Fred Couples earned his 7th career win on the Champions Tour on Sunday in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. After playing in the Shell Houston Open on the PGA TOUR this week, the 1992 Masters Champion will return to Augusta National where he has finished in the top 15 in each of the last two years.
Physically, he feels very good and while he knows everyone is sick of hearing him talk about it, the fact is he is feeling great right now. The hardest thing about last week was the long hours and having to wake up very early in the morning. Saturday he did not feel too good and was fortunate to be able to start and finish early.
You try to give yourself chances to win and when you get in those positions, you begin to think to yourself that you are going to be able to close out a win. He began to struggle at 15 on Sunday and by the time he got to 18 he was tied for the lead. Last week, his misses were to the right and he hit it there on 18 but fortunately right was not a bad place to be. From there he was able to hit a good shot to the green and make the putt to win.
He has spoken to both Joe LaCava and Tiger Woods since the win at Bay Hill on Sunday. After joking that LaCava probably did not make much money because of Tiger’s cheapness as that has been in the news lately, he stated seriously that both of them are doing very well and he is happy to see LaCava doing as well as he is on Tiger’s bag.
While he has played well in Houston in the past and won there in 2003, he does not feel optimistic about his chances to win this week. The tournament does a great job of setting up the course and as he attended the University of Houston, he always enjoys playing the annual tournament there. Some people use Houston to prepare for The Masters while others do not but for those that do, it is a good place to prepare if the weather is good.
At the Champions Dinner at Augusta National, in the past he has sat next to Raymond Floyd who played a practical joke on him when he hosted in 1993. Now, he sits next to Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson. No matter how many years you attend that dinner, it never stops being a very special and unique evening. As he gets older, he does not go to a lot of dinners but this is one that he will never miss. It is a laid back atmosphere at the Champions Dinner and every year it is a chance to tell stories of the Champions who are no longer with us and create new memories.
Last year, he played no matter how his back was feeling and he actually played very well but he could not sleep. After the Birmingham tournament last year, he finally decided that he needed to do something. He asked around and found out about Peter Wehling in Germany. Hank Kuehne had been to Germany to see him and was raving about the results. Couples went there and after the procedure felt as good as he has ever felt. While his back was not cured, he felt much, much better. He knows that Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have been there and he has personally recommended 8-10 other people. When he went there, he had a very, very high level of inflammation in his back and now it is much better.