At my age I had a nice summer, but I was still a little shocked that he chose me, said a doubting Freddie, aware that Nicklaus had to go down to the 18th position on the qualification list.
But I'm thrilled to be on the team and to play with those guys for maybe one last time.
In the world rankings, Couples is No. 18, but the eighth highest American. That is a telling statistic. But there was another reason why Nicklaus chose him.
He had done well at RTJ (the Presidents Cup course), he had played well this year, he had been telling me all year long that he really wants to make the team, said Nicklaus. And when a guy tells you - it's like Fred Funk did a year ago. Fred (Funk) told me, I'll row to Africa. I want to be on that team and I want to get there. When a guy is that enthusiastic - I said I don't really care what 12 guys I have, I just want 12 guys that want to play.
And Couples REALLY wants to play.
I am totally tickled pink, said Fred. This will be a big boost because a few months ago I decided to start playing, just to play and see if I could still put a little effort into it and practice more.
Couples has a debilitating back condition, and largely because of that he has some low finishes the last few years. He finished as low as 131st on the money list in 2001. But he now has a back brace, which has greatly alleviated the problem. And this year he played well on the really difficult courses ' finishing second at Nicklaus Memorial, tying for third in the British Open and tying for eighth at Bay Hill. Plus 'a tie for 15th at the U.S. Open. Obviously, Jack took notice.
If Freddie has been held back by any one facet of his game, its putting. His ailing back wont permit him to practice the rollers for hour after hour. Consequently, hes 168th on the tour in putting.
But hes won nearly $1.5 million this year, which is 31st on the money list.
I think putting in an effort and practicing and playing a couple more times (is the reason), he said. You know, I just got so used to, when I was younger, playing 16 or 17 events. But I practiced a little more (in those years) and I was able to really bounce back quicker.
I don't have that in me anymore. I try all kinds of ideas, and this year was more, when I was home, just to go hit a bucket of balls and just keep swinging and where I could feel a little better. Then when I played, I've been driving the ball very, very well.
The short game has been the killer. It requires much more practice time, and Couples just hasnt had the physical capabilities to practice very long.
I was laughing because I was telling Justin the other day that at Pinehurst and the British Open, I very rarely chipped, said Freddie. They had everything shaved. So my chipping is horrendous. I was hoping they'd shave everything at Baltusrol, too. It would have been a big factor. But that's what's killing me.
One reason Couples says he is such a master of the skins games each November is because it doesnt require much of an attention span. He says he has trouble focusing for four days. But in the team matches, that isnt necessary. Concentrate for one match, then when it is over, wipe the sheet clean and focus in on the next one.
And you can never tell what will happen in the future. Freddie says that in January or February, he had absolutely no idea that here in August hed be selected for the Presidents Cup.
I was way out of it, said Freddie, and I played well in the summer. And I think that certainly helps, to be playing better right before the picks are chosen.
One of the best things was I played with Jack in a practice round at Memorial and then I played with him at the British Open. And he just said, 'Have a good week,' and I did, and maybe that was a little bit of a boost.
So to be on this team I just waited and felt great when Jack called.
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