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November 8, 2006

Fred Couples

Annika Sorenstam


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Fred, Annika, welcome to the 2006 Merrill Lynch shootout. Annika, first time here in this event. Maybe just a couple thoughts from each of you on the pairing and the grouping and the unique format of the tournament.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Obviously I'm thrilled to be here. This is a great honor for me to be invited to such a great tournament, and I've been watching this on TV for several years, and when I got invited early in the year, like I said, I was thrilled.

It made it even more special for me to get a chance to play with Freddie here. I want to thank him for wanting to play with me. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to a great week.

FRED COUPLES: I am, too. You know, last year I played with Adam, and from the getgo he wasn't going to be able to play this year. I've played in the Shark Shootout a lot of years, and I would say early in the year they talked about playing with Annika, and I'm all for it. There was never a problem.

I just wanted to make sure that that's the way it was going. I know some Merrill Lynch people, and they were excited, and I am, too. We all know how great she plays, but she's a lot of fun to be on the course.

We've known each other for a while, haven't done a whole lot of things, but someone that when you see, you approach and say hi. It's a competitive week, but it's a very fun week. For her to be invited is truly great for her.

But for me to play with such a consistent player, I think we're going to do very, very well. I have to play well in two of the rounds, in a scramble. In a best ball we have to do some things that I know we can do. I'm just looking forward to it.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Maybe a little bit on how the pairing came about. How did you guys get together for this grouping? Is there a story behind that?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I'm not really sure. I don't have a story at all. Like I said, I was just excited to come here, and when they asked me who I would like to play with, I said I'm just happy to be here. So I really don't know.

FRED COUPLES: I don't, either. I think it's Greg's tournament, and he invited Annika, and then when it was brought to me, I, through Lynn Roach, who's my manager, I said certainly. I don't honestly know how Jeff Sluman and who he's playing with, how they were paired, either.

We never spoke, but I didn't need to call her up and say hi, we're playing. We know each other. If it was a Michelle Wie or someone, it would be a lot different. But with Annika, that's how it was approached by me.

Greg called, he just said, "Would you like to play with her," and I said, "You bet."

Q. What is the difference playing with the number one player in the world?

FRED COUPLES: I would say whoever was asked would play. I was first. Again, I knew a long, long time ago, and I think you were invited maybe it was in Golf World months ago, I believe.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: That I was invited, yeah. They didn't tell me I was playing with you until maybe just a month or two ago.

FRED COUPLES: That's when I found out.

Q. But if it was anybody but Annika as a woman, it might be different, but because you know her so well there was no problem?

FRED COUPLES: I was saying, with Michelle Wie, not ever meeting her, I would say, hi, Michelle, look forward to seeing you there. There's no practice rounds together.

But she knows the tournament. I don't even think Michelle would know there's a Shark Shootout. Not picking on her, but

Q. The formats, which one you're very familiar with this. Which one will be the most challenging?

FRED COUPLES: Well, she's played Solheim Cup, so she knows the most fun is a scramble. It's a blast. Best ball is golf. She plays her ball, we'll help each other.

The alternate shot, it's a very stressful day. I've played in Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups, she's played in Solheim Cups, and there's a little bit of a bonus that we both tee off on every hole. But I think she'll tell you probably the same.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I would agree. I think in the scramble you're going to be in places where you probably haven't been before because I don't hit the ball as far.

I think the best ball, depending a lot on Freddie making birdies, this course is playing quite long for me today, and hopefully I can just be solid and make a lot of pars and throw in a birdie here and there, but it's going to be tough for me to make a bunch there.

If I can be kind of the steady person and he can be aggressive making birdies, I think we'll do well.

Q. How long ago did you guys meet and how and where? Was it a golf function?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I'm sure it was a golf function somewhere.

FRED COUPLES: You know, one year she was at Augusta and came out and she walked the 18th hole. That was a long, long time ago.

The last few years she's been in The Skins Game, and when people ask how is it, I just say, "She hits the ball like a machine; it doesn't curve, it's unbelievable, and I have a lot of respect for her game. I actually enjoy watching her play." But as a person it's totally different. Like I say, she could drive it down this tape line all day long, and of course she misses shots, she's only human, but we've played a little bit.

It's not like Tiger Woods and she talk, but I just watch her play and I've known her for a while. We went to dinner last year. She's very easy to talk to and she's fun to be around.

Q. Talk about your health with the blood clot.

FRED COUPLES: All that is gone. I've been playing I went to Las Vegas to play and actually after a month and a half off, I felt really good. I hit the ball really well. I got disqualified so I didn't get to play Sunday, and since then I've been off.

But I've been playing a lot. I feel pretty good. I did have a blood clot from my wrist just above my elbow, and that was from something when I got sick at Akron. It was weird how I found out about it, but I've been taking medicine and I feel great.

Q. Is that scary? You get up there in age and things like this start happening?

FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I've had a couple small things done with my back that I was in a room, but I've never been in a hospital, and I didn't really enjoy it. And then when I was talking to the doctor, I had a few things going on with the back of my head that was caused from like this, going up into my heart and chest area, which I laughed about until he sat down with me and told me what could have happened.

But other than that I've never really had anything my parents have both passed away. I've seen stuff they've been through. I would rather wait quite a few years before anything like that happens.

Q. Has that been kind of your year, though? You got hurt, had the sickness, and then

FRED COUPLES: I was ready to stop anyway, but it wasn't because of that. I was done after the World Series. My back was killing me. I was trying to make the Ryder Cup team, and after Akron I was probably going to play Las Vegas because I was home and wanted to get out and hit a few balls.

Q. Annika, I saw your chip on 9, your last hole. Is it still Tiger's wedge that you have in the bag?


Q. What do you look for in terms of a wedge? Do you think you'll need to get up and down a lot this week?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I'm going to need my wedges. I have four wedges, so hopefully I can find one club that will work for all the different shots.

You know, the course is playing long. I mean, the last hole I hit 4 iron in just short of the green. I'm going to rely on my short game for sure. I mean, wedges, a lot of it is feel. The wedges I've had in my bag I've had for quite some time, so I'm very used to them.

Q. Have you seen Fred Funk this week yet?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I have, yeah. Actually he was playing behind me and he came up on one of the holes and said hello. It was great seeing him again. He was playing last year and we had a lot of fun, so it was good to see him.

Q. Any skirt references or anything?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No. I was looking behind my shoulder to see where he was, but I don't think he needed a skirt today.

Q. You recently gained citizenship. I'm just wondering if you were able to vote yesterday?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: No, I didn't. It's true I got my U.S. citizenship in July and have just been traveling the last couple months and haven't gotten into that, but I'm sure the next few years I will learn a little bit more about politics and stuff before I throw in my vote.

Q. Fred, any thoughts on the Ryder Cup changes to the points system and Paul being the captain?

FRED COUPLES: Quick answer would be great, happy for Paul. I think he's another just like every one of them is a great captain. I'm not exactly sure on the money points or the dollar amounts and when they're a half a point or worth a half a dollar or double or triple, but four picks for a captain seems to be a lot. But I think that's okay.

We have not competed against the European team for several years. The one that we won looked like we were going to lose with Crenshaw as a captain. So if we hadn't won that we need to flip this thing around.

If that happens and we have four great picks and we win, great. But I think the way Europe is playing, we should all do the same. I don't know if they do that. I have no idea what Europe does. I know they go off World Rankings and they have dollar amounts.

Top 10s for us is a highly difficult thing. When you're talking about having an American team and in a lot of tournaments you only have three Americans finishing in the Top 10, it's a little different. Why it's not dollars, I don't know. But now it is and I think that's great.

But the only surprise to me was really letting the guy have four picks.

Q. Would you have been in favor of four picks? You don't sound like you think that's too many?

FRED COUPLES: As a player?

Q. Yes, and I think Europe actually when they started getting going, I think they initially had four, too.

FRED COUPLES: What do they have now, two?

Q. Probably two, I think.

FRED COUPLES: I think we should all have the same. I don't know why ours would be different than theirs. But if it is, they may change it.

But it's a world she just came back from Japan, she plays all over the world, and there are great players everywhere. I just feel like the best thing we did was to get out of this Top 10 stuff. That's a crazy way to pick a team.

You know, if I was ever captain or younger, you play well, you'll make the team. If you play well for two years, you're automatic.

Q. Would you like to be a captain?

FRED COUPLES: I would like to be, sure. I'm not in any rush. It takes a lot of time and energy, and I think we've had great, great captains. Tom Lehman was phenomenal. He just can't go out there and play Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, and we're getting spanked. They're obviously great, great players. It's just shocking to me that it's not closer.

But in golf once you get down and the other people are doing well, it's a momentum thing, and even as an individual, you just don't flip a switch on and start burning holes when your competitor is outplaying you. It's not that easy.

Q. Do you agree somewhat with what Tiger is alluding to that we need to get some younger players, America needs to get some younger players getting into the mix?

FRED COUPLES: Well, is he a young player?

Q. I would think at 30 he would be pretty young.

FRED COUPLES: I have no problem with that.

You know, if you make the Ryder Cup team, you're a great player. You're a good player. A great player is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They win majors. You're a very good player.

To say you want a young player to make the team, you've got to go out and play well. I mean, I don't think they're going to pick a young player to be on the team. I can see what Tiger is saying, but it will be easier now for a good, young, consistent player to make the team in my opinion. It's going to be easier for top players, too. But if they don't make it, the top players will be picked. There's four picks. If you can't pick four solid players, you're not a very good captain. So we'll wait and see what Azinger does in a couple years.

Q. Are either of you testing any new equipment this week?


FRED COUPLES: I'm not, either.

Q. I'm just curious what most of you enjoy about playing in these sort of postseason exhibition events because you both have played in them before.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: For me it's all about the relaxed atmosphere. For me, like I said earlier, it's a great honor to come and play with the guys. I love to watch them play. I look and I learn, and for me it's a great challenge.

It's so different to play this week than any other week, and I think that's why I enjoy it. The end of the season, different formats, this week we've got three different formats. I love it. It's not just four days of individual stroke play, so that's what's exciting to me.

FRED COUPLES: And for me, ever since I've played in the Shark Shootout every year but a couple. I've been able to play with Ray Floyd as a younger player who I played a lot with and learned a lot from and then started playing with friends, David Duval and Brad Faxon, and this year it's great because everyone here is excited to see Annika and it's great that she's here. It brings the tournament. She's the Tiger Woods of the LPGA. For me it would be like playing with Tiger. She's that big in golf, and I'm her partner and I'm thrilled to death because I know I have a good partner and I'm excited to be here because of that. But more, like she said, it's a lot of fun.

Trust me, a lot of things, they're work. If you can't laugh and giggle, then you really shouldn't be here, and that's the way I've always looked at it.

I've watched Davis Love whiff a shot and we laughed for two holes. If you don't know the person that well, you're embarrassed for two holes and it kind of ruins 45 minutes of the day, and I don't foresee that happening because I know her personality, and she's very, very woman like on the course, but she does have fun, and partly it's because she wins a lot. That's fun for me to watch.

Q. (Inaudible.)

FRED COUPLES: Well, I don't play a lot towards the end of the year, for one. So I'm fairly fresh and I actually practice a little more and work on my game in September and October because, like the lady said, a lot of times I'm trying new equipment out, and to be ready for the next year actually hit more balls. Why that is, I don't really know.

But when I'm not at a tournament and playing week after week or playing three out of four weeks, I don't practice that much because my back can't take it. But when I can go home for a couple months at the end of the year, I feel like I'm always ready in November to play because I've been working on my game a little bit.

But as far as beating top players you know, the individual things, most of them are nine holes or 18 holes. It's not like The Skins Game. It's a lot of luck. You make a putt here or there, you can win it.

Here you have to do really, really well. You have to rely on your partner. Tiger's tournament is coming up. A lot of guys go, and if they don't have a great day here or there, it's like, okay, I've had a great year and I'll wait for next year.

For me it's another fun week and a good time.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Thanks to you both. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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