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April 15, 2010
DAVE SENKO: Fred, welcome. Your first visit to Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am looking for your fourth win in succession, and coming off a great showing last week.
Maybe just get us started. Talk your Masters and we'll get some questions.
FRED COUPLES: First, I'm excited to be here. I was not planning on coming. I very rarely play -- well, almost never after Augusta. But I talked to Mr. Sullivan after I committed, and he was excited.
But before I was down at Augusta and I just thought it would be good to play here. This is a great tournament. I've heard nothing but great things about it. I'm excited to be here.
Last week was Augusta. One of my favorite places to play. I was playing very well before the tournament started. When I got there, I thought I could be a factor, and ended up playing well. Maybe not so well on Friday on the last four holes, or five holes, but first day went out and shot 66 and I was leading. Ended up finishing sixth.
Q. Was it a last-second decision to come here?
FRED COUPLES: No. To be honest, you have to commit by Friday. On Monday and Tuesday when I was playing, I told my caddie that I might play here, and then on Friday I wasn't feeling all that great.
So, you know, I played early. I played at 9:40, so I went back and laid around and decided to come. I talked to the tournament through Jimmy back there and let them know that I wanted to play, but that if I kept feeling worse I was gonna withdraw.
That's not the greatest thing to do, but at the same time it worked out and I'm here. It was a whole week of a decision. I was getting a bigger and bigger percentage of coming here as the week went on.
Q. Is this your first time on the course?
FRED COUPLES: It is. It's very hard. I don't know if today was a windy or normal day, but it's -- I've been telling everyone, you know, Why are you playing so well? I've been driving the ball really, really well and putting well.
This week I think I would take my chances on maybe not putting as well as I have been, but make sure you're driving well. It's a really hard golf course to get off the tee in the right spot. Water everywhere. There's a lot of water that the wind blows from the right to left towards the water.
A lot of times for me that's a hard way to play. Usually when you're straight into the wind you can gank a shot down the fairway and hit it low and get it running.
But when the wind is blowing right to left, it's hard to start it and work the ball in that favor. I could see at least why last year Larry Nelson and Nick Price, because they hit the ball very straight and very solid. That's what I've been doing.
I need to continue that, otherwise it'll be a tough week.
Q. When was the last time you played four weeks in a row? Is there any concern that you're potentially overextending your good health?
FRED COUPLES: It's been a long time. I don't even know. Last year somewhere on the west coast.
But just like here, after Augusta I went to Charlotte. I was there Monday relaxing, and then Tuesday, and then Wednesday I hit a few balls and then flew in here this morning.
But that's a good question. I don't want to overextend myself. I've been on tour 30 years, and I've probably never overextended myself - except maybe my first year.
But I've been working with a guy in Waco, and the only time he's concerned is if I do start to feel bad and I continue to play. He would like me to play, because the more I work my back and make it, he thinks I should make it playing five or six, seven weeks out of ten weeks.
I just need to be careful if I really start to feel bad to pack it in and not try and be crazy and keep playing. Last week I was not horrible, just really stiff. I know that's better than when that's achy and sore.
Today I felt good. I really did. So I'm playing next week with Jay Haas. Maybe I can take a few holes off and let him take care of me.
But we'll see. I don't really want to not take -- I mean, I want to be here. This is a great spot. Next week I'm really looking forward to playing with Jay, been for a year now, as my partner in the Legends. So that will be another one. I don't even know what's after that. Charlotte?
DAVE SENKO: Mississippi.
FRED COUPLES: Well, I might play Charlotte. I think I've already committed to Charlotte. But I'm gonna take some time off on these Monday, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.
Q. How did your back feel after walking those hills for four days? What do you do to get it back in shape? A lot of manipulation or heat or ice?
FRED COUPLES: Mostly heat and ice and rest. Just typical -- I'm no different -- everyone out here is probably sore and got knee problems or hip problems.
The best thing for me is - knock on wood - I usually have a back problem that I sometimes feel like I can get around because I've been doing it for so long.
Sometimes it goes away and sometimes it gets worse. What I don't want to have happen is what happened four or five times in my last 20 years where it just blows out. Then I'm gone for two or three months. That I don't want to have happen.
It hasn't in a while, so the odd nagging injury is part of the deal. But I don't do a whole a lot. I really don't. I try and do a little bit of exercise. I started to do a lot in December and January and February, and then I chilled off a little bit.
But I'm staying in a place that has a little tiny gym, and I'll go do a few things.
Q. There was a time when you talked about the Champions Tour and how you wouldn't be playing at this point in your career. Talk about what changed and how fun you are having.
FRED COUPLES: I think, to be honest with you, when I was 40 or 41, I used to tell everybody that I had no interest because I didn't think I would be playing when I was 46, 7, 8, 9 or 50 or whatever.
Just I kept playing, and I would play pretty well. At 46, 7, 8, 9, I did pretty well. Then I came out here and I'm playing more because I'm still gonna play four or five timings on the regular tour. Maybe six or seven.
But I don't have an answer for that, except for the fact that even if I was playing out here and not winning, I would still be enjoying at as much. I mean, winning is great. I won 2003 at Houston, and I think before that was 1999. That's not really winning a whole a lot.
But out here, I feel like I could win, and I have, and I want to continue to play and see if I can keep winning tournaments and see how I play.
Ten years ago I didn't think I would want to be doing this, just because it's my 30th year on this tour. And whether it's a grind or not in someone else's mind, to me it's a little bit of a grind traveling and getting ready for the tournaments.
Once I get to a tournament, I thoroughly enjoy it. I don't jump up and down when I don't play well, but I really enjoy seeing everybody and doing the other stuff.
Now, I can sit and tell you I'll probably only do this for three or four years. We'll see what happens when I'm 55.
Q. What are you enjoying about the Champions Tour?
FRED COUPLES: I think it's very laid back, just like a lot of the so-called other tournaments that I did well in when I wasn't at PGA Tour.
Obviously on the PGA Tour I wish I would have won more; I didn't. But I did well in a lot laid-back events. People come out; they enjoy it; the fans enjoy us.
The pairings are great. I know everybody out here. I just think it's a -- I think PGA Tour is a fun time, but not when you're 48 or 49 years old.
It was fun when I was 35 to 45 because I could compete and play with just about anyone. The last couple years I competed a little bit with Phil couple different tournaments. But I didn't beat him, and I felt like I could have with a little bit of luck.
But that made months go where I really enjoyed it. I'd play eight or ten tournaments in a row, and I'd finish 40th and 35th and 50th and I would miss the cut. It's not that much fun. It's not the worst thing in the world. It's what I do, but it's still not that much fun.
Whereas I come on the here and I know I'm not gonna play great every single week, but there are gonna be a lot weeks where I tee off on Sunday and I have a shot at winning. That, to me, is what a golfer wants to do.
From the age 45 to 50, hell, I probably had --played 15 times and 70 tournaments, I probably had that 10 times. That's not a whole a lot, but it's more than five times.
Q. Was there a point Sunday on the front nine where you thought you had a good shot? And second question, on 12, were you just going for it feeling like you had to hit one close there?
FRED COUPLES: Well, on the front nine, I birdied 9 to get to 10-under, I believe. They were 13 and 12, maybe.
To be honest with you, yeah, I thought -- the 11th hole kills me every time I play it on Sunday. This Sunday I hit a drive down there a hundred miles, and the pin was the easiest pin of the whole week. It was on the right side.
I don't know what I was trying to do. It was not a nervous shot. I was trying to hit it to the right of the hole. I could have hit it at the pin and pulled it and not been in the water.
I missed it the right and had that funny little deal and I made bogey there. And then, yeah, when I looked up, I think that put me 4 behind both those guys. It was an 8-iron shot. When I hit it when I was leading way back when it was an 8-iron shot, too.
But I was trying to go over the bunker. And we all know -- and I pushed it to the right. This one I was going right for the pin, and I had hit three beautiful shots the first three days. I was nervous because I was telling myself, I got to go for the flag. I certainly need to make a two there, because if I birdie there and two or three other holes, it was gonna put me to 13-under.
Turns out that would've been -- could've put a little pressure on 'em, but that would've been way later in the day. I pushed it a little bit and hit the bank and went down in the water. You know, then I was screaming at myself and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But I ended up playing well after that and finished sixth. To me, I don't mean to say it doesn't matter, because I would've rather finished fifth than sixth. But at that time, I didn't want to aim for the pin and then pull hook it, because it would've been in that back bunker with the club I was hitting. That wouldn't have done me any good.
So I just was trying to hit a good shot, nothing crazy, and I just didn't hit it.
Q. You've always been a very popular player years ago and now again on this tour. Have you ever thought, wondered to yourself why that is, what you bring to the game that other players with greater records are not as popular as you are? You ever analyzed it at all?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I've answered the question a lot, but I don't analyze it. I answer it with: I think I've been out here such a long time, and I don't -- I mean, I usually wear khaki pants and a white shirt or blue pants and a white shirt. I don't dazzle them with dress, although lately I've been getting a lot talk about my tennis shoes.
I usually have people on my side when I go out, and there's a lot of 'em. I've always liked that. I don't think I'm the greatest in signing autographs. I try not to go talk to people, because once you talk to someone on the course everyone that knows you wants to come up and say hi.
So I wait until the round is over, but I think when you do it long enough people respect that. Main thing, when I go to a tournament, you know, I try -- I won't say I try my best. Sometimes I pack it in and just hit the ball around. But I try to put on the best show I can and obviously the guys I'm playing with in hitting good shots and playing a very strong game of golf.
People like that.
Q. On that hole in the Masters with Mickelson where he took his shot and hit the debris and it ricocheted off there, in all your years playing, did you ever encounter anything like that?
FRED COUPLES: I've never hit that shot from where he hit that shot, but I've hit a lot of shots off the straw. I don't know how to word this. If you get a good lie in the straw, sometimes you can lose your footing if you're standing in there, too.
Let me say it was one of the top shots I've ever seen hit in a major. I mean, Nicolas hit the flag on the 71st hole at Pebble and Watson chipped in at Pebble and other guys have done this or that.
But under those circumstances, for him to do that, you can look at it a thousand different ways. I was on the 14th hole, so I don't know the circumstances or where Lee Westwood was.
But for him not to pull it off and maybe hit it in the creek and maybe make a 6 and give Lee Westwood a little bit of a charge was not what you wanted to do. He felt pretty comfortable hitting a 6-iron. He'll tell you he was trying to go further to the left. But that was a great shot.
Probably easier to hit than maybe if that was a fairway trap. I know that sounds odd, but the straw is not the hardest thing. But the shot he has was very hard. I mean, he overflew the creek by a couple yards and it rolled up there five or six feet from the hole to putt for eagle.
But he does that. He doesn't look at it -- I don't think anyone -- I don't think many players really would have laid that up. I really don't. I think a lot players -- and the other thing that I will say that -- I don't want to talk all day -- but for a right-handed player the way he was looking, I think he could have seen where he was going.
Where Phil, I've seen the shot ten times, his body was right in front of the tree. That, to me, is hard when you're looking and you can't see the pin. For a guy that plays golf paying attention to that, I thought that was miraculous, too.
A lot of times when you're shooting and you look, you want to see the flag. I don't think he could have seen it through the trees, and that made it harder in my thinking.
But what a shot.
Q. Are there any other holes at Augusta that compare to any at this course?
FRED COUPLES: You know, there are some really good par-3s here. They're all like -- well, the wind was blowing today and most of them were with the wind. But they're not like No. 12 where you're going over the creek and that's a small green, but they're the same kind of shot: A 7- or 8-iron to a small area.
But other than that, Augusta is a very big course, but you do have to drive the ball a little better now. But here, let me tell you, there are some holes out there that will get your attention. You know, I don't think there's much to compare to Augusta as here. This is a good course. I don't see any comparison at all.
Q. (No microphone.)
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, and I talked to him since that tournament. He's disappointed, but I think he's disappointed in how he hit the ball. I think if he had hit ball well and lost to Phil and finished behind Westwood and finished fourth, I think he would be okay with that.
I just think listening and texting him, he just didn't hit the ball that great. Did I think that was a phenomenal finish personally? Yeah. But I think Monday when I played with him it was a big day because he finally played in front of people, and then he went and did his press thing.
I know I was nervous about that. I think he did very well. When I played with him on Monday the people were phenomenal. But a fourth-place finish to him is probably not very good. I think a lot of people think it was very good.
I think he's hard on himself because of what he's been through. I think if he was just off for his knee or something I don't think he would have been hard. But I think just -- I haven't made many statements about him because it's none of my business.
But as far as him being hard on himself, I think he's still feeling what he did was a horrific thing. He's trying to play golf a little bit, and even that's not very easy for him at this time.
But it will be.
Q. How do you approach this whole four wins in a row on this tour, record-breaking, or record-tying challenge?
FRED COUPLES: Well, at Cap Cana it was mentioned. And to be honest with you, I just went out and played. Same here. I'm just -- I have a great tee time tomorrow. It's very early. I've only played the course once. I need to be really careful tomorrow.
I don't even know that much of the course. Even today when the wind was blowing, guys I was playing with said the wind usually blows the other way.
If it blows the other way, it's like I've never played here. So I'm not really answering your question because it's irrelevant, but I don't even know -- if this was a course where I've played before I could say I've done well here. I think I can go out and win it again.
But for me, I gotta go out and play good tomorrow.
Q. Does it surprise you that you've had so much success on these courses that you for the most part have not seen?
FRED COUPLES: No. This is a Pro-Am, so most of my -- I've played two Pro-Ams, which is a lot. Two rounds is good. But if you get wind and then the wind changes, the practice round is kind of irrelevant.
But I'm here to win. Let's not kid ourselves. I'm not looking at it as, you know, Chi Chi won four times and I'm playing to win four times.
If I don't win this week, I'll be right back at it with Jay to win next week and hopefully play well. I feel like I'm playing well. It's just golf. You just see what happens. I can't tell you I'm gonna go out and pitch well tomorrow and they're gonna miss the ball or they're gonna hit the ball.
I could go out and hit really good shots and not putt well and be way back tomorrow and say, You know, I felt I hit the ball really, really well.
So who knows.
Q. And also, at Augusta, was Friday the only day that your back was really bothering you?
FRED COUPLES: No. Actually, Friday was not that bad. But when I finished, I went back and laid down and I kind of stiffened up. Saturday when I woke up, I felt like I was not gonna be able to play.
On Friday I was laughing with my caddie but because I felt bad, but I said, I might be the only guy to be leading this tournament and if I do play, go from first to last by not being able to finish, or shoot 80.
But I got it around and actually I felt very good. That's why I didn't know how I would feel Saturday. But Friday when I 3-putted 16 and 17 and then kind of overclubbed 18 -- I hit a good shot, but it went through the green and I didn't get it up-and-down, you know, I was just killing myself.
That was a day where I knew I needed to shoot 72 or 73 to hang in there, and I felt like I should have. Then when I woke up I stiffened up on Saturday and it was rough. But I had a lot heat on my back and I loosened up.
I got through it with no problem. I have been horrible before. This was just I wasn't feeling great. I've done that a lot.
Q. Can you tell me a little bit how the partnership next week with Jay came together?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, it was at the Presidents Cup. He asked me who I was playing with and, I said, you know, I don't know. I've not even played a champions Tour event.
He said, Well, I would love to play with you. I said, Sure. So it's been since last October, or a little bit before that.
Q. Any thought to doing a Presidents Cup scouting trip as a Ryder Cup participant?
FRED COUPLES: No. The Ryder Cup is for much younger players. I mean, I am gonna play a little bit, but not merchandise towards the end of the year. I'm gonna play at Charlotte, which is a course I love, and I'll have a couple more weeks to play out here.
But, you know, I enjoy captaining the team at the Presidents Cup. That's enough for me. I don't think I need the stress of Ryder Cup even if I was to play well. It's kind of a pipe dream.
I would love to keep playing well and make the Ryder Cup team, but I'm not gonna do anything different to get Corey to look at me or Tom Lehman out here. They'll have a great team and do just fine.
Maybe I could play on the Champions Tour Ryder Cup.
Q. A Tiger question. Tiger had made the statement that he wanted to be more respectful of the game, and then Sunday television caught him with a couple bad words. If he becomes so aware of tempering that enthusiasm, does that take away from who Tiger Woods is as a golfer?
FRED COUPLES: I don't know what he did on Sunday. I think on Saturday on the sixth hole he hit an iron, and while it's in the air, you know it's gonna hit this big bank. I don't know if you've been there. They put the pin up on some -- -so anyone who plays the hole, as soon as I hit my shot, I went -- I don't know what I said, but it wasn't beautiful. I know he said, Goddamn, Tiger or, You suck, Tiger.
To be honest, I'm not gonna back him up on everything he does. It's kind of one of those things where to me it was not that big of a deal. Jim Nantz came over to the house to say hello, and he and he said, Did you see? I said no. I kind of talked about what Tiger said. That's his job to do that.
For the media, some guys will say what I just said. Not a big deal. Other guys will say he's out there telling the world that he's gonna be better. I mean, please, he's gonna be better. He's not going to -- you know, I don't want to use the word perfect -- he's not ever gonna not have a little mini outburst.
Listening to him a little bit with the fist pumps or getting excited or not getting excited, I think that's not good for him. But I think right now he's just got to do what he's got do. He's gonna get criticized every step of the way. That's gonna happen. It's understandable.
For that particular thing, if you look back, he's made a lot of statements. He's not gonna be able to cover everything he says. He's not out there to please everybody. He just wants to be a better person, sign more autographs, you know be a better golfer on the tour and support the game more.
For 12 years he supported the game by, to me, not making any real mistakes. He wasn't out there carrying guns or doing anything, and then he was. He lived that part, and now he's over that.
But I think he's a great guy. I think he's a phenomenal golfer. That's what I play. I'm not a life coach. I'm not a psychologist. I just play golf. The way he plays is great, and I enjoy watching him play.
Q. You said basically that he shouldn't get rid of the fist pumps?
FRED COUPLES: No, I think for now they'll be mild fist pumps. You could see he's a little bit -- he's still gonna play great golf. He's a little bit -- I don't know the right word. I don't want to say softer. He's a little bit more mellow because he's trying not to get upset to make him play better.
When I when upset, it -- frustrated for some people is upset. For some people, screaming out loud gives then more energy. But he'll come back and he'll start winning and start pumping those fists and be right back to the same player he was. It's just a matter of how you want to look at it.
Q. I'm wondering if after Augusta, will you maybe try for Pebble Beach?
FRED COUPLES: No, no. That's 36 holes of qualifying. That would put me over the top to try and do that. I was thinking about St. Andrews because it's probably a better course for me.
But Pebble Beach, that could be brutal qualifying. And then once I get there and hitting it into the rough and chopping it out of the rough might be very tough.
But St. Andrews I'm thinking I might give a shot.
Q. Even with the colder weather for the back?
FRED COUPLES: The colder weather? See, colder weather is great. I like cold weather. Makes everybody stiff and sore. It's the truth. I hate saying that, but it does.
I played really well in Scotland and England. But cold weather is -- warm weather is great. It's probably better. But cold weather is not that bad for me.
I love St. Andrews. My favorite courses are Augusta, St. Andrews, and Royal Melbourne. I'll try my best to qualify there. That 36 holes I'll give a shot.
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