This from a guy who has finished 131st and 103rd on the money list in each of the last two years. (OK, the Winnie The Pooh reference is a little obtuse, but we'll get back to that shortly.)
Couples cruised (isn't that redundant?) to a three-shot victory Sunday in the Shell Houston Open at a brand new Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy design called Redstone Golf Club. The 43-year-old Couples hadn't won since the 1998 Memorial and many of us wondered if he ever would again. Now all of a sudden we can look forward to Couples being part of the scene for at least a little while longer.
He has always been as monstrously talented as he is wildly popular. The prospect of him playing on more Ryder and Presidents Cups teams is a delicious one. Much of this renaissance stems from a six-hour session on the range early in the week of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in early February. That's where Couples met with teacher Butch Harmon and swore he wanted to rededicate himself to golf. Harmon took Couples at his word, refused to coddle his ego and the two got down to brass tacks.
Couples finished 38th that week on the Monterey Peninsula. But the following week he managed a T13 at the Buick Invitational. Then a seventh in the Nissan Open at Riviera. And a 10th at the Players Championship. And a 13th at BellSouth.
Houston was a culmination. And now golf has another interesting storyline for 2003 to go with the four players - Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Davis Love III - who have won 11 tournaments between them already this season. Houston was Couples' 15th career victory. One of those (the 1992 Masters) is a major. He is closing in on Hall of Fame numbers.
Such a languid swing he possesses. Such prodigious distances he hits the ball.
And he hasn't really changed in his approach to fans or the media. A former PGA Tour media official once said interviewing Couples was like talking to Winnie The Pooh because Freddie would wander all over the place with his answers. It was really kind of delightful the way he would do it. And he was back at it again late Sunday after a victory achieved despite double-bogeying the seventh hole both Saturday and Sunday.
Somebody mentioned that they didn't know if he or the city of Houston was happier with his win.
'Well, we'll call it a tie,' Couples began. 'To be the first University of Houston guy to win is - I don't think it's any different for any of the rest of the guys. It's different for me, and what a school, what a great, great school to go to, and as I set out there, this was a great course. The Woodlands, I played all right, and I will end it with that and coming to Redstone, I loved this golf course from the start. My caddie is around here somewhere. We were laughing because we saw (Steve) Elkington talk about 20-under par may win here.
'I said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, right,' and four days later, there were a lot of guys under par, but I think that's - we didn't have much bend and the course dried up, but someday when they get a little bit more rough and they play, it will be phenomenal score-wise. It's a great golf course.
'I feel honored to win again. I played a very, very good round of golf, and there were some other guys doing a lot of work, and, you know, someone asked me if I watched the leaderboard, and I watch it all day, and it went up and it went down and then it went up again, then Calc (Mark Calcavecchia) went crazy, then (Hank) Kuehne went nuts then (Stuart) Appleby. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it. Just to finish strong and make some birdies and get a big cushion was a nice feeling.'
Enough said. Let the man play. Let the man ramble. Hope he comes back next week, next month and next year. Welcome back, Freddie.