At the National Junior PGA Championship in 1991 Couch was headed into the fourth round with a one-shot lead. That night in his hotel room he watched the local news where the favorite, a young man named Tiger Woods, was interviewed. The reporter asked Tiger what he thought he needed to win. Tiger said if he shot even par he would easily take the tournament. That got me fired up, says Couch. So Tiger shot his even par and I shot a 63. Its a good story.
Yet Couchs career has been anything but consistent. Known as a streaky player, the last 10 years have been marked by dramatic peaks and valleys. Couch recorded a tie for seventh on the PGA Tour at the 1999 Sony Open in Hawaii, a career best, but failed to keep his card. He hit a mental low the next year on the Nationwide and was ready to hang up his clubs. I was tired of traveling, I was tired of playing bad, says Couch, who by then had a young family.
He went straight to the head pro at Gainesville Country Club, Cary Splane, who also happens to be a good friend, and he asked for a job. Stlane said, I would love to have you, but I wont have you. Youre too good, you cant quit. Three months later Couch entered the Nationwide's season-opening Florida Classic under a sponsors exemption and won the tournament. He took home his first career victory and got his status back on the Nationwide Tour. Its an ongoing joke with us now, says Couch. Every time I call him, he says he has a job opening for me.
There was yet another time in his career that Couch nearly gave up. He had run out of money mid-season in 2003 and borrowed $3,000 from PGA Tour member Brenden Pappas to continue playing. I gave myself three weeks, says Couch. The first week I finished 25th, the second week I finish seconnd, and the third in Knoxville I finished fifth. I was able to pay him back and since then Ive been in pretty good shape. More than good shape.
Indeed, Couch finds himself on top again with his recent success at the Cialis Western Open, where he held the 36-hole lead and won almost as much money with that tournament and his LaSalle Bank Open win combined, than he did all last year. He is now poised to take back the No. 1 spot on the Nationwide Tour money list and with one more win, a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour.
Now 6 feet 4 inches and 225 pounds, Couch has the athletic demeanor of a star baseball pitcher and an easy confidence. He feels hes more ready than ever to play at the PGA Tour level, and is now a better player than hes ever been.
A lot of it has to do with attitude change, says Couch. Ive been working on focus, relaxation, breathing and being positive. A lot of it is mental, being out there with all the oohs and aahs. Hes also been working on his swing by carefully studying the swings of Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Annika Sorenstam and his old nemesis, Tiger Woods. Els has the same type of body as me, the same position at the ball, I try to get close to his swing. says Couch.
And its been hard to miss the wacky cross-handed grip he whipped out at the John Deere Classic last July. Couch says that he was hitting it so bad inside 80 yards and out of the bunker that his coach had him try the cross-hand as a drill to hit shallow through the ball. It stuck.
The hardest part about it is not worrying about what people think, says Couch, They make a lot of comments that I must be nervous or something. But Im not worrying about those comments, it works for me.
Youve got to have a lot of guts to throw that in play, confirms Jeff Gove, whos also bounced back and forth from the PGA Tour to the Nationwide Tour, His game has really improved, hes also been using the long putter and its worked for him really well.
Fellow Nationwide Tour player Scott Peterson, whos played with Couch for five years, says hes not surprised about Couchs performance. I think whats a bigger shock is that he hasnt done better on the PGA tour, says Peterson. Theres a misconception about Chris that he doesnt take it seriously, but hes all business on the golf course.
Above all, Couch is a competitor. Im very fierce. I definitely want to beat everybody and win. But at the same time, I want to be nice, laughs Couch, But I want to be a lion and attack, he quickly adds.
Couch has the utmost respect for his toughest competitor Troy Matteson (Read - Matteson Calculating His Way to the PGA Tour) who stole the top spot on the money list from him last week when Couch was at the Cialis Western Open. Hes played the most consistent of anyone on tour, says Couch. My hats off to him. I hope we have a fun chase this year.
After all, this fierce lion has his priorities in order. His favorite thing is to play with his two kids, Christian and Cayden, who travel with him to many of his tournaments. Asked if hes going to push them to play golf, he replies, If they want to, its great, but golf is a frustrating game. There is no one to rely on but yourself, mentally and physically.
'It would be easier just to be a doctor, he smiles.
Chris Couch's Bio
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