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August 25, 2011

Fred Couples


PHIL STAMBAUGH: We welcome Fred Couples into the interview room. Fred, coming back to your hometown to play fresh off your victory, first senior major championship at the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Last year you finished third here. Just a couple general thoughts about coming back to your hometown to play.
FRED COUPLES: Well, yeah, I'm always excited to come back, as I've said a million times. There haven't been a whole lot of tournaments in Seattle, and it's just very nice to be up here.
Michelle does a great job, and Boeing is a huge sponsor for us. But for me personally I leave all that aside; it's just fun to -- I don't get to see my family much. For instance, today I play at 1:30 so I'll be done at I'm guessing 7:00, and then drive back to -- staying with a buddy, be back there by 8:00, and then you go to bed and do it again tomorrow. So it's a busy week, but it's a fun week.
I just think it's unique to play in your hometown, especially when in my 30 years on Tour, I think we've had a PGA -- Craig Parry won, whatever that was called, the American Express, and I think that's it. And then last year the -- well, and that's why we had it, so I could come home for a week.
But there are so many great courses up here, but I think after the U.S. Open last year and the support that the tournament got and all the players got, hopefully we can come back here and maybe play a Senior PGA or U.S. Open here pretty soon before I'm done.
PHIL STAMBAUGH: Can you sort of recap last week's victory?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I beat the guy who just walked in sitting in the chair over there. You know, someone asked me -- I went to Minnesota, real quick, and I had almost three months off, and I felt pretty good about my game, I was just really rusty around the greens. And as John will tell you in a few minutes, I've played Westchester, I think, 24 years now, so I knew that was a huge help. Did I think I was going to win flying there? No, but I knew I was hitting the ball pretty well, and the first couple days I played extremely well and got in the lead and then did fine on Saturday.
And then Sunday was difficult for all three of us. We were all kind of battling, not because John is sitting there, I said it there, he probably played better, Peter Senior maybe played better, but I did have a one-shot lead going in there, and that's what I needed. And then in the playoff it's just pot luck.
And I felt like in all that wind we were kind of -- no one did anything wrong, but it was really a rush-rush. Every hole we played was really fast, which was good. There was not a whole lot of time to get nervous, and we both had chances, and I hit a good shot in the third playoff hole.

Q. Talk about, your hip was in pain. You sounded like an NFL player.
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, well, the first -- we had that delay, and I think John will tell you that it was really freezing in the clubhouse, and I laid on the ground because I thought that would be the best thing. First I stood around for a while. I do not sit down. Then I laid on the ground, and when I got up, I felt okay.
And then when I got to the range, I knew I wasn't certainly feeling as good, but that's part of the deal. I mean, for me I can play 36 holes, but once I stop, I can't play another hole.
So that rain delay was a little bit of a hindrance, and I went out and the first shot I hit was a pull-hook left of the green, nothing horrible, but I made bogey. Then the next hole I kind of pulled it in the bunker and chopped it around. And then I drove it fairly well, I just didn't hit many good shots off the ground. You know, and then I took some medicine, and it kind of started helping a little bit.
If I hit anything, I hit my drives pretty well, and I putted okay. But I didn't feel very good. And now I feel okay. I'm stiff, but I feel okay. I think it was just everything, you know, just the hour and a half sitting there, or laying there, and maybe the way I got up or the way I laid down. I don't really know. But my back feels pretty good.

Q. Any special treatment this week?
FRED COUPLES: No, I just flew here and relaxed all day Tuesday, and then like I say, went out and played all day yesterday just to play, just to -- it would be better to -- I walked or stood on the back of the cart most of the holes. It's a hard walking course. But I feel pretty good.

Q. So the hip hasn't bothered you since that day?
FRED COUPLES: You know, it bothered me a little Monday, but I put some stuff on it, and I've been living on these pills for six weeks now, and I think it kind of helps everything. But I feel fine, I really do. It was really the first hour, and then I kind of warmed up a little bit. It was hot, started to sweat.
But I don't know if I would have not gone to the locker room, if I would have stayed outside or stood if I would have been better, I don't really know, but it wasn't horrible. I hit the ball, I just didn't hit it as sharp, and believe me, the first eight holes I wasn't like knocking down the flags. I did hit a couple really good shots.
But it was windy and it played hard. I think the three of us shot 70, 70, 71. So when you're trying to win a big event, that wasn't horrible in that weather. There were a lot of better scores shot. But I thought we all kind of battled pretty well. Even Peter Senior had putts to stay in the lead or get in the lead, and John and I made one more shot than Peter.

Q. It was obviously a major. Is this week just as important to you as a major?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I mean, this is a big -- I had a blast last year at Sahalee, and then how lucky to come back three weeks later, because I said the other day, that was the most fun I ever had playing. I played really well, which helped; lost to Langer, and then you immediately take off. Coming back, it was kind of fun to come back to regroup about how great of an event Sahalee was and then start another week here and have family and friends come out and watch.
Yeah, this is a big, fun tournament. I mean, I want to do really, really well. I want to be able to talk to everybody out there, and you know, it's not an easy course. You've got to be very sharp. I've heard it's in awesome shape. I always look forward to playing at home, but in this tournament, for a long time.

Q. I don't want to go into detail on your back issues in Germany, but I'm curious about your emotions going into it and coming out of it. Trepidation going in?
FRED COUPLES: You mean there?

Q. Yeah, it was experimental, right?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I flew over there, I got in Sunday, and I thought -- I called this number, no one really answered. I left a message, and I thought, I don't really know what I'm -- I know I have to be at this clinic at 10:00 the next day, so I walked in, and I thought, coming from America they might have a clue to say something, and I went in and they said, go sit in this room, and then that's 10:45 my time, I don't know what time it was, but I called my girlfriend and woke her up. I mean, I was a little bit uneasy.
And the procedure was a no-brainer. So I went in there and they took a bunch of blood, and each day I went back at 11:00 except for one day I went for two treatments, but I went each day at 11:00 and was out of there at 11:30. It took the guy to prepare you and then shoot the stuff back into it. But originally I didn't know what I was getting into. But it was -- it really, really helped. I don't know how long it'll help, but I haven't had any pain
And then I called on Monday, and I told them that I've got some really bad hip pain. He said, well, that's okay, that should go away, but next time you come we'll shoot your hip up, too. That's what he said.
And when I was there, there was a guy from America, he and his wife both, who have been going for seven years. He had his neck done, his elbow and his back all in the same week. So I guess it's irrelevant what they do. It's supposed to be good for any kind of injury.

Q. Do you want to tell them the name of it?
FRED COUPLES: Well, it's Ortho Time, and it's a small clinic. He works with a lot of -- Vijay Singh went there.

Q. You mentioned it was a no-brainer, but from what I read it was kind of a last resort. Is this the last time you're going to try to play better golf and deal with your back?
FRED COUPLES: Well, that's why I went there. Basically I took some MRIs and sent them around to a lot of doctors and almost -- well, four out of five said, you can rest and then have a surgery -- I rested a lot in November and December, and I came back and hit balls the first day and I was right back to the same spot, not a week later.
So I wasn't going to do that. There was no reason to take three months off. So I got -- I took a couple months off trying to figure out what to do, and then this guy, he didn't squeeze me in, but I was going to go at a later time, and he pushed me in earlier, and when I saw him, I believe the same thing, he said the same thing. He said, your MRIs, they look horrific, and I just want to let you know as far as I'm concerned -- he's been a back surgeon and now he does this, that I think this will help you, I'm not really sure. You're a little worse off than I thought. But if it doesn't my recommendation would be to go in there and have it cleaned out. Then you don't play a whole lot of good golf after that.
So knock on wood, if this lasts another month, I'll fly right back there the week after.

Q. What has the doctor told you about coming back?
FRED COUPLES: Well, it'll last -- it could last this week, could last six months. But again, three weeks ago, I couldn't have felt any better. I don't know, it just was a very unnatural feeling, even swinging a club, just not stiff or no pain. And then as I keep playing, he said you're going to get stiff. It's the pain part I just couldn't take.

Q. Before that, whatever treatment you've had already, have you felt any worse? Have you thought, the pain is tough, I can't be competitive with this pain, I have to try something new?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I didn't want to. In a real quick answer, I would take three weeks off and feel really, really good, and then I would go hit balls, and normally the second day it would just start to ache. Honestly I wouldn't sleep. I would be up all night. And the last tournament, at Augusta, and then I tried to go back at Birmingham, I was sleeping -- I was so tired that I was sleeping from like 5:00 to 7:00 and then I would wake up to eat dinner and then I would be up until my tee time. I just said, I'm not doing this. I've done it 30 years. It's like a toothache.
I hated everybody. I couldn't get through the day, and I was not playing good, so that's where we were. So as long as the pain part -- I've played with a stiff back since 1994. I have no problem with that.

Q. When you come back here, the reaction from the fans, is it a distraction?
FRED COUPLES: Well, Sahalee was unbelievable. I mean, it was Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in practice rounds, and then the tournament -- once the tournament starts, they're yelling for all kinds of good shots, and then Friday and Saturday and Sunday they were all pretty much one-sided, which is understandable. I mean, Bernhard, we were laughing, I said, yeah, if we were playing in Germany, I would have 1 percent, also. He goes, no, I know, but they were very, very good. He played -- I chopped up the second hole, which we've gone over enough, but other than that it was a pretty good match. We were ahead, I think, of everybody, far enough that one of us was probably going to win.
And then I came here, and much easier. I have no problem going to say hi and kind of quietly do it. My brother is going to be out here today with his wife and my sister. But when you play on Friday, a lot of times you can't go say hi to everybody. But this is -- the Champions Tour is very competitive, and I'll be honest, John will tell you, he's had an unbelievable year, and when you waste one shot -- the regular Tour you have four rounds, and that's what people have always said, and I've thought, not that big of a deal. But if you come out here tomorrow and you shoot 71 and you hit the ball really well and maybe don't make any putts and three-putt a couple times, you're in big trouble. And on the regular Tour if you shoot 71 the first day, you're still going to be in 50th place, but you can fire back. Here you're done unless you shoot 63 or 64. When you're out there, I don't focus anymore but I try and pay attention, and here, to answer your question, you want to see everybody.
I want to play well, but if I don't, I still have had a fun week because I'm basically home, and I never come back here.

Q. A question on The Presidents Cup. Do you talk to Tiger ever? You mention that you'd like to see him play. Where does that stand as far as your thoughts on it?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, well, I mean, it stands where I told him that he's going to be on the team. I kind of told -- the question came up, and there's no reason for me to wait until September 26th to pick Tiger. He's the best player in the world forever. I mean, you guys -- is he playing well right now, no. He almost won Augusta three months, four months ago, so you don't do that by playing poor golf.

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