Then came the divorce, and the bad back injury, and there was always this thing about being a little too lackadaisical. Couples became just another good golfer instead of THE golfer. Now 41, he's not all that interested in being No. 1. He has a wife and a couple of kids, and you can let the Tigers do all the winning they want to do, Fred has discovered there's something much more to life than thinking 300-yard drives all the time.
Anyway, it was quite interesting when Couples began to talk Tiger and The Great Tour Controversy. Fred once was in Tiger's position, and it wasn't that long ago.
He began his conversation as Freddy often does, by hemming and hawing and reversing himself at times. Couples does this because nothing is absolute with him. He can see both sides of an issue and everything is a shade of gray. But if you listen to Fred for about five minutes, you realize he really does have something to say. It may not make particularly good sense if you're trying to write down his remarks word for word, but when taken as a whole, his ideas are very good.
'I don't know the context of what he said, but if you look at it, he's benefiting also,' Freddy said of Mr. Woods. 'He can play the PGA Tour for nothing.'
The Tour has been quite heavy-handed with Tiger in the amount of money it charges conflicting events in which Woods plays. Maybe it's because the Tour knows any potential organizer will swallow hard and pay up, however many zeroes the Tour puts at the end of its demand. But Woods is tired of it. And Couples can understand.
'I'm not going to say he made a ridiculous statement and he's way out of line,' said Couples. 'He's bringing the Tour gravy. He's made every tournament he plays in a lot stronger and a lot better. .. but any comment the No. 1 player makes usually takes a beating.'
Tiger being No. 1 and the most influential athlete of any sport, Couples would like to jump ahead 15 years or so and see how this sermon affects the game when Woods is 40. 'I think we are benefiting from Tiger,' he said. 'If he were to say this when he were 40 (in the year 2016), 'Back in 2000, look at what we playing for and then I came along and made golf what it is today,'' that wouldn't be a bad statement,' said Couples.
Freddy led the Tour in earnings if '92 when $1,344,188 was all it took to do such a thing. This year Tiger made more than $9 million, and 33 players made more than Fred did while leading the Tour in '92. Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, Kirk Triplett, David Toms, Steve Flesch, Robert Allenby, Chris DiMarco, Franklin Langham, Steve Lowery . these are some of the guys who topped Freddy's 1992 output.
If tournaments were inflated to Tiger numbers, Couples would have won $5-6 million. As it develops, the $1.3 million he won in that magical year is just chump change now. At 41, he's past the age of winning regularly, but he can see right where the big money is coming from - from the exhaust of Eldrick T. Woods.
'This guy comes along and everyone says it's been ten-fold, what he's done for the PGA Tour,' says Couples. 'I would say that it's been about 10,000-fold. I can only tout the guy. I can't really say, 'Who does he think he is? He makes $80 million a year and he wants more?''
For the record, Fred Couples made $990,000 last year as a part-time, play-it-as-it-comes golfer. That's with NO wins and not really competing for one. The Woods spillover has definitely covered him. But one thing about the spillage - he makes no mistake where it's coming from.
'I hope people don't look at Tiger differently,' he says. 'He's looking out for himself, but he's also making a comment that's well-deserved. I don't think there's a player that would look back and say that if he got $500,000 for a tournament he played in, no one would bat an eye.
'I wish every tournament I played in, Tiger was playing. I look at that comment as not that big a deal to me.'
What do you think of Tiger's Comments? Do you agree with Freddie? Share your thoughts!