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December 14, 2006

Fred Couples


DAVE SENKO: Fred, 3-under 69 today, maybe just a quick rundown on your day, get your birdies.
FRED COUPLES: Well, it was a good day. You want birdies? Birdie on the 1st hole, hit an iron on the tee and hit a sand wedge to about three feet.
Pulled an iron on 3 left of the green, putt from 10 feet, 12 feet off the green and left it short, missed a 15-footer for par and made bogey.
On the 5th hole, par 5, I hit it on in two and two-putted for birdie.
11, driver and a 3-iron and two-putted for birdie.
Bogey 12, par 3, I hit a bad iron in the right bunker and blasted out and two-putted from quite a ways.
Next hole, hit it on the green and two-putted.
Then 16, pulled a driver left and got lucky, stayed on a little piece of grass by the hazard, wedged out and hit a sand wedge to about 10, 12 feet, made it for birdie.

Q. What do you think about these days? Do you think about '07 Ryder Cup, anything like that?
FRED COUPLES: I have right now been working on my game, and I feel pretty good. I certainly don't feel as good as I did a couple weeks ago. My little plan is to see Tom again more often, which is the back guy, and play quite a bit at the beginning of next year. That's my plan.
Right now I'm trying to tighten my swing up, and I'm kind of figuring out that when my back actually starts to go bad, I can't do it, so my swing gets longer to protect my back, and I just kind of figured that out in the last three or four weeks by practicing and feeling good. Tom couldn't come here but he's going to come after Christmas and get me ready for next year, and I'll see him about every three tournaments I play and hopefully that will work.
I could sit in here from the time I was 40, 41, 42 up until right now and tell you -- like last year I had a great shot at winning LA and certainly had a great shot at winning Augusta, and those are my goals. I love the West Coast, and after that it was pretty much downhill.

Q. Could you explain the FedEx Cup?
FRED COUPLES: No, I don't know anything about it. You know, I don't really know. I mean, next year if I'm really killing myself playing well at the beginning of next year, then I'll worry about it. But right now I figure if I'm 40th on the Money List or 80th on the Money List or 144th on the Money List, I get to play in the first FedEx Cup. Whoop-di-doo.
I mean, we'll see. I'm not knocking it, it's a nice thing, but I'm more interested in playing well and not really -- I think it's a nice thing, I think it's great. I'd rather see someone on the PGA TOUR play incredible golf and win $10 million in a tournament by winning the tournament on a really, really good course, and if we couldn't get a 9 rating for that, then we need to look around and see what we're doing.
But as far as playing and doing all that, I'm not knocking it, I'm just saying I haven't even looked at it. I don't even know -- for a million dollars I couldn't tell you what tournaments are in the FedEx Cup. But I can tell you where I'm going to play next year, the Bob Hope and San Diego and LA. Those are important things to me.
In May I may turn it around and start to really worry about it. Again, that's not being a slight. I think the Tour needs a little boost in something, and hopefully the FedEx Cup will be it.

Q. You're starting at the Hope?
FRED COUPLES: I'm not going to go to Hawaii, yeah, so the Hope.

Q. You spoke about happy memories of Riviera and then Augusta, coming close to winning both, and then you said the rest of the year was pretty much downhill. Was that largely back related or a few other factors?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I went to Wimbledon for eight days and had the greatest time ever, and after that I went to the Scottish Open, and after that my back went out, I don't know when that was, maybe early July. From that point on, I tried to -- I mean, I was close in Ryder Cup points so I kept playing and I couldn't get my back loose and I couldn't really do anything. So it was pretty much -- I know, it was not a very good stretch. I just couldn't ever feel good.

Q. Do you ever ask yourself "what if" with this back issue? For those of us who have written golf for a long time, seems like we've been writing about your back since God knows when. It's been your whole career.
FRED COUPLES: If I was on steroids in '92 we'd be talking about that for the last 15 years. You know, I don't have a problem with it. I don't walk around saying my back hurts and doing this, but there are times -- certainly I wouldn't be playing great golf every week if my back didn't hurt. I wouldn't be able to play golf if my back really, really hurt, and I don't. So therefore I try and play.
But there are a lot of tournaments contractually that I need to play golf to represent Cadillac and Bridgestone and all these companies, so I do my best to play as many as I can, and when I really feel well, I try and play maybe 20 or 21 tournaments.
But getting those extra three or four when you don't feel good are extremely hard because there are tournaments throughout the year that you really want to play in, and if you overdo it and hurt yourself and miss Augusta, then you've made a huge mistake, or the British Open or any of those.
You know, I don't look back -- I could be worse, I could have a wrist problem, and that would be a heck of a lot worse trying to play golf with a wrist problem or some other things. You know, I'm able to play. I've learned how to play with a sore back or a bad back, and sometimes I do really, really well. But it's hard to stand up there and really perform when you do well and play with Furyks and Ogilvys and Tigers when you don't feel great.
But I can still get it around. I'm 47, had a back problem for 15 years, and it just keeps getting worse, and the guy that works on me thinks I'm a freak that I'm able to continue to play. You know, I owe a lot to him, and he makes it kind of possible. I've tried a lot of stuff, and nobody can get it to where it feels like I can go two months and feel really, really good.

Q. Do you feel like a freak?
FRED COUPLES: Do I feel like a freak? No, I feel like a normal -- Tiger Woods is a freak, LeBron James is a freak.

Q. (Inaudible.)
FRED COUPLES: You know, I don't look at it. I like to play, I really do. I mean, I wish -- if you look back, I don't think besides my first or second year, I ever played too many tournaments. Would I have been better off to play 23 events every single year? Of course. Would it feel as fun golf-wise if I had played another 100 events in the last 25 or 26 years, I don't think so. I think I would be more than I already am.
But I pace myself at an incredible pace. Sometimes I don't play well because of it.
When I go to tournaments, I try and prepare myself where I can function and hit the ball, and I don't play great -- I don't play that well a lot of times, but when I start really embarrassing myself, then I will certainly quit. But I don't see that time coming too soon.

Q. Back to the FedEx Cup, are guys talking about it at all? Is there any buzz? Do you think guys are as clueless --
FRED COUPLES: I'm not dodging it. I got sick at the World Series, so I haven't been on Tour September and October. That's when things were changed, I know. I know they're going to cut guys back. I know a little bit about it. I don't even know when the tournaments are.
You know, I don't know why anyone would be excited about it. It's going to be the TOUR Championship, and if Tiger Woods doesn't win, it'll be because he doesn't play enough. You know, if Tiger Woods wanted to win any of this stuff, he would figure out how to do it. But I don't see him playing, I don't know, six or seven or eight weeks to win the FedEx Cup.
I can guarantee you one thing, he'll be ready to win the U.S. Open and the British Open and Augusta and the PGA. I think that's great.
Now, I'm not speaking for him, but when he plays and he gets in position, I'm pretty sure when the FedEx things comes around, he's going to be the one to beat, and Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk and Vijay because maybe he plays a little more. But to me those are the same guys that have been around for the last ten years.
So if the FedEx Cup -- I'd like to see match play events the last six weeks where guys are beating each other up and there's great matches. I mean, that would be truly effective. But 72-hole events, I'm probably going to get pummeled for this, but I'm also 47, not 30, and I don't really have a shot at winning $10 million and I can sit here and downplay it. Do I want to be in it? Yeah, because that will mean I've had a good year. I'm not going to win the FedEx Cup, but I still think I can win Augusta, and if I do that, then that will be a heck of a lot better than winning the FedEx Cup.

Q. But you've already got a green jacket.
FRED COUPLES: I am really looking forward to the FedEx Cup, though, I really am. Where are the four tournaments or five? Where are they so I can leave here and tell my friends? Where are they?

Q. Westchester, Boston, Chicago and Atlanta.
FRED COUPLES: So the TOUR Championship is the FedEx Cup? I thought the TOUR Championship was like the TOUR Championship.

Q. (Inaudible.)
FRED COUPLES: No, he just signed for six more years, and they're getting rid of the basketball in NBA? We're getting the FedEx Cup. Things are shaping up (laughter). Things are shaping up.

Q. (Inaudible.)
FRED COUPLES: I'm not going to East Lake. You've got to be in the Top 30, right, to go to East Lake, or have they changed that? So they dwindle down. That's a good system. The winner wins a million and a half?

Q. $12.
FRED COUPLES: Wow, that's a lot of money. But is it like poker where it's all cash laying on the 18th green?

Q. Aside from the FedEx Cup, all the medical treatments that you've had, is there any doctor or group of people that have said, Fred, someday medical science will be able to correct the problems that you have for other people?
FRED COUPLES: No. You know, I've seen maybe six or eight really, really top guys from San Francisco and New York and Chicago and Seattle and everywhere else, and a couple of them don't really know much about it. They just look at stuff.
One guy asked me if I walked when I played golf, you know, and he had no idea that I could walk 18 holes and play. The guy that works on it is convinced that -- we talk about it all the time. I don't want to be 55 and not be able to do anything, and as long as I can stay pretty straight, I'm actually doing okay. So all these exercises that I do, I go back and I try not to get the necktie look where you're hunched over. But I'm fairly sound.
I drove it with Davis, I'm driving it close to Daly at The Skins Game. It's just that I get really excited and then I kind of get away for a while because I physically don't feel that well. I've been doing it so long that I'm used to it. Again, when you're a lot younger and in your prime it becomes a nuisance. Now I go home and oh, well, try and pick tournaments. But I can't surgically doing anything. I just have to kind of pace myself.

Q. I saw you on the driving range sort of drawing your wedges and stuff and then sort of fading your longer clubs. Was that on purpose and is that sort of the back coming at all?
FRED COUPLES: I warm up a lot longer and I hit a lot of wedges, and I try to get my body just to get moving, and I hit soft draws, and as I get more and more of them, I hit it a little harder. That is correct, then I start to hit cut shots. When I swing well, it's okay to do. When I'm really flipping at it and I go on the course and I start aiming left and I cut it and I pull draw it, that's not a good position to be in. But yeah, that's correct.

End of FastScripts…

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