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April 9, 2006

Fred Couples


RONALD TOWNSEND: We're very pleased to have Freddie Couples here with us. We had quite a bit of excitement this week and thank you for that.

FRED COUPLES: It was a lot of fun. I had a great pairing with Phil today. You know, watched a great player win his second Masters, and I felt like at least from tee to green, I was close, or if not, maybe a little better today. You know, these guys that win this thing, you've got to putt well and I felt like today was just it wasn't horrible, but it was just mediocre and I couldn't get one to go in the hole and get any momentum.

But like I say, I'm disappointed, but I like the way I played and it was a lot of fun. You know, I'm certainly tired now, but I made it through 31 holes, and hung in there a long time. The 14th hole was just really a killer, but at the same time, it just leads up to that. There's several other putts that I just couldn't get one to go. I had a tap in on the first hole, and the second hole, I hit it just over the green in the perfect spot, putted down there four feet and missed it. Then the next hole, drove it down there and hit a little pitch shot maybe ten feet straight up the hill and missed it. You know, 3 putted 8, knocked it on in two, which was a couple big hits.

Just all those little things, and then I 3 putted 11, which took a lot of steam out. But at that time it was very critical, because I think I was still only one back, or maybe two back of Phil. But he played really, really well. He hit the ball solid where he was looking and it was an easy, easy 69, I'm sure he'll tell you that, until the last hole. He made a great par on 10, but other than that, he was right there and played well.

Q. Last year at the Presidents Cup, you wanted to challenge yourself and you went up against Vijay and you beat him. You missed I think six or seven putts in the five, six foot range today; did you really feel like you were going to win this tournament, or were you sort of hoping that you would win the tournament?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I think there were a couple of putts I was hoping to make. (Laughter) But I don't think when I play I hope to win a tournament. I mean, you play and you get going and you know, really, there were just so many good shots that, like I say, the front nine, I think I could have done a lot to separate myself from and get ahead of Phil. And any time you're ahead, it's a heck of a lot easier, but I never did that. I was tied with him for most of the time and then Jose jumped up there to eagle 15 and tie us, so it got pretty exciting.

I feel like when I teed off, I was, in my mind, one of the four, five, six guys that had a chance to win. There's no doubt, it's my favorite course, I know I can get the ball around. Now 18 holes later, I did have a lot, but I lost by three, but it was a lot better than that, the way I hit the ball.

You know, it's a humbling experience out there because you're trying so hard. But just, you know, some of these putts were just left in great spots and I just couldn't make any of them. The one on 14, I went completely the opposite. I tried to ram it because it was I mean, it was going to break a ball or two from four feet. I just couldn't get it inside the hole and I hit it right through the break five feet by and then hit a bad putt for par.

It's a letdown, but at the same time, it's not the first time I'll ever do that. But I can practice and practice and practice, and I just, you know, when you get under the gun, you've got to be able to do it. I just left too many out there today.

Q. Is there something about either being comfortable in a pairing, because you two seemed to be having a good time, and I don't know if you were that relaxed out there, and it seemed that the crowd fed off the camaraderie that you two had out there.

FRED COUPLES: You know, to be honest with you, there was no real major time where Phil and I were in a spot where we just were going to struggle to get out of it. So I don't want to say we didn't feed off our games, but he was standing up there and smoking these two drivers that he has. I was hitting it quite with him, and we were laughing about that. We were hitting good shots and we both birdied the 7th hole by hitting it very close.

I think, you know, I've known Phil a long, long time and I respect his game, I like the way he plays. He has a family now so I don't hang around with him much anymore, but when we play, it's a nice time. It's a great pairing for me.

When we started today, you know, it was pretty relaxed and once you get in the conversation, you don't want to bother anybody, him, nor me bothering him, and it was fun. He really played well.

I felt like when we were walking to these greens, I was as close or closer than he was. I don't know where he made his birdies. He didn't make any putts, I think he birdied 7 from very close and birdied both par 5s that he hit on or just off on the back nine. Did he make a bogey until 18?

Q. No.

FRED COUPLES: So those were birdies. He was right there. I think they were two pretty easy rounds of golf, except for a couple of my putting exhibitions. (Laughter).

Q. Just two questions. What did you and Phil say to each other coming off 13, and then the distances of the putts that you had on 8 and 11?

FRED COUPLES: Well, the back nine, we were telling each other, let's make some birdies. Then when he had his little easy 2 putt birdie, he said, "Let's make some birdies, but let's do it a conventional way." I made mine from out of the hazard.

I said, "I'm right there with you."

Ten minutes later I got a 4 footer for birdie to make another one. I think I quieted down our talk there for about ten minutes. (Laughter) I don't think he wanted to get near me.

On 8, I hit it right in the middle of the green. It was not an easy 2 putt, but coming over a ridge

Q. How far?

FRED COUPLES: Probably 50 feet and I left it maybe 12 feet short, easily. I just didn't get any read on how fast it was.

To be honest, Phil hit an unbelievable shot. He was in front of the green. He hit a spinning shot. I thought he might hit it where it would show me how it would release but it went the other way. When I hit it, I just didn't hit it hard enough.

On 11 I hit an 8 iron save out to the right, and putted it from a long way again, to about four feet

Q. How far?

FRED COUPLES: Maybe 40 feet. That was a good putt, it caught most of the hole and lipped around. I made a couple of good ones, too, but basically, I didn't make many.

Q. Do you feel more comfortable over long putts, more rhythm in your stroke at all than you do over short ones?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I think you don't make many 50 footers, so it's a pretty convenient stroke. And then from four feet, you know, like when I play well, I putt pretty well. I mean, it's a given. You don't get yourself in great spots by not putting well.

I think when I look at it on Sunday night, you know, you can't sit become and say, "I should have done this, should have done that." But basically, a few of them were just pretty easy putts, where they were uphill and, you know, when you stroke a bad one, they are not going to go in.

Today I felt like there was just the two in a row on 14, and one was just hit too hard. I didn't change my stroke, but I just hit it way too hard for where I hit it. If I would have hit it in the middle of the hole, it would have gone in and banged the hole.

You know, you just can't do it. You cannot miss putts and try and win tournaments, whether it's the Atlanta classic or The Masters. You know, today was one of those things where it really wasn't just the 14th hole. It was a lot of other putts that, a little tentative and they come up, they look good and they just stop by the cup.

You know, most everyone, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, they are banging them in there; that's really not my style. I hit the ball and when I make a few of them, I get a little bit of rhythm and I can make a few. Then when I start missing them, they don't go in.

Q. As someone who has known Phil for a long, long time, is this a different Phil than the one from before he won Masters the first time?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, he's a much better player. He hits the ball I think much better. He gets it around the golf course. I mean, this is a pretty good course. Last week what he did was incredible, and then coming in here, to shoot the scores that he did extremely consistent on a very tough course. He works hard and he's got a great short game.

But yeah, easy he's a much better player than he was five years ago or whenever he first started winning these majors.

Q. When he was a young man he was criticized for being reckless and said he wasn't going to change. Has he indeed changed or was he right all along?

FRED COUPLES: Well, there's no doubt he's changed. He's an incredible player, there's no doubt. He's got more talent than, you know, maybe anyone out here in his hands and in his game. You've got obviously Tiger, but you've got Ernie Els and Retief and those are great, great players. But I think Phil can overpower a golf course like Tiger can, and you know, he drove it really, really well today. I mean, long and you know, he didn't birdie I don't know what he had the second hole, 4 or 5 iron, and he hit it to the left back of the green and had a very tough chip and didn't get up and down. But he drove it really, really great today.

Q. If a player has great talent, in your mind, is there an optimum age to being a great golfer?

FRED COUPLES: You know, that's a great question. For Tiger, it's 16 and on. (Laughter).

But if you go, everyone else, it just seems like, I mean I'm not the first, but it just seems like somewhere in your early 30s, and then you get big runs. I don't foresee any of these guys in that age, Ernie and the rest of the guys slowing down because they are coming close to 40 in the next four or five years. I don't even know how old Retief is or Ernie Els or, or Vijay is a little older than those guys but has the body of a younger guy.

In my opinion, and for Phil, reckless abandon, I don't think he played crazy golf. But when your eye sees a shot and you hit it, it is a lot of fun. And when you don't hit it, you know you've made a mistake, but everyone wants to criticize it and, you know, he may have lost a few tournaments by doing that, but he may have won a few by doing it, too, and when you try and do it in a major, it can backfire pretty quickly because you can't really you can't make double bogeys and make blunders. From what I've seen, in the last three when he won the PGA last year, he played extremely well. He got the ball around. Today he drove it great and he putted great. I don't see that slowing down and I don't see why he can't continue to win.

Q. After playing so wonderfully tee to green, does missing the short ones, does that chip away a little bit at your spirit? Is it hard to keep getting up?

FRED COUPLES: You know, not so much today, because I really was I was not shocked, but I hit the ball crisp and in great places. But, yeah, to answer that, yeah. I mean, the putt on 2, I was nervous to get off to that birdie birdie start. But No. 3, it's ten feet, straight uphill, and, you know, I pushed it. 3 putt on 8 and 11; those are when you sit back and you're going down the 12th hole and you're saying, man, this is kind of crazy. I should be here, but you can't really do that.

I felt like by hitting the ball that well, it was more fun. In the last few holes, I hit really good irons and I was just trying to make a putt to finish second. I thought I could get to 5 under somehow and finish second and Tim played really, really well playing with Ernie and Tiger the last couple of days. But it was fun to play with Phil. It was truly a great day. To watch a guy win a tournament, I watched O'Meara win; that was a little more of a sting, but it was still fun. And then to watch Phil win, it's a lot of fun. I haven't been watched Justin Leonard win the British Open. So I've seen it a few times.

It's fun to see the people really scream and yell for Phil.

Q. What did this week teach you about your ability still to compete on the Tour and at a high level, or do you think it's more confined just to this course?

FRED COUPLES: A couple courses. I mean, Riviera was another one that I've won a few times, a couple times lost in a playoff and I did well there. And this is a great course.

But still, like I said yesterday, I just don't show up and expect to play well. I work with Butch and worked hard and hit the ball well. Basically it shows me that every now and then, I can play well.

You know, it doesn't happen that often, and I physically would like to work this hard. It's just grueling for me, and it's not really an excuse. It's just my body just tells me, you know, like right now, I'm really done. I could probably have played ten more holes, but once I stop, you know, my body just kind of shuts down and it really starts to hurt and twist. Everything is just ready to feel like it's going to explode.

So like if I had to play next week at Hilton Head, I just couldn't do it. There's so much going into this event, and sometimes it's to finish 30th here. It's my favorite tournament, so I spend a lot of energy getting ready for this and, you know, this cut deal, it's a great deal, but I don't want to make the cut and finish in 40th place. I want to play well and have a shot of being up there with the leaders.

Q. You mentioned how that '98 stung a little bit more, but you seem to handle it pretty well and everybody knows your easy demeanor; is it as easy as you make it look to us when a situation like this happens?

FRED COUPLES: Well, no, it's not easy if you ride home in the car with me, that's for sure. (Laughter) But, you know, that's the way I am. I don't want to nonchalant any of this.

I had a great time playing with Phil, and once it's all done, you sit there, and especially answering these things; but, you know, it was a lot of fun. But it's a challenge. When Mark won, I really butchered a hole, the 13th hole, but then I turned around and eagled 15 and he birdied three of the last four holes to win.

You know, that was just I felt like I played really well that week. And then the year I won, it was just that's the best I had ever played that whole year and it just seemed very easy. This, today, was kind of easy hitting the ball and as we talked, playing with Phil, made it an easy round because we were chitchatting and having fun with it and trying to push each other on.

But basically, I get frustrated and quiet, just try and figure it out and it's pretty simple to figure out. You've got to make somewhere, I needed four putts out there to beat him, and I didn't have it in me.

Q. Getting back to age, you've been a great sport this weekend when people mention Jack's age 20 years ago, your age now; looking back on it, what would that have meant, and do you think that record will ever be broken, oldest players?

FRED COUPLES: That's a great question, I don't know. You know, Jack winning at that age you know, Vijay is not far from there. I think he could win this at 46 or 47. But yeah, it could be around a long, long time, especially the length that it is now. Not that Ernie Els and Retief Goosen and Tiger are going to and Cabrera they are going to get shorter, but everything has got to click.

I'm 46; I don't really feel 46. I didn't hit the ball like I was 46. I putted like I was 66. (Laughter) But again, I'm beating myself up, but they really weren't it just really came down to one minor, minor casualty, and that was on 14. I mean, I can live and die with 3 putting and some of the other stuff, but that really is a putt where it would have been a heck of a lot more fun to make and see what would have happened.

But not only could I not make it, I couldn't make the one coming back. (Laughter).

RONALD TOWNSEND: Thank you very much, Freddie. See you next year.

End of FastScripts.

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