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March 13, 2008

Fred Couples


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Fred, for joining us for a few minutes in the media center at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Great start this morning, and you held on for the rest of the round. Talk about what you did well, and maybe any big putts that you might have made.
FRED COUPLES: I drove the ball well and missed the eighth fairway. It was the only fairway I missed. I started on 10, hit a good iron, a wedge to about ten feet and made it.
And on 12, the par 5, I laid up and hit a sand wedge eight feet.
The next hole, hit it way down at the end of the fairway and had a little sand wedge probably 18 feet and made it.
The next hole, hit a horrific iron 30 yards over the green left, but I got it up-and-down from probably 40 yards. So that was huge.
Then turned right around on the dogleg and hit a wedge to about ten feet and made it for birdie.
Then the next par 3, whipped it over the bunkers into the condos there and didn't get up-and-down, made bogey there.
Then I turned around, made a good par on 18 and then hit an 8-iron on 1 to ten feet.
Hit a beautiful 4-iron on 2 and made those for birdies and parred the rest of the way.

Q. A year ago, six months ago, did you fear that you might not ever be out here again?
FRED COUPLES: No. There's been a few years where I've played where I haven't had much fun playing because I can't keep any pace, or I had not been able to play three or four weeks out of five or six weeks and felt good about playing.
But far as fearing that, no. What happened last year, I went home, and at two different times, I went back to try and practice, and each time my back went out and I was a slightly concerned about that. But you know, I figured if it happened, you know, it would be all right if I didn't play. But I never really -- even when I play, I don't fear any back. My back will go out and when it does, I'll know, and where I hit the ball will know and everything else will know.
But as far as worrying about it, there's not much you can do.

Q. When is the last time you saw your name on a leaderboard, outside of a Skins Game?
FRED COUPLES: Shark Shootout with Daly. We were first off and birdied the first hole. (Laughter).

Q. Next to a FedExCup logo.
FRED COUPLES: FedExCup logo? I was in the FedExCup last year, the first year. The one tournament I played in, I missed the cut. I played in Augusta, and I missed the cut there.

Q. Wachovia, you played well a few years ago.
FRED COUPLES: That's a long time ago I think, like 2003 maybe.

Q. That long?
FRED COUPLES: I think so, yeah. I won at Houston, and the very next week I was leading. But that's all right.
L.A. a couple years ago, and then at Augusta.

Q. What does a round like this do for your expectations tomorrow, because I know you lead kind of a day-to-day existence.
FRED COUPLES: I like to play well, and this year, I've hit the ball pretty well. So tomorrow, you know, I'll be leading, but I don't believe I'll tee off tomorrow whenever, two o'clock, thinking that I'm leading the tournament and the guy to beat.
So I'm not going to say it's a challenge to go out there and play under pressure, but obviously I'll know where I stand. But today is a good round on a very, very tough course, and that's kind of what I got out of it.
You know, to hit -- last week, the first day, I hit every fairway but one and shot 2-under, and I made a one-foot putt and 2-putted the par 5 in two and putted pretty mediocre.
Today, I played probably better, and when I had an 8- or 10-footer, I made it. So I had six birdies on this course, which is pretty good.

Q. A lot of birdies set up by wedges, it sounds like; is this the best you've ever driven the ball right now?
FRED COUPLES: One of the long -- I was going to hit 3-wood on 10 and decided to hit driver and got it way up there where I had a wedge.
15, the dogleg right, I cut the corner a little bit, had a wedge.
Then No. 1, I took it a mile down the left side, and it's a hard hole for me to play and I hit 8-iron.
So all of those, instead of hitting 4- or 5-iron the like No. 1, to have a wedge, it's much easier.

Q. As far as your confidence and the driver?
FRED COUPLES: I have a lot of rounds where I have seven or eight fairways that I hit, but some of them are not that bad. So it's not like I ever really think my driver is horrible. I did hit a bad drive on 8 today but it was just the way I hit it, trying to cut it and I push-cut it.
Even tomorrow, if I go out -- I mean, you cannot play this course from the rough. It's impossible. But I don't worry about it because most of the time, they are decent or well hit and just kind of a little bit off and don't get in the rough and hack it out.

Q. How is your back? When it does give you problems, do you feel like it's gradually or out of the blue?
FRED COUPLES: I think normally it's out of the blue, and then when it's muscular, over time, when I start to not feel good and it wears on you, and then it just breaks loose.
But six or eight years ago, I could feel it coming on, and I could play and I could see this guy, Tom Boros, and he helped out a lot. The last two or three years, he has not been able to help me, and now I've changed to another guy who seems to be doing very, very well.

Q. Your second at 8, you didn't have much there.
FRED COUPLES: You were there, I had to go straight up over the tree, and I knew I could get up over the tree. I just didn't think any kind of slight whatever would get over the water.
I took ten minutes to hit it, but I kept trying to visual just getting over the tree, not where I got it way up over it; so to go too high and not far enough, and actually I think it clipped a leaf or clipped something. I smoked it, and it was a yard from being in the water and a yard from being 15 feet.

Q. Did you think of going the other way?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I thought about hitting a wedge up in those bunkers to right, but I didn't think that -- and chipping out, I just didn't really want to chip out. I thought I could at that time give it a go, and you know, I could have easily made six.

Q. Since the announcement with you and Greg, is there a little bit more of a spring in your step out here with these guys? Is there any correlation between that and this at all, maybe mentally or psychological boost to you?
FRED COUPLES: Well, there's definitely a boot. It's very exciting. You know, nothing that I know of except for practice is going to make you play better. I did work with Butch before I went to Tampa and I started to feel pretty good. I actually played okay there. It was very tough.
But coming here, you know, I think just seeing everyone and having Tiger laugh at you and Mickelson, and have a few young guys tell me they want to make the team. You know, it's all a nice feeling. I don't know how long it's going to last. But you know, it's good. It's good, because I'm playing, so I'm not like some captain that's not around and knock-on-wood, I hope to play more this year, even though it's a Ryder Cup year, I'd like to talk about that during the rounds or whatever.
And then next year, I'll be out playing, so if there are any young guys that are going to make the team or have anything to worry about on a Tuesday, we can go play a practice round and chitchat about it.

Q. After basically taking a year off, are you surprised the way you can pick it up so quickly?
FRED COUPLES: Not really surprised, because I feel like I always can hit the ball well. What's surprising is when I work with this guy, he said my swing may feel differently, because a few of the things that he did would make my body work differently, and oddly enough, my swing feels different. I don't know if it feels better or worse; it just feels different, and maybe it's just freer.
But I'm able to slash through the ball, which even when I played two years ago, periodically, I could do it; not just when I played well. I'm not going to say, oh, at Augusta I free-swung and almost won, but there are certain times.
But the problem I had then, I never got in any -- after Augusta, I took five weeks off in a row, which I think was a huge mistake, but now he wants me to play and not take a whole lot of time off.
Right now, I'm figuring I'm feeling pretty good about what he's telling me. Hopefully this week will go and I'll have a couple weeks off and get to Houston and Augusta and see what happens.

Q. Are you doing any exercise or anything?
FRED COUPLES: Just a couple things he's given me but nothing --

Q. Stretching?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, but not a whole lot, not yet.

Q. How long with the new guy?
FRED COUPLES: I started seeing him last September before I started to play in November.

Q. And how did you find him?
FRED COUPLES: Brad Elder, TOUR player, went to see him and said he had great results. He works with, you know, Tracy McGrady is another guy he works with and John Smoltz. It's been interesting, very interesting.

Q. Could you talk about what the cut streak means to you at Augusta, and can you take me back to the first time you arrived at Augusta and what it means to you, what it's meant to you since then?
FRED COUPLES: Well, the first time -- I'll never forget the first time. I'm not going to go over rounds, but I do know the first time, I was paired with Watson on Saturday. I couldn't keep up with him. He was a twosome; I think I shot 81, and I thought, wow, what a great experience. Hopefully I'll get back here some day. And then 20 whatever years later, I keep going back.
So the cut streak, I mean, it's a nice thing. I don't know really how to explain it. It's just something -- I don't think I've ever gone there except for last year worrying about making a cut, or for that matter really any tournament. Now, you miss a lot of cuts because you're not playing well. But Augusta, I think brings something out in me even when I'm not playing well.
I mean, I went last year without playing any golf, even though I had played Phoenix, it was only a couple months, but I didn't play two rounds of golf. And I went there and you know, I shot 76-76, which made the cut on the number, but I played pretty well to shoot that. And then I had a 71 the last day, and when I go there this year, obviously when I go, everyone is going to talk about that.
But I can tell you right now, my goal is not really to make the cut; it's to play very, very well.

Q. What is it about that place that it's so special to you?
FRED COUPLES: I think the course fits my game. Just like anyone else, growing up watching all the guys play, and it's such a pretty spot, and by winning there way back in '92, you know, I've been 16 more years, and a lot of great things have happened, and that's just sitting in the locker room up there with all the guys.

Q. There seem to be two schools of thought that lengthening the course has narrowed the number of chances, and it's only for the big hitters; but on the other hand, that it's made it so U.S. Open-like that it actually brings more guys in.
FRED COUPLES: I actually agree with both of those. Zach Johnson last year; you have to play the par 5s really, really well. Not even getting on them in two, which I don't even know, 13th hole is such a brutal shot, but 15 is reachable, but the green is unstoppable some years. But you have to play those holes very, very well, and long hitters will do that.
Now by putting a little bit of rough and lengthening it, when the scores go closer to par, it brings more people into the event. And it's not quite a U.S. Open, but it's not far from it. It's still very doable. We're just used to different scores in, my opinion.
I think when you go, if you just woke up tomorrow and went out there, you would say, wow, you know, the 5th hole is pretty tough, and 7 is ridiculous and 18 has been lengthened, but who would know; except we all know because I've played there 20-something times.
By it's just no more 67s and 68s will be shot, and if you do, it will be the round of the week.

Q. Do you think you're a Hall of Famer? You've been on the ballot or a while and seems like the total keeps going up for you.
FRED COUPLES: Better play well the next few years; is that what you're trying to tell me?

Q. You and Davis are kind of the leaders of the guys that are still active on this tour. Wonder if you think of yourself in that ilk. Have you gotten what you wanted out of your career?
FRED COUPLES: No. No. Tiger is getting what he wants out of his. I don't know many other guys doing that.
You know, Phil is winning a ton. If you go at when he's winning against -- there are not many tournaments when a guy wins seven or eight times a year and you're playing in ten of the others; I would say if I can play a few more years and play well, and that's not like today, but just to keep playing. I haven't fallen off the turnip truck. I will play, but to do that, still doesn't get you in the Hall of Fame. You have to have numbers, and I don't know what they are, but there are pretty good guys in there.
I know that I'm certainly talked about, but do I need to be in there? I would like to be. Should I be in there? Probably not. I mean, I'm close.

Q. Did the 2006 Masters linger with you at all, having that opportunity against Phil, being there on the back nine on Sunday, did you look back on that at all?
FRED COUPLES: No. Hung in my mind pretty quickly, and then I got home Sunday night and I called up Bones to see if he wanted to go have lunch and talk about it. We went to this golf course and we were congratulating Phil Mickelson for winning Augusta. So I saw that 24 hours later, which even made it worse.
For me that, was a very tough one. I played a really, really good last round. I just couldn't him when the nitty-gritty was nitty-gritty. What happened on 4, you get over that, but in your mind, you don't really get over it at Augusta. I mean, every time I walked up there last year, four rounds, I just didn't even want to go near where that cup was. Just because I hit such a great shot, and the whole way walking up there, you know, just where the pin is, we all know, and I think Phil did it a few years ago when he won, he hit it a foot. I was shocked that my ball, when you get it there, it should roll down there stiff, and it was four feet above the hole. I didn't like anything about it. I surely showed that. (Laughter).
But then I putted four or five feet by and missed it coming back, and there was -- I won't say it, because I could have birdied a couple holes coming in, but that really was a downer. Because up until that point, I knocked it on 8, 3-putted it. 3-putted 11 from the middle of the green. And you just can't do that. You just can't do that.

Q. Was it tough because you are going up against the guy who is right up there with Tiger, one of the best in the world, and you're having to go up against him and you're giving him a lot of years in age and all that kind of stuff?
FRED COUPLES: Age, I was a great pairing. I loved playing with Phil. We had a great time. If it was Zach Johnson that I had the same thing with, it would be just as disappointing.
I mean, Phil is a phenomenal player. The circumstances of pounding it with him, trying to drive it with him, trying to hit the ball better, I think I might have been 1-up for quite a bit of the day and then even, and just I couldn't stay ahead of him, and that's what I needed to do.

Q. Are you on a Top-25 this year; is that right?
FRED COUPLES: I had an eighth at Torrey Pines.

Q. For exemption this year.
FRED COUPLES: Oh, I did. Yeah, I'm sorry.

Q. What was the difference between that and -- (laughter)
FRED COUPLES: Top-10 at Torrey Pines for everyone that didn't know that.

Q. Top eight, weren't you?
FRED COUPLES: Top eight, yeah.

Q. 12 strokes behind or something?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, maybe more than that.

Q. What was the difference of taking the exemption --
FRED COUPLES: Four shots out of second. (Laughter).

Q. Instead of a medical which you were clearly eligible for.
FRED COUPLES: I don't know. I do remember the question. I didn't do it. The TOUR talked to Lynn and they just decided it would be -- is there a difference? Well, because I had never used the Top-25 again, and if I don't play any good this year, I can use the Top-50 next year. Pretty smart, huh.

Q. As long as you know it was, yeah. Is it hard to grasp that unless things change, you're not going to TPC this year? That seems kind of odd, doesn't it?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, when I found that out, I was very disappointed. I mean, that's just the way the ball bounces. But I am going to play the week before, and I think Byron Nelson and Colonial. So, you know, I'm very disappointed. Hopefully next year I'll be in it for one more try, I hope. I'm disappointed.
Yeah, when they said that, I was like, wow, are you kidding me. But ...

Q. It is what it is.
FRED COUPLES: It is what it is.

Q. Heard that a little bit?
FRED COUPLES: I've heard that.

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