is the responsibility there in terms of taking the game to the world?

FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, you've hit a point there, because it wasn't that long ago that I want to say that the Match Play was in Australia, and I didn't go, but a lot of guys didn't go. And I was not in the top I might have been 50th in the world so, they didn't really miss me.

But I just physically at that time didn't think I could make the trip because I wasn't playing as much, and I wasn't traveling as much. And for me the last year, I've been playing more and looking forward to playing all over, and I kind of got away from it. I'm older and I don't get that many chances to go.

But getting back to what your question was, I can't answer that. I think what happens is a lot of it is sponsor related and a lot of the sponsors found out that when we went to Ireland, some guys didn't go. You know, that's a little bit of a conflict to have these World events and have them all in the States. It's easy really for whoever plays on our tour, whether they are from Seattle, Washington or from Melbourne or England that you're always flying back to play on our tour and our tournaments.

I don't know why it's like that. I don't pay any attention. I've not much to do with the PGA TOUR as far as how it's structured. I have no idea on this new whatever we're calling it, the new schedule. I couldn't tell you one thing about it. So I don't know if Adam Scott knows or Davis Love or anyone kind of has it figured out yet.

Q. You're still ranked around 30th in the world and into your 40s. What keeps driving you on?

FRED COUPLES: You know, I get very frustrated. I think I play better now than I used to. I just don't I just don't have the total game to do it four days in a row. That's a stupid thing to say, but I get a little more excited to play now, whereas before I kind of took it for granted I was going to play well almost every time I played. And sometimes I mean, it's easier to do anything when it's easy, and now it's not as easy. So when I do well, I enjoy it and I feel like if I push myself a little bit, I can win.

And what happened a few years ago when I won, I started working with Butch (Harmon), and I just clicked to what he was telling me. And then I ended up winning in Houston and I ended up playing well that year, and I just kind of emotionally went the other way the next year. I kind of lost my game a little bit. My back is a non issue. When it hurts, I don't play. And when I do play, most of the time, I get around it.

But you know, I have a little motivation. I want to I played the Presidents Cup team, I worked pretty hard, I had a few good tournaments, I was chosen to play. But I really want to I'm close enough to the Ryder Cup that that's motivation in itself. Basically, I have to play better than I'm playing now, that's for sure.

But you know, there's a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. The Tour is so strong that I feel like if I can play with these guys, there's still a chance of winning. And I haven't won much in seven or eight years, so it's kind of ridiculous, but that's my goal and I don't see why I can't really win another tournament.

Q. Does it sound ridiculous that kids like JB Holmes are hitting the ball 330 yards these days?

FRED COUPLES: It's amazing to me. There's a couple kids I played with Adam Scott in Greg's tournament in Florida in the off season and we were kind of talking about a couple things. He's got another gear and when he drives it a long way, and a couple times I got it with him or past him and we were laughing about it because I'm twice his age.

I saw this kid at the Tour school and I physically saw him hitting some balls in Phoenix, and it's hard to believe. You know, really, to sit there and try and explain it well, how far does he outdrive you? 50 yards. 50 yards. I've played 26 years on Tour, I don't know if I've even ever semi missed a drive, then outdriven by 50 yards, and this guy (J.B. Holmes) is going to do it most of the day.

I don't know. You know he's got a very compact swing, he just won and he made it look easy. More power to him. I think that's very exciting for the Tour. He's a very young player and it's amazing how far a lot of people are hitting the ball, but there's a handful, three or four guys around there's another guy, Bubba Watson, who hits it further than him. So I have not seen him in person, but I have seen this other guy, and it's amazing.

I don't really, you know, I can't quite figure out how to hit it that far. John Daly has always been really, really long. He's got a long swing and he hits it hard. Hopefully you'll see him. I don't know where, but to me it's just goofy. He hits a 3 wood 280 yards, 290 yards. He hits a 7 iron 210. I have no idea, it just doesn't make sense.

I played with that kid yesterday, Brad, and he hits it a long way.

Q. How far do you hit a 7 iron?

FRED COUPLES: I hit a 7 iron sometimes 155 and sometimes up to 170 maybe.

Q. You mentioned the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, was there a time particularly with the back troubles that you thought maybe those goals were not realistic anymore?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I was I think when I got to a certain age, I figured those days had past me by, but there are guys; Fred Funk can make the team. But you have to really, really play a lot. If you're not really winning tournaments, to make these teams, you have to play a ton of tournaments. That's one thing I have always chosen not to do. I'm not going to play 26 or 27 tournaments to try, and it sounds selfish, but if I didn't do it with the schedule I have, that means I'm really not capable of playing well a lot of weeks.

If I make the team and I know I'm not on my game, just because I overplayed to get on the team, I shouldn't really be on the team. It's just a roundabout answer. Sometimes you're playing well, you play one more event you finish fifth or something and you get some Ryder Cup points, that's totally different.

But if I say my goal is to make the team and the middle of the year, just start playing tournament after tournament after tournament, it's not a good thing to do. Realistically the way I've played, my goal is really always to win a tournament every year, and if it doesn't happen; therefore, to be on the Ryder Cup Team would be a pipe dream. I couldn't stand on the first tee and beat Sergio Garcia. Although I beat Vijay Singh somehow, I don't know how. On an on day, you can do anything.

But really to make those teams, you have to be year in and year out really good. I'm not capable of really, but I'm close. I had good finishes last year, so this year I'm going to play and hopefully make the team.

Q. How much would it mean to you to be on the team to Ireland?

FRED COUPLES: Oh, no, I'd like to be on any team. You can't be stupid in golf. People see what you do. So I'm very smart. I can tell you really good players and I can tell you guys who are not that good anymore, and I'm in the middle. I'm at an age where I can still play, and I can do well. But you know, if you're a top player, you have to win. You can't just play and not win. I just don't play well enough to really win tournaments.

I'm not saying I can't and I'm going to try this year to get back to where I'm working with Butch and have that goal, but if you don't have a goal, you've got to be a little different age than I am and you've got to be a much better player. I mean, there are not many guys 46, 47, 48 winning. There are guys that are doing well, but most guys 35 to 45, there's a big difference.

Q. Do you have aspirations to be captain one day?

FRED COUPLES: I would love to. I think that's the goal of anyone who has been on a team: The Davis Loves, the Mark O'Mearas, several guys. Paul Azinger is probably going to be the next one. And if it never happens, it never happens. But it would be a great goal and a very uplifting thing, and maybe loosening, a little looser situation would be better. I'm not saying any other captain, but you know, you can't let them run wild, but it's a pretty tight lipped thing and they are under much as much pressure as we are. It's just the last six or eight times we've played, they have done much better.

Q. Looking ahead to the first major at Augusta, the changes they have made, do you feel they are fair changes?

FRED COUPLES: I think they are fair. I think they are fair to a point where they realize that the talent is good. What a lot of people look at at Augusta is there's not rough doesn't really slow the longer hitters down. And again, most of the longer hitters have phenomenal short games.

So if you're an average hitter, you're going to Augusta looking at Chris DiMarco, what he's done, and he's a phenomenal iron player. He keeps the ball on the right spots on the greens. But I firmly believe that Augusta in the last four or five, six years, has been changed to where there's only a handful of players that can win. I don't foresee a real problem in that, I really don't, because if you look at it, I don't know the exact list, but there's Tiger, Vijay, Ernie, Goosen, Mickelson, they all hit it over 300 yards and they all have better short games than probably anyone on TOUR, all of those guys. And you can start out with, you know, Goosen, Tiger, Ernie and Phil as probably the best short games on TOUR. So they are going to be the guys to beat, there's no doubt. When you start at Augusta, you pick one of those four, and I've got a pretty good feeling going into Sunday, you're going to have two of them that have a shot at winning it for you, and I think that's just bad odds for the rest of the guy, just because of the length.

Is it unfair? I don't think so. And I think you'll see that if it really, really is wet and it rains, the course will be ridiculously long, but if it dries out like I just played there, the 7th hole is extremely long. But if you're used to hitting a driver and a wedge, and now it's a driver and a 6 or 7 iron, then you can pick on the course. If you make bogey, you can say it's bad. But if you just fall out of the sky and play it, it's not unlike a lot of holes.

We just played Torrey Pines and they said they are going to make it a par 70 and the 6th hole and 18th hole a par 4. They are going to have five holes 500 yards. You know, that's brutal. But Augusta still has their four par 5s that you can get some work done there. You're going to make some bogeys. You just have to have a great short game.

Q. Are there any Australians on that list who can win in Augusta?

FRED COUPLES: First Adam Scott would be won that's going to do really, really well there. You know, believe it or not, I just noticed because I played with Stuart, Stuart Appleby I don't think has played well there, which is shocking. But he hasn't been there that many times. And Robert Allenby is the perfect guy for Augusta; he hits it high and he draws it. He's got a very good short game. I'm probably leaving out ten guys, but the Elkingtons; Greg Norman always played well there. But it's just really guys who hit the ball high and a long way have a distinct advantage, and most people do that.

You know, you just watch Ernie and Tiger and Phil, I think those are the three guys that have a big advantage. They have a big advantage at every tournament, not just Augusta, so they are ahead of the game. That's why they are the Top 3 players in the world.

Q. What are the pitfalls of this course and what are the rewards this week?

FRED COUPLES: Well, the reward would be, it seems to me like, I was here a long time ago and I don't remember shooting that many under par. The greens are very tricky, a lot of undulation, and the holes can dramatically change.

The pins on the front, you can hit a 9 iron to the green and if it's in the back, you can hit 6 iron. And that's a big adjustment for any player, a little course knowledge helps, but the pitfalls would be you've got to drive it well and there's a few key holes. You can hit it in the junk and come away with bogey or double and you're going to make a lot of birdies. It's just the guys who keep the ball in play. I don't think any advantage to anyone here, you can be a long hitter or a short hitter and you're in the same field, because it's not a tremendously long golf course. But if the wind blows, there's some very, very good holes.

So I think putting and chipping around these greens is tough, and the guys who hit the ball on most of the greens will do really, really well.

But it's in beautiful shape. There's not a lot of rough but if you're off the fairways, you're in the trees and you're chipping out or taking a penalty shot on a lot of the holes.

Q. Is it tough going from one round to the next if the wind comes up, and how much does it affect club selection?

FRED COUPLES: One hole jumps out, there's a good stretch after you make the turn. 10, the par 5 and then you get 11 is a hell of a hole and 12. 12 is the one that you can play in the morning one day and not have any wind and hit a drive and an 8 iron to that green and play in the afternoon and have the pin in the back and have a 3 or 4 iron into the green. But everyone has got the same feel for it. You play one day in the morning, you play one day in the afternoon.

Yeah, it's a course where you have to have a lot of feel for what you're doing, because what you don't want is to totally misjudge a shot and have a putt where you're going up over some ridge, down a ridge and down in a corner and the odds of 3 putting, there's a pretty good chance of that. You just don't want to give away shots.

I think knowing the course and where these little ridges are certainly helps. When you make mistakes, you have to make up with a lot of birdies. There's a lot of guys that could make five or six birdies a round.

CHUAH CHOO CHIANG: Thank you and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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