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November 2, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Well, Fred, thanks for joining us. Coming into this event off a big win in San Antonio a couple weeks ago.
You had a chance to see the course today. Some quick thoughts on that, and then we'll get some questions.
FRED COUPLES: Well, the course is beautiful. I think last year when we played the greens were very, very good, but the fairways weren't.
This year, it's perfect. The greens are very, very hard. I know it's supposed to rain, but as of right now -- I don't know what anyone else has said, but I don't even know what the par is on this course. 71? So anything in the 60s is going to be a really, really good score.
Obviously if it starts to rain and get cold and windy, then I don't know what they'll do with the tees or for scoring.
But the course is in perfect shape.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. The course is in perfect shape. What kind of shape are you in physically?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I feel okay. I had a couple weeks off after San Antonio. Tried to work on my game in L.A. over the weekend. Today wasn't really good. I hit the ball fairly solid, but a lot of longer clubs were to the right and the shorter ones were to the left. So tomorrow I'll come out early and try to get another half hour of practice and start to get a little more speed.
Somebody was telling me it's going to be really cold, so that changes things for me. I'll start to not swing as hard but try and maneuver the ball around the course. But I feel good.
Q. (Question regarding Caddie.)
FRED COUPLES: I did. Casey is going to come in. Midge may caddie tomorrow just for -- not for fun. Not if it's raining and windy. She would want to do it, but that's a bit much to ask.
I don't know if we all want to be out there in 30-mile-an-hour winds and raining.
Q. On the health thing, when you went to Germany earlier this year, and I recall in a press conference you said you'd see how long it held. How has it hold for you?
FRED COUPLES: Well, it's holding. I mean, I'm not in a whole lot of pain and I am stiffening up. But not unlike any other doctor -- you know, I have some serious problems. But what he did made me feel good for a while.
So after this season is over, I'll probably go back in January and have it done again. What does is, a lot it's pain oriented. It's not going to heal my back. It's just going to get in there and rejuvenate everything and try and get rid of not sleeping.
I mean, I wasn't even playing golf and the pain part of it was horrific. This next time hopefully it will loosen me up the same way and the pain won't be as bad when I get there.
Q. Was the pain part horrific to the point where you couldn't sleep, it sounds like.
FRED COUPLES: Well, yeah, I mean the reason I didn't play -- I think I could have kept playing golf a little bit. Maybe not as well, but I wasn't sleeping. At Augusta in April I played, and I played well.
Then I went to Birmingham and I wasn't really into it at all and I didn't sleep for 30 seconds in six days. That's when I finished and I said, 30 years of doing this -- I don't know how people do it with insomnia, but when you can't sleep and your back is pinging with pain, it was a double whammy.
I just kind of gave up, and then it thawed out after a few weeks and started sleeping a little bit. It was just no fun.
Q. The cold weather, I mean, logically you would think that would be a very unpleasant...
FRED COUPLES: I like cold weather. I've said this every single time someone's asks me. I'm stiff all the time. Why not let them be stiff too if it's 45 or 50 degrees.
That's my typical answer. At the British Open and the Dunhill Cup and all those places, I felt like I played well because it's not easy to get up at 8:00 and play. Although we have good tee times here.
When it's 50 degrees, I feel it. It's not like my body can't handle it, I just feel really, really stiff. I think everyone else does, too.
Q. Cookie deserves that spot just on his own record, no doubt about it. Obviously he's friends with Tiger. How much of that was in your decision process when you made that call for Michael?
FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, Michael, I was in L.A., and Michael called at 6:00 in the morning. I looked at it and I went back to sleep. Then at 6:02 it beeped and he said, What's up? I need to talk to you. So at 6:02 I called him up and he told me all that.
Then I took a shower. I was going to play golf at 8:00 at L.A. I thought about it? You know, I thought John Cook is my guy. Known John a long time. You know, without saying there is 12 guys on the team, I felt like John and Tiger are very close, and that would help Tiger as much as any of the other guys.
It's like I told John. I don't know Webb Simpson that well, I don't know Bubba that well. But a lot of these guys know John, but a lot 'em don't know John. I'm kind of in the same boat.
So I'm not really worried about Bubba Watson, the way he plays. Bubba Watson is going to bomb it and putt well and do a great job.
But if Tiger Woods and John Cook are really, really close friends and buddies, that was an easy call. But at the same time, it's a great opportunity for John Cook, and I think it's well-deserved.
Even if Tiger Woods was still the No. 1 player in the world, didn't have any problems and they weren't friends, I think 100% I probably would have picked John Cook anyway. I called him at 7:05. I said John, I got to ask you, I want you to be an assistant. Michael can't go. He said, Sure.
No one else popped into my mind. Jeff Sluman did a phenomenal job. John so has been on teams before, but I think we're going to have a blast. He and Jay are very close. I think it'll be a fun time.
Q. (No microphone.)
FRED COUPLES: I called him as I was waiting for my buddy to get down to the course, John McCore (ph). It was five minutes. I called him at 7:00, and before John got to the car we were done.
Q. You've had to absorb a lot of criticism over picking Tiger. I'm wondering, what, if any, impact that's had on your enjoyment of a gig this time around, this captain's gig?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, that's a great question, but it's kind of an irrelevant question. I've got picked on for not picking Keegan Bradley either. You know, these are picks that the captain gets. He gets two picks.
If someone can tell me that Tiger Woods is not a good pick, I've heard it all. I don't have thin skin over it because it's irrelevant to me. This guy has won 100 golf tournaments. He struggled the last two years for him, but I still think he's an unbelievable team player. I would take him up against anyone in match play.
That's what we're hoping. He's worked very, very hard. Before I picked him, you know, everyone -- I mean, I've heard it all. You picked him way too early. What's difference when you pick 'em? Everyone on this team had have to have an idea I was going to pick him unless they're out to lunch.
I needed to get him to do a couple things, and so that extra month helped me. But, you know, you could pick on anything. You could pick on why we're not playing basketball. You could pick on David Stern or the players.
Bottom line is they gave me two picks, and I picked Tiger Woods because of his record. I've heard we're friends or buddies, you know. We're not buddies. I love the way he plays golf. You know, I've always liked the way Nick Faldo played golf. You learn a lot from these guys.
At Harding Park he was a machine. At the Ryder Cup, he still played pretty well. In match play, you know, he's great. I will tell you this much: In the last two months, he has worked really, really hard on his game. I think that just says he's healthy. I'm not going to get into whether he was healthy at the TPC or the PGA or whatever.
But, Tim, you've seen it, too. You live down there. You've heard he's practicing six or eight hours a day or playing 36.
You know, that's all great to hear, but it doesn't really matter until we get to Melbourne or the week before. I think we'll spend a lot of time in Sydney together.
But as far as the sensitive to it, I'm not really sensitive to any of that. Except when people are a little bit off, you know. When I make a comment, when I'm off, people come up, I say, Look I apologize. I was wrong.
But in some of these instances where he then goes to play in CordeValle and he helps that tournament by nine million percent, and then they pick on the Presidents Cup pick and turn it into a negative, it blows my mind. I mean, they all sit there and they want him to play, and then he goes and plays and they beat him up for playing.
It's kind of like this guy can't win. If you look at what he's done for golf, you know, he's done it all. The ratings are going to be way up there, and they wouldn't be if he wasn't playing. Is that a positive thing? Hell yeah it is.
Is it a positive thing because they want to see him shoot 76 and lose four and three to Aaron Baddeley? No. So he's going to be ready. Does that mean he's going to go 5-0? No. Is he going to help the team? Yeah.
Q. What was your reaction when people said you did it just for TV?
FRED COUPLES: You've known me 30 years. I'm not smart enough to figure that one out. I picked him because I like him. I picked him because he's won 14 majors and 70 events. He has not fallen off the turnip truck. He can still play.
Q. Couple weeks ago you said you were more concerned about Steve Stricker than you were Tiger Woods. There was a story in Milwaukee last week you probably read where Strick doesn't have great feeling in his arm, but he also said he would play unless his arm fell off. Give us an update on Stricker and what you're thinking?
FRED COUPLES: Well, you know, I've left Steve alone Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but I've talked to him a lot. He wants to play. He deserves to play. I've had a bad back for long, long time. There are tournaments that I went and played in because they were big events and felt like I played okay; other ones I didn't.
I know where he's coming from. If he can't play, he would let me know. He's not going to leave -- I guess he would have to leave on Saturday when his arm is dead. He's going to give us plenty of advance to get someone else there and to do that all that fun stuff.
As of last week, he was doing fine. Those are his words. I don't know when this article came out, but last week when I talked to him, he sounded like he was going to be ready to go.
Q. (No microphone.)
FRED COUPLES: Okay. Well, no. Maybe. I didn't talk to him Saturday or Sunday. When I get a call or text from him he tells me he's doing well. I don't know what that means. I'm not back in Wisconsin watching it evolve.
But if I was on the team when I was picked or made the team, and I said, Yeah, I'm ready. I'll be in Australia. But he's not a selfish guy. He's not going to come there when he can't play.
Q. All this talk and controversy about the choices, does it make it seem like the Presidents Cup two years ago is a lot longer ago?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I rehash on the Presidents Cup here a lot more than you think the last couple months. So it's not longer, it's closer. I felt like we won; we played very well.
Hardest thing is we're going to Australia. This thing can't be in America every year. Our guys, they're worldwide players, but we have to go over there to play well. It's not hostile, but we have to to play well in front of 30,000 of their closest friends.
I like to call our guys when we're at the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup our friends. They don't root against other players. If anything, the Presidents Cup is fairly mild. We get louder claps when we're in America than they will.
But I feel like it's not that difficult -- this isn't that difficult of a thing. It really isn't. You pick two guys, ten guys make the team, and then you go over there and play as hard as you can. We've won this a lot times.
Does that mean -- we got smoked the last time we went to Australia. Why was that? I don't think we were ready I think they were much more prepared. They were way better than we are. They got way ahead and stayed way ahead. On Thursday we got to come out fighting and get points.
Q. With all the opinions and analysis of your choices, is it a different realm when Greg signed in with his opinion on it?
FRED COUPLES: You know, I talked to Greg about ten days ago. I had heard people say, This is great. Makes the Presidents Cup a little more dicey. I don't see what's the dicey part of it is.
If I went out and said something negative about somebody, I would look bad. Greg said, I can show you the transcripts, and I said all these things, but did I say something bad about Tiger? Yeah, but that's all they printed.
So there is no real reason for me to get involved. I've been on tour for 30 years. I don't think I've stuck my foot in my mouth too much. I'm not saying Greg has. I'm saying everyone is chiming on Tiger. He's free game.
If anything, when we get there, Tiger will tell me when he wants to play and where he wants to play and who he wants to play against, and we'll try do that. I'm not trying to say that's a negative thing. In the Presidents Cup, I ask guys, When do you want play? You want to go first off? You want to go last off? Are there any matches you feel comfortable with?
So you can look at it and say Tiger wants to play Adam Scott because hates Adam Scott. That's not what I'm getting at, because Hunter Mayhan used to tell me who he wanted to play against because it made him feel more comfortable to play against guys he knew and liked, whether they were the best players or other guys.
And so when you say that, people say, Oh, God, Couples and Haas are going to put guys up against -- if he hates Adam Scott, I would have a huge problem with him on the team. There is no way he hates anyone.
Just like when I said Robert Allenby hasn't won in ten years and Greg picked him. He's Australian and a great pick. Everyone says he hasn't won in ten years. Well, he hasn't, but I didn't call him a bad guy. I just said he hasn't won in ten years.
I think I'm myself. I played 100 rounds with Robert Allenby. I like the way he plays and I'm actually glad he's on the team. But you can look at this stuff however you say it. I can say that Tiger Woods is, in my opinion, the best player in the world. Well, he's 50th in the rankings, so if I walked out you guys would all go, What's he talking about?
I say he has been the best player for ten straight years or longer. I ain't leaving him off the team. There is criticism on everything. Last year or two years ago when we played, we had a blast and won.
I don't think Sunday or Monday or Tuesday everyone beat Greg up, and I don't consider if we don't win that I have screwed our chances by picking Tiger Woods. I think that would be laughable.
But if we don't win, I'll take just as much blame as anyone. I'm captain. I'm fine with that. It won't bother me until Monday morning.
I'm expecting our guys to give 400%, and then we'll see what happens, just like Greg is. I will say one thing: Our team has done very, very well. There are a lot of guys playing the Australian Open the week before. I think we have six, which is very important to me. They've all anted up.
You can say they're getting appearance fees. Not as much because there are 100 players playing, but they are down there playing and they want to be down there and they're ready to go that week and next week.
Q. On the Stricker issue, you said he would probably give you enough time to get somebody else down there. You'll have three guys on site, all of whom have won this year. You and Jay and Cookie planning to play?
FRED COUPLES: Well, Jay and Cook can battle it out. I am not playing. I mean, the day -- I will be in touch with Steve. I don't want him going down there and playing one round and then having his arm go dead, which slows him down. I don't know if he needs surgery or not, if he's waiting to see what happens, but he's got bigger and better things to do.
He's got to be ready for January. He's been very good about it. He says, Yeah, I'm okay. One doctor says this; one says that. Like Tim said, I have not talked to him this week. I have left him alone. But as soon as we get out of here, I'll be calling him on the drive home to see what the hell this article said in Milwaukee. (Laughing.)
I'm not an Internet -- I guess you can Google it or go online and read all this stuff, but I don't know how do it. But I will be calling him in the car no matter what time it is.
But if not, Keegan Bradley will be the guy. I've heard stuff about that. But Steve Stricker is on the team, and he tells me he's ready to play.
Q. (No microphone.)
FRED COUPLES: Well, I haven't captained anything yet. I've been a part of the team. So come this phone call in about an hour, that'll be the big call. And then once we get down there, I think we have the lot power. Then we have David Toms who is not short, but we have Steve Stricker obviously and we have I think Matt Kuchar, who is the phenomenal player.
So I think if anything, two years ago the guys were easier to pair because I knew 'em all. I knew every guy on the team. This year, I just watch. I don't know what Simpson -- I've never seen Webb Simpson hit the ball in person on the course. I've seen him on the driving range.
Bubba Watson I've played with a few times, but I don't know who to pair him up with. We've called and talked to a few guys. So the most difficult thing is the pairing.
You go into a room and Greg puts a name up there and you put a name. This is all pretty easy stuff. Can you make a mistake and end up with a pairing that you don't want? Yeah, but no one knows that.
I mean, only the four guys, if Steve Stricker and Tiger want to play some more or go first and we screw up and go last, then they go in there and look at you like, What are you doing?
Other than that, I got to be honest, it's pretty easy.
Q. Do you like matching guys whose games are similar, or a David Toms and a Bubba Watson, one guy who may hit it 300 yards and the other who can get it in the hole. When you played yourself, did you like playing with somebody who hit as far as you, or when you had an ultimate shot, here's a shot I don't know?
FRED COUPLES: You know, that's a great, great question, and I can answer that as the captain. I go to all the players, and I will do most of this in Sydney, because I know Phil Mikelson. Phil play with anybody.
The other six guys that are there, maybe seven, the Bill Haases and the Webb Simpsons -- Webb might not be there. But Bubba Watsons, they're going to tell me who they want to play with. I'm not going to go there until -- I remember I played with Tiger a few times in Australia, and he's very aggressive. He hits it nine miles and hits it pure.
But if I hit a wedge 20 feet, don't be running it six feet by. I knew him well enough and he liked me that we could laugh about it. If I'm playing with a guy I don't know and I now tell him, Hey, change your putting style and don't be hitting 'em five feet by, that's not what you wasn't.
You want someone that you actually know. It doesn't matter if it's David Toms and Bubba Watson. Oh, my God, that's the weirdest pairing ever. They may come to me and say, We want to play together, and that's kind of how we did it.
Last time in Harding Park we had four guys on the team that sat with Michael and I and Jay on every decision. It ain't my team or Jay's or now John Cook's. So we have these guys in the room and they tell us.
We laid it right on the line. Don't be bashful. If Anthony Kim is playing poorly and he doesn't want to play with this guy, somebody has got to tell me. Anthony Kim is not going to come up and say, I don't want to play with Jim Furyk. I want to play with this guy.
So I have obviously Phil, Tiger, Furyk, and Stricker. Those guys have been on the ton of teams, and they'll be there this year, too. So they have a lot of the input on what we do.
Q. In the Presidents Cup two years ago, I think they won every match, including the singles. Then in the Ruder Cup they seemed to be very, very successful, and here are guys who are different style golfers.
FRED COUPLES: No, you've covered the basis with that answer, too. That's correct. You would never think. Now, two years ago the reason -- I've already said this 100 times -- the reason I paired Steve and Tiger, it's very hard to play with Tiger. The whole gallery is watching Tiger.
So Steve battled Tiger week for week for week in the -- what's it called? The FedExCup. Wow! I was thinking Charles Schwab because that's where everyone should be. We should be here.
In the FedExCup, I told Steve and he looked at me and said, wow, I would like that opportunity. And they won every match. But you would have to be an idiot. And I said Steve, you're not just playing him in best ball, you're playing with him in alternate shot and every match. Don't give me this, Well, if we don't...
And they had a blast. They both putt well and they both drive it and do this and that. So they won every match. They had an unbelievable win against Weir and Clarke, which turned the whole thing around. But that was done by Tiger and Steve.
This time Steve's not as healthy, but I still think they're confident and going to be a good team.
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