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September 10, 2008

Fred Couples


KLAUS WAESCHLE: Fred Couples, welcome here to the Mercedes-Benz Championship 2008. First of all do you remember your first visit here?
FRED COUPLES: What year was that?
KLAUS WAESCHLE: I think it was 1999 and that it was a special event there.
FRED COUPLES: I had a birthday. My birthday is a little later this time. I think it was Sunday, everyone came out and sang. It was kind of fun and embarrassing at the same time.
KLAUS WAESCHLE: Shall we tell which birthday it was?
FRED COUPLES: I'll be 49 in October this time. I don't remember what I was then.
KLAUS WAESCHLE: This was your 40th. But some years later, maybe the course is a little more difficult since then, how do you feel for the tournament here.
FRED COUPLES: I was going to the range to try out a couple more drivers, and my driver face cracked at the PGA. I missed the cut there and, I missed the cut the next two weeks.
So I've never struggled to find a driver in my life, and Bridgestone has been trying very hard, but it's the oddest thing. I've played above average the whole year but I'm excited to be here. And what I'm getting at is today, I drove it in the rough too many times, and it's brutal. It's like a British Open, or a U.S. Open-style course. And the greens are absolutely perfect, and it would be fun.
I have a great pairing with last year's champ, and of course, the local Bernhard, Langer, who is always fun to play with, so it will be a good week. Looking forward to it.

Q. Can you just talk about the state of your game? You mentioned you missed the last few cuts?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, like I say, up until then, I've had good finishes. Pretty consistent. Last year I didn't play any golf and came back this year excited to play. I practised all last week and I started to feel like I was hitting the ball better. I think it's just really -- it's hard, because I practise enough, but this driver thing has been a freak deal. Hitting that many with a driver, I'd rather hit 7- and 8-irons to work on my swing than hitting a driver. I've had overdone it a couple of times and had to relax a few days.
Back-wise I feel fine and I flew over here and I feel great. I'm hitting the ball well. It's just if I don't hit a good drive, I'm hitting a mediocre drive. They are not slices and pull-hooks, but on a place like this, you have to keep it in play. If I don't, there's no doubt I'll struggle like I have been. But if I do hit some good drives, I can make some birdies.
The driver I had, I used for almost 3 1/2 years, first driver I ever got from Bridgestone, which is the goofiest thing ever. I had one driver the whole time, and now I've tried 30. Really, it's an eye thing. I'll hit them good on the range, but then you go out on a hole and you have to cut it or draw it or hit it straight or whatever.
So the last few times I've played, I've just taken a dozen balls on the course and tried to do it that way instead of sitting on the range. Once you get in a rhythm, you pound them and you're doing well and that's where I go.
I think it's a little bit mental, because I'm so used to hitting one driver; when I hit two or three bad, I think it's the driver's fault and not me. But it's got to end here pretty quickly, that's for sure.

Q. You have a big assignment in 12 months' time, but how much do you look at what unfolds next week in Valhalla with a view to your own captaincy in 12 months' time?
FRED COUPLES: My view on it, I'll watch it. I hope we play well. I'm sure Paul Azinger has done a phenomenal job. I've been on nine of these times, five Ryder Cups and four Presidents Cup teams, and you know, there will be mostly new players next year for me than when I was on those teams.
We all know what we liked and disliked about all those events, and I'm going to do everything I can. I can't play golf, nor would they want me on the team, but they go out and play. We can all make a bad pairing here or there. We can all make a pick that might not work; or I get two picks, Paul got four. But basically, it will just be fun to watch.
I don't believe I'll sit there and look and make judgment calls on Paul or Nick Faldo or the way people play. Really, it's three rounds. The best players in the world play great all the time. Some of the people that you wouldn't think come up extremely large and they become heroes for their countries or for their teams, and I think all of that's great it. I think it's a great week of golf.
But for me personally, I'll wait until next year and maybe three or four months into the season where it gets to the nitty-gritty time and start. The good thing for me is I'll be on TOUR playing next year, so I'll see most of the guys, and I can find out immediately what they like or don't like about something, and hopefully do my best to figure out what to do.

Q. Could you explain why the players seem to feel there's such a difference between the Presidents Cup and The Ryder Cup? They always seem to say it's a much friendlier event and prefer it to The Ryder Cup; whereas in Europe, obviously we feel The Ryder Cup is everything.
FRED COUPLES: Right, well, I think that we're lucky that we get to play The Ryder Cup for all these years and to be on the team. I think we are also lucky to have the Presidents Cup where we're playing against the Internationals.
You know, it's kind of like when you read something in the paper and you can take it one way or the other, when you say it's "friendlier." I think maybe overall, it's a friendlier week. It's changing a little bit, but most of the International players, this is just my opinion, most of the International players play as much as our players do on our Tour. So people root for them because they like them.
And in The Ryder Cup, there's more countries involved, where maybe our guys, meaning my friends or everyone's that come watch, like at Valhalla, they don't know a Graeme McDowell as well as they do a Nick Faldo or an Ian Poulter who plays our tour now or something like that. So we are not going to root as hard for them, and it gets a little bit one-sided.
I think we as golfers, we love the competition. I certainly have always enjoyed The Ryder Cup, because you don't play any better or any worse whether the fans are with you or against you. You have to have the right frame of mind. But I think it's one of those things where we lose every year to Europe and we've played very well against the Internationals. I have been on a lot of those teams. I don't have any answer at all.

Q. Is there anything about the way The European Team approaches The Ryder Cup and, say, the European press approaches The Ryder Cup that particularly irritate the United States Team?
FRED COUPLES: I don't know. I don't see this irritation part of it at all. And I can't speak -- I don't know how The European Team approaches The Ryder Cup, I really don't. I know their players. I actually love the way all of them play. I think they are phenomenal players. I don't have a rush for any player. I think they play well and they beat you, they are better players, whether they come from Scotland, Ireland or Chicago, Illinois.
You know, it's a weird thing, and some people are vocal but they speak for themselves and I don't want to sugarcoat and name a player that had a confrontation with this guy or that guy. But when you go head-to-head, things are going to happen. They happen in the Presidents Cup, too.
I just think that the Presidents Cup is not 80 years old and little things don't turn into big things. But it happens all the time. I mean, whether one guy had said, "You know, that was a good shot," and it was this far away, and he picked it up and he said, "No, I didn't give that to you."
"No, I thought you said it was good."
"No, I said it was a good shot." (Laughter) We've had it all.
I wasn't a part of something that jumps out, and whether Jose and Chip Beck and Azinger when they picked the wrong ball, that's their own fault, and the referees make the decisions. Seve and Jose noticed it, and that became a big deal. But if I play a wrong ball tomorrow, I get disqualified tomorrow, and everybody looks at you like you're on idiot.
In a team -- I play tennis, and these guys beat each other up all year long and some respect them and some have problems with the guys they are playing with. And for us, you know, we shake hands. It's just The Ryder Cup becomes a little bit more difficult -- we haven't won in so long, I don't even know what the feeling will be like when we do win.
To be honest with you, I can't imagine anyone gets irritated with anything. I mean, come next week when they play, they are going to be -- it's tough. To be honest, I don't even know the last time we won. I don't even know what year it was. I just know we keep getting beat. That's a tough thing to take. But you know as they say, it is what it is. If we were better, we would win and if we are better this next Sunday, we'll win.

Q. You said you took time off last year?
FRED COUPLES: I only played two events, one at Augusta and one I hurt myself.

Q. How was it?
FRED COUPLES: It was great. It was great. Did I miss it? First couple of months I was hurt, my back, I blew it up again. Then I started to feel good, tried to play, and it went out again and I just said, I don't want to keep doing this so I'm going to rest. And I enjoyed watching it, but I enjoyed being at home.

Q. Concerning the driver, why don't you play your old one?
FRED COUPLES: It's busted.

Q. I thought it was a marketing thing.
FRED COUPLES: No, mine cracked. The face caved in. I asked the guy if I can use it, and he said yeah, you can use it but you won't hit it very good. The face split.

Q. You said you don't judge the captains or the players by watching The Ryder Cup, but we get a good impression who fits together in the American Team, and you probably have the same players for the Presidents Cup, don't you?
FRED COUPLES: We may have -- I would say at least 50 or 60 per cent, and to be honest with you, I think that's a fairly easy thing to do is pair up players, I really do. I've been on these teams and I've played with guys I should never have played with, and it's different mentalities, different guys.
I played with some guys who hit the ball very straight and I put them in the rough and I feel odd. Or I play with someone and I'm used to hitting 8-iron into the green and now I'm hitting 6, and that's no fun either. I honestly think that will be the easiest thing. Jay Haas is my assistant captain, and we've talked a little about when we do get picks, what we might do is the two guys that we pick might be a team so that way when they go, they are going to play their matches together.
I know you guys all know this because you look, but I've played in a lot of these tournaments, and Davis Love and I have played matches where we were 9-under par one time and we lost to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood who were 11-under, and everyone pats you on the back. They don't know what you're shooting; they are hooked up in their deals. And then you see another team shoot 3-under and win and everybody congratulates them when we are looking at, Jesus, we just ran into these guys and they made six birdies and an eagle on the front nine and you're 3-down; where if you're playing the other team, you would be 3-up.
When guys are playing good, you'll know. And when guys are not playing good, then you have to figure out what to do with them, and that's a tough thing. And like I said, come next -- my deal is going to be in October, you know, not a guarantee the best players are going to be playing well and the other guys are going to be playing well, too. You just have to figure out your team and put it together and then you just go to town.

Q. Jay Haas is your advice captain, but on the other hand during the press conference when you were announced as a captain, you said Robin Williams would be entertain the team?
FRED COUPLES: Robin Williams will probably show up and he will come in at night, and Michael Jordan is going to be an assistant. He's been a friend forever, and I told him some day I was going to get to be a pick, and I wanted an individual leader that's been in finals and college finals and made shots and can tell people stories. I can't tell any of these -- you make a 6-foot putt or you miss it. But when you get a guy like that, there might be a few things.
I know Azinger has got Ray Floyd and Dave Stockton and he's got Olin Browne, but I'm just trying to give it a little different twist. Now I would love to have Ray Floyd as an assistant but I picked Jay Haas, who has been my best friend on Tour. He probably should be a captain some day. I do want Michael there, because he's at every one, anyway. I figure, you're going to be there, so you might as well dress like us and be part of the team.

Q. Is being Presidents Cup Captain the first step to you being Ryder Cup Captain eventually and if so, can I just add --
FRED COUPLES: Well, depends on how I do I guess. If I bring in Robin Williams and Michael Jordan and everyone laughs at me and we don't do very well, then I might not ever have a shot.
But this was truly out of the blue. You know, Finchem came up and said I've chosen Greg Norman and we've talked about it, and you're the American captain, do you want to do it. And I said, of course.
You know, The Ryder Cup would be a huge, huge honour. Every time I do these team things, I actually enjoy the rest of the guys more than I do my own play. It's kind of -- I just like to see people go through, whether they lose a match or win, I mean, someone's got to win and someone's got to lose. I hated losing, and when I won, I didn't really get that big of a high or feeling of it. I lost a crucial point a long, long time ago, and I won a couple crucial points, but it was more the rest of the guys. I'm sure a lot of people would say that.
But for me I got more of a kick out of watching Chris DiMarco make that putt in the Presidents Cup than I did five minutes before him, and he would probably say the same thing. As a captain, I'm going to watch them all week and I just want to see people's faces and how they react and act to certain circumstances.

Q. You say obviously you've enjoyed playing on so many times, five Ryder Cups, four Presidents Cups, when you hear of a player like J.B. Holmes who said before he was picked that he's heard it was a long week and he was a slave for the week --
FRED COUPLES: Hunter Mahan said it.

Q. How does that make you feel when somebody that basically has not had any experience and comes out and said something like that?
FRED COUPLES: I would see if it was someone like myself or someone who said, it's a long, hard week and there's a lot of things to do. He obviously played some practise rounds with guys that he said, what's it all about, and they told him and maybe he made the decision.
I think we all make mistakes. I know Paul Casey and I've played a lot of golf with Paul Casey and he's the greatest guy in the world, and I think if he can take coming back two years, it would have been very easy for him, but you don't.
For Hunter I think it's already under the water and he got picked and he'll do very well. He'll figure it out for himself. Where that came from, I don't know -- I don't know him well enough, I hope he's on the Presidents Cup team but I don't know him well enough to certainly go up to him. Certainly there's a lot of work.
It's one of those things where once in a blue moon, you want to take a deep breath and be by yourself just like we can all be this week, even though this is a huge event. At The Ryder Cup it's structured, you have to be at a dinner this night and a meeting right now and you practise; and you want to practise but no, you have to go take pictures. It's not the easiest thing to get used to.
Again, it's making a shot when you have to and missing it when you don't want to, but then everything leads to: Well, I think if I didn't have five meals, I might have played better, but that's not how it is. Both teams go through it. It's a long, hard week and it's very, very -- it's excruciating because there's so much on your mind. You're trying to win a tournament every time you play a hole. Every time you win a hole it seems like you won a hole and that's just to go 1-up in a match and it's a long, hard week.
KLAUS WAESCHLE: I know we told you this would be only ten minutes -- (laughter) -- how do you see the chances of more experienced guys like Bernhard and the young guns in the tournament?
FRED COUPLES: I know he's coming off a win last week and he's been playing great.
For myself, I need to start playing better and I do love the course. I just have to -- like when he found me, I had a bunch of drivers sitting over there in the corner. I'm going to go find a driver, and it's not like killing me, because I don't drive the ball down the middle of the fairway, but I think I can play well.
To be honest with you, you know, Irwin asked awhile ago if I could come, I haven't been here in so long and I was tickled pink. I'm not here -- I haven't won in so long, I'm certainly not here to tell you I can win this tournament, but I know I can play well. I need to play well tomorrow and worry about Friday when that comes. I can still play. It's just the last month I'm a little bit down on confidence, but that can turn pretty quickly.

Q. You go to San Francisco next year, you'll have a fit Tiger Woods. How much do you think Zinger is going to lose by not having a fit Tiger woods on the team?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I think with a mediocre Tiger Woods, he's going to lose 2 1/2 points already. So you know, obviously there's another player playing, and if he can do his job and play well and get 2 1/2 points, then they are okay. The leadership of Tiger, everyone wants to be around Tiger. I think even the European players want to be around Tiger. They want to play Tiger.
Again, I don't look at this USA deal, but he would be on our team, so I would want him on the team. He's not and I'm sure Azinger lost a lot of sleep when the announcement first came, but he's got 12 capable players. At least he had plenty of time. I don't know if Lee Westwood is not feeling well enough to play, but if something like that were to happen, that's a tough blow, too, but I'm sure he will be just fine, but I heard he had a little virus.
For Tiger, he gave him months to know he's not going to be there. It's not like, oh my God, five days before the tournament.
They will do fine and they will have to play better. But again, it's a shot here or there, and it seems like Europe has been so good that they have pulled so far ahead that that's when it becomes a real, real struggle.
That thing at Brookline, I wasn't there but I watched, and that was incredible, I don't know what it was like to be there. But when you get three or four or five points down, you really start to panic. And I think we've done that, and to answer your question, I think in the Presidents Cup, I think it's the opposite, and I think every day in the Presidents Cup, we are ahead, and it's like every other sport when you're ahead, it's easier to play and doesn't mean you're going to win, but it's easier to play.
KLAUS WAESCHLE: Thank you, we wish you really crossed fingers to find the driver and hit the ball well the next four days here.

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