A Sit Down with the Captain


I feel like I really dont know anything about the game.'-- Fred Couples
It seems as though Freddie Couples, 48, has it all; matinee idol good looks, a game that has earned him 15 PGA TOUR wins, including the 1992 Masters, loads of money ($3.5 million won in the Skins Game alone!), two PGA TOUR Player of the Year awards, and now the captaincy of the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Because of his easygoing nature and liquid smooth swing, fans think Couples never gets flustered or uptight. In fact, says his best friend Davis Love III, Freddie is one of the tensest players on TOUR. He just keeps it inside and always handles himself with class and distinction.
I had a chance to sit down with Freddie and find out a little about whats going on with him these days.
Matt Adams: How are you feeling ?
Fred Couples: I am doing OK. I practiced a little bit in Vegas and worked with Butch (Harmon) a couple of times. I played about eight rounds of golf at Shadow Creek, had a few money games and got the heart rate going. I felt pretty good going into the season.
MA: Its not the heart rate going that people are constantly talking to you about; its your back, of course. How is your back feeling and how do you feel that it is going to hold up?
FC: I feel better, so knock on wood. Im OK. But, you know, anything can happen. I can hurt it getting out of the car or picking up my golf clubs or whatever. But as far as swinging it actually feels pretty good.
MA: What are doctors telling you about your back? Why does it flare up and lock up, as you said?
FC: We talked about surgery but I said no. Im trying to do a couple of simple things and not do too much. But basically I would say its like a 75-year-old persons back. Im on my way to hopefully go in the other direction. Ive been working with Tom Borris for so many years that it got to the point that he was frustrated. Then I met a guy in Waco (Texas) who worked on it a couple of times. Hed loosen it up and then Id get back to the other stuff with Tom. I think I will be able to play for at least a few more years.
MA: You mention that youre working with Butch Harmon. Is there anything that hes doing with your swing to take some of the stress off your lower back?
FC: Yeah, but it is very difficult to do. Butch is just an incredible teacher. I feel like I really dont know anything about the game. I dont really understand some of the stuff hes telling me, however he wants me to try moving more like a David Duval finish or Anika Sorenstam. Ive seen it on video. I certainly cant do what they do, but thats the feeling Im trying to get so that my spine will kind of go with my finish. Thats where Butch is very good. He knows how to take stress off without ruining your swing and I actually felt like I was doing it and I felt pretty good. As far as the swing its always the same. Ive got to shorten it and tighten it. It helps me hit the ball crisper and obviously with a little more accuracy.
MA: Looking at your bio, your first victory on the PGA TOUR, brace yourself, was at 1983 Kemper Open.
FC: Were you born yet, Matt?
MA: Yes , I was born, I remember it. Its clich to say its not much more than yesterday, but does it feel like it?
FC: No. It feels like a long time ago. And the more I hear people talk about the 1992 Masters I keep thinking that was 16 years ago! Im actually more of a guy who looks at other guys and what theyre doing. I dont look too far in the past. I enjoy when people come up and say I like the way you play. Even last weekend when I was in Vegas, there were a couple guys that claimed they were at the Kemper Open in 1983, which was 24 years ago, and it just sounds funny.
MA: What are your goals in 2008?
FC: One of my goals is to play better than I have. I still believe I can play and Ive said this my whole life, otherwise I wouldnt do it. And now I want to be consistent. And when I get up there on the leaderboard be able to play on Sunday and see if I can win again. Anyone out there, whether youre a young kid who just got on TOUR, you want to see if you can win. Or, if youre an old guy like me, you want to see if you can still win. The odds are well against me. But I know I still can play and I hope to play better this year.
MA: How exciting is it to be named the captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team?
FC: Not in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen. I think I'll do a great job, and I'll certainly have a great time. The Presidents Cup is a treat to play in, and it will be doubly to captain the thing. As close as I am to these guys, I feel like I'll have fun with all of them, whether they're 50th in the rankings or first. I think it's a great time in my life to be able to take the U.S. team to San Francisco and go against Greg (Norman), who I played a lot of golf with and admire what he does. It's just going to be fabulous.
MA: Any plans on how you will approach the event?
FC: I don't expect guys to sit around and listen to me at night. But we're going to be playing and doing things, ping-pong and fighting and wrestling each other and getting rid of some of the tenseness before the morning starts.
MA: Good luck this year and with the Presidents Cup, Freddie.
FC: Thanks, Matt
Copyright 2008 Matthew E. Adams Fairways of Life
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Editor's Note: Matt Adams is a golf journalist, best-selling author (Chicken Soup for the Soul, Fairways of Life), golf course general manager and the host of the Fairways of Life Show on the PGA TOUR Network and does on course play by play for their live coverage of the PGA TOUR. To view Matt's books or sign up for his 'Golf Wisdom Newsletter,'go to www.FairwaysofLife.com.