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February 18, 2011

Fred Couples


CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome a familiar face to the interview room here at the Northern Trust Open, a two-time winner and a leader today in the clubhouse, bogey-free round with an eagle and three birdies. Just talk about today and the week as a whole.
FRED COUPLES: Well, it's a great week however you play here. You always want to play well, but I do love the course. And today opened up with probably 100-foot eagle putt that I made, and then it just kept going. It was a nice day. As you said, no bogeys. I wouldn't say it was easy out there at 7:20 in the morning, but I got it around, I drove the ball well, and I made a few key putts which anyone is going to have to do to not make any bogeys on this kind of course.
But like I've always said, Riviera is a special spot for me. I have won twice, but I've had a lot of other great finishes and fun rounds, and today was one of them. To shoot 5-under on that course was very good.

Q. Why is Riviera so special to you? What appeals to your eye or what is it about the course that you just love?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I like, I've liked it from the get-go. I grew up in Seattle. We have very small greens up there. I think besides Harbour Town, Riviera has probably one of the smallest batch of greens, all the though the TPC in Florida has got some small ones, too.
But basically I feel like I drive the ball well on this course, at the certain corners or bunkers to go over, that helps. And then I've always been a pretty good iron player, and on this kind of course, you've got to hit the fairways to get to the greens, and when I don't, I'm long enough that I can hit some shots out of the rough to keep them on the green. It's kind of a win-win for me.
But it's also where you get in a spot and you're trying to hit shots that you put in bad shots. I choose not to try and do that here. I choose to get safe sides, and if I have to pull the ball and miss the green a little bit, I'm chipping back towards the flag. It doesn't work every time, but that's kind of the way I play because I know I'm going to make some putts and some birdies.
I've played 150 rounds on this course probably. I don't think anyone in this field has played as many rounds as I have. So that's an advantage for me.

Q. Obviously you know how to win; you've won so much in your career. But the fact that you won so much last year, does it help?
FRED COUPLES: It did last year. It hasn't done me much good this year so far, but yeah. I mean, I've won four times. But out here is the same. You still have to get the ball in the hole.
You know, I was the No. 1 putter on the Champions Tour last year, which is a little bit of a shock, and that's why I won and played well the whole year.
And so far after two rounds I've putted well. That's the key to my game at whatever age is to go out and hit the ball well but go out and make some putts. I didn't have any bogeys today. I made several three-, four-, five-foot curling putts after long birdie putts to keep the round going and not fall backwards, but it's been a long time since I won on the PGA TOUR, but I think over the weekend I'll look back and remember what I did last year, and hopefully it'll help.

Q. Do you have to be careful when you practice still with all the back issues, and how do you sort of go about that knowing that you've got to practice to compete but yet obviously you can't overdo it or you're going to hurt yourself?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, I don't practice. I hit balls before I play and then I go play golf and then I -- I can tell you what I'm going to do in the next couple hours. I'm going to kick my feet up and watch a little of this, and then I'll probably go do something, relax a little, eat dinner and then go to bed. When I feel good, I can do a few more things. But I haven't hit balls after a round of golf, I don't know the last time or last year, but that's -- I've done that a lot.
So my practice routine, like this morning, I opened up and I hit 40 5-woods or rescues, and I hit about ten drivers and then I go tee off. I refuse to bend over and try to hit wedges or 9-irons, and it's okay. It's not the perfect way of warming up by any means, but I do get through the warmup and I get on the course and I get going, and I feel pretty good.

Q. What about weeks you're not on Tour?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, I do the same. I'll hit balls for 30 minutes and I'll go play 18 holes. But do I sit on the range and -- I can't hit irons, so it's kind of hard to sit on the range and practice. But that's at this spurt. I mean, last year I felt pretty good, so I warmed up a lot better. I don't consider this warming up, I just think it's waiting for my tee time to come. (Laughter.)

Q. You said you were driving it good, hitting the fairways. Do you find you're hitting the same irons into the greens that you were in your prime, or are there a few holes that you have to hit one more?
FRED COUPLES: I mean, the wind blew, well, with you on the first hole yesterday, and then today it was the opposite, and it's kind of switched around. So again, from playing so many years, when I drive it in a certain area I kind of know -- I had 180 yards on the last hole today and I hit a 5-iron, and by having that shot several times, not that many, but I knew that -- it just seemed like a lot of club. But I knew it would be the right yardage. So the wind was a little bit of a factor.
But it's playing a little longer this year because of the weather. It rained a little bit earlier in the week, and it's certainly not very warm. But if it was normal, I would be hitting the same clubs. I'm driving it -- I don't know distance-wise, but I consider myself to hit it long enough, and that's -- I'm still driving it long enough to play this course.

Q. As a follow-up, the idea that you're leading this tournament, you admitted yourself, is a little bit of a surprise. I'm wondering, do you do anything on Twitter or do you send out any Tweets or anything like that?

Q. This would be the kind of thing that you would probably send a Tweet about?
FRED COUPLES: Right. Is it called Twittering or Tweeting?

Q. It's one of the two.
FRED COUPLES: I would Tweet everyone that I am right now one ahead of J.B. Holmes, and let them all know. I'll text a few people today, but they're texting me. I even got a text from Tiger. He says hi, so I texted him back when I was coming down here. I said, I do love this place, but if you played here you'd win ten times, and he didn't send me too polite a text after that. (Laughter.)
I'm shocked that he doesn't play here, but I guess he doesn't play well here, which I don't know why. If I can play well here, any human being in the world can play well here.

Q. The last thing is why don't you use Twitter? Is it because you just text and that suffices?
FRED COUPLES: To be honest with you, you know, I don't want to sound stupid, I went to see "Social Network" because Justin Timberlake was in it. I don't even know what I watched. I don't even know what Facebook is. And then Twittering, I don't know what that is.
I mean, I do but I don't. For instance, if I did Twitter, would I tell people that I'm heading home and then going to eat at California Pizza Kitchen? Is that what you do, or do you actually Tweet information?

Q. Well, some people do that, some people Tweet information.
FRED COUPLES: Right, well, what information do I have for my 500,000 followers? No, what do I have for them? I'm 51, I live in the desert. They all know that already. If you guys write well enough, they'll know that I'm in good shape going into tomorrow. I don't need to Tweet anybody. (Laughter.)

Q. Have you had any feedback from Naples, and I presume they understand why you couldn't defend there?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I had a couple guys text me and say play well, Jay and Tom Pernice, and no one said, what are you doing. A couple people texted and said, how was that 33 holes you played at Phoenix, because that was brutal for me. But no, I think they all understand. This is my favorite place to play, and I don't even -- I mean, I would like to answer that by saying the people in Naples I don't think are upset. I'm sure they want me there. But I would rather be here. Even if I miss the cut, I still would rather have been here.
This is a very, very special spot to me, and I love playing here. When I get to be a little older, there will be Naples every year to play.
CHRIS REIMER: Any key pars? Or go through your eagles and birdies there.
FRED COUPLES: Like I said, the first hole I made a 100-footer.
Then I hit some good shots. I made an unbelievable par on No. 7. The pin was back to the left, and I hit a good iron, but it trickled right -- would have been close, trickled down this embarkment, and then I putted up the hill with not much green to about a foot and tapped it in. That was a big par there.
And then I made about a 30-footer on 9 for birdie from below the hole.
And then on 12 I hit a 9-iron to about eight feet and made it.
And then on 15 I drove it well to the left and hit a really, really good iron up over a tree to about 30 feet, made it for birdie.
And then the rest of them were pretty much birdie putts. I didn't really leave any out there. I didn't miss any putts that were inside ten feet.
CHRIS REIMER: Do any scouting this week for Presidents Cup?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, that's partly -- not because of here, but I played at Phoenix because of that and I'll play maybe one or two more times. You know, it's kind of the same cast of characters. Steve Stricker I've seen and talked to a few other guys, talked to Rickie Fowler a couple times. I'm sure he'll be right there. I played yesterday with Bubba who's not feeling well, but he's already won. There will be some young guys. Obviously Mark Wilson and D.A. Points are off to a great start. So it all starts to really rock and roll after the British when I think there's double points and all these things get going.
But for right now, it's just kind of interesting to look at some guys just to see how they hit it and how good they are. Jonathan Byrd is another name who's already won. I like any team we have. They're all great players. Norman is going to have a great team, and we're going to Royal Melbourne, which is another great course, so it'll be fun.

Q. This play doesn't give you any thoughts about maybe being a playing captain possibly?
FRED COUPLES: No, no. I mean, it gives me thoughts of playing better golf, but to play, no. I'm a Champions Tour player that plays a couple times on our TOUR, or this TOUR I should say, but no way. If I could win by ten, I would still say no way. But my goal is to play well tomorrow and Sunday and see what I can do.
CHRIS REIMER: Congratulations. Thanks for your time.

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