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February 18, 2011

Fred Couples


Q. Do we make more of the back than we should?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I've had a back problem for a long, long time, but you know, I am tired, 51 years old, and it's kind of getting to a point where I feel like I'll play until I physically just can't do it. And Hualalai, when I went -- I didn't sleep, I didn't play very well, I couldn't hit an 8-iron, and so it's kind of getting better. But like standing here, you know, it feels like a toothache, and by 8:00 at night you're just ready to hit someone.
But as far as swinging-wise, if I couldn't swing and play, you know, I don't think I would -- I would come here and chop it around. But because it's one of my favorite places -- but I would not keep playing if I didn't feel good. So the only back issue is if I come out tomorrow and feel worse and don't play well because of that, but I could also come out and feel great and not play well.
So it is what it is. I've had it a long time. When it does hinder me a little bit, I know how to get it around and when to not try and hit a shot that I may think I could when I'm healthy. So I've been doing it a long time, and I've said that forever.
I mean, I feel like I can play this course blindfolded. It doesn't mean I'm going to shoot a good round, but I've played here 29 years, pro-ams, practice rounds, haven't missed many cuts, so I've got 150 rounds on this thing, so it's an advantage for me. But you know, I did play well, and my back feels pretty good.

Q. What are the shots that you feel like you couldn't hit or maybe can't hit that you would like to, and if you can't hit them, how do you, I guess, psychologically --
FRED COUPLES: Well, I play around them, so when I don't feel good, if there's a hole that I've got to hit a hard draw on, I don't hit my driver, I'll hit a 3-wood, which is a little easier to hit straight or to the corner. If there's some irons that the pin is fairly easy or accessible and it's like cutting it in there and I can hit a 5-iron, I'll try and just hit an easy 4 somewhere on the green. You know, there's a lot that goes through the pea brain that I have here.
But most of it is not -- like walking out there, I'm driving it really well, I'm standing up there feeling like I know what I'm doing on that, but really with 7-, 8-, 9-irons, that's when I get in trouble, when I bend over a little bit. So I'm very careful on those. To be honest with you, some of them I'm not -- I hit some good ones today but I'm not even really looking at the flag, I'm looking at an area that I think I can hit an 8- or 9-iron to. But that's part of the deal.
And the way I feel now, I never loosened up at Phoenix, I've said that. I didn't hit any irons at Phoenix practicing, I didn't hit any irons today practicing. It's all just 5-woods and drivers, and I feel like if I stand up, I'll get loose and not hurt myself. Today had a couple small little twinges, but I'm like really tired. I got up at 4:00 to try and stretch a little bit and put this back machine on. It's pitch dark at 6:00 two hours later and on the range and ready to go.

Q. Did it look like it was in all the way?
FRED COUPLES: Well, the first hole I felt like I hadn't even hit any balls and I kind of puffed one in the right rough and I actually had a fairly good lie, and I told Joe I'm either going to hit it left of the green or right of the bunker because it's going to come out of that squirrelly and it came out soft on the right fringe, I don't know, 100-footer, and it went right in.
I mean, I don't know what I'd shoot if I putted it eight feet by and missed it, but I didn't, and ended up shooting 5-under. I know what I shot and I know it went in. But I just settled down.
I figure then the wind is blowing the other way and we've got several holes with the wind and I hit some good shots, and I didn't make any bogeys or any mistakes and got it around.

Q. Did anyone on the Champions Tour try and talk you into defending this week?
FRED COUPLES: You know, no. A couple guys have texted me and said play well, Pernice and Jay. I don't think anyone is mad. Besides Augusta, it's my favorite spot, so I don't know why I would play here 29 years and 30th year now and have a schedule events problem and say, well, I want to go to Naples. I did win there last year. I don't think it's a slap in the face if they just look where I live and my schedule and how I play here. It would take two seconds to figure it out.
That's something I really never worried about. But I will stay at home for a couple weeks and then drive up to play Newport Beach, so I'll be in California for the whole first two or three months, which is what I need. I need to start feeling better. But I'm sure I'm taking a little grief.

Q. You mentioned that you were hitting the ball hard. That's important for you, at least to give it a good go?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I mean, off the tee. This course is one of those courses where for me, I need to get it out there and have certain irons to some of these greens, and I think Phil will tell you that or Paul Casey or Davis Love, who's played well here. But there's a length factor. So if I'm used to hitting -- when it's windy and cold it's irrelevant, but when you're used to hitting certain irons into a green and all of a sudden I start hitting drives 270 and I've got 5-irons, mentally for me, I can't speak for anyone else, but mentally for me it's difficult. You know, and that's something -- that's why I play well at Augusta. I still hit the same -- there's some longer holes, but for the most part I'm still hitting the same irons that I did 20 years ago, and when that stops, then I'll sit back and figure out that Augusta is not as easy for me anymore as sometimes I make it if I drive the ball well. And here's the same. I drove it in most of the fairways today and hit the ball really solid.

Q. Do you feel like you're ever handicapped by a certain shot you can't hit, handicapped against the field?
FRED COUPLES: Yesterday I didn't hit it -- yesterday I laid up on 10 and I had 85 yards. I'm not going to say it's an easy shot, but I plugged it in the flat part of the bunker. I would say from not hitting an iron or getting any feel, that's a hindrance. But basically I have no problem with it. I did it several years ago where I never hit any irons, and I warmed up and felt really, really good when I went to the tee.
And sometimes when I bend over and hit those, I get catches, and I just refuse to do that. I've done it the whole year so far and haven't had any problems until really I get on the course.

Q. What is this drastic procedure you were talking about yesterday?
FRED COUPLES: Oh, I don't know. I don't remember what I was talking about. That was yesterday. (Laughter.)
I'll let you know Wednesday; how's that?

Q. Was there any part of a couple years ago when you had a really good shot coming into 18 and it didn't happen that you thought it might have been your last chance given your health and everything else?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I mean, that was a great day. I played with Phil again. I felt like I played really, really well, and to be honest with you, I see the shot every time I walk up there, and it was perfect for me. It was in the right first cut and I had to cut it in there, and I just basically kind of heel-shanked it.
But to play well at any age, 30 or 50, is fun, but I just felt like I could have hit a good shot. I could have overcut it 40 feet. I think he was on the front edge 100 feet away, and I thought, wow, let me stick one in here and see what happens, and I didn't do it.
Do I dream about it? No. Do I dream a little bit about Augusta? Yeah, that bothers me when he beat me there, when O'Meara beat me there. But here I've had so much good luck and fortune that I look at that as a really bad swing under pressure and I hit a bad shot.
So tomorrow I'll go out there, and I'll play -- like everyone says, you play as hard as you can, but this is really my favorite course, so I'm not -- I mean, I would be lying if I said I wasn't shocked that I'm 8-under, especially in this kind of weather. But you know, I feel like I can go out there and play tomorrow.
And the greens are extremely fast. I did make a lot of four- and five-footers coming back today which won't be as easy on Saturday or Sunday so I'll have to pay attention to what the heck I'm doing. But it's -- I've got as much shot as anyone else.

End of FastScripts

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