Freddie Returns From Life in Suburbia

By George WhiteApril 28, 2003, 4:00 pm
Fred Couples won again, proving that nothing in life is sure-fire, dead-set, for-certain.
 
We all thought Fred was content to live the life of the suburban gentleman, doing what most middle-aged gents do when they advance into their 40s enjoy the wife and kids, enjoy the California thing of driving the mini-van to the kids soccer practices, live life a little slower while raking in the fruits of all thse W's in years gone by.
 
What a surprise, then, that Mr. Couples would win again, long after he was presumed to have put it in coast. The kids have gotten older, wife Thais has gotten used to seeing him lounge around on the couch, the sitcoms have all been memorized. Perhaps he has had plenty of time to reflect back on 1991 and 92 when he won five times worldwide in a six-month period. Hmmm, that wasnt too bad maybe Ill do it again
 
Freddie is 43 now, and its entirely fitting that he wins again this year. Its the year of the elders ' around the top of the leaderboard Sunday in Houston were Couples (43), Mark Calcavecchia (43), Jay Haas (49), Jeff Maggert (39), Peter Jacobsen (49) graybeards all. The kids have had the door slammed in their faces this year. Old is in, youth is out.
 
In all honesty, Couples has had a rocky road this past decade. Hes had a terrible back. He had some serious personal problems with a failed past marriage and a tragic end to his ex-wife. He had another failed romance. Both parents have passed away.
 
Such difficulties would have consigned far lesser people to a life in the easy chair. To his credit, Freddie worked past them all, capped by his journey all the way back to one glorious Sunday in Houston.
 
He last won in 1998. In 99, he still had six top-10 finishes. In 2000, that number was down to five. In 2001 he struggled along with his high finish a tie for 11th and he was 131st on the money list. In 2002 he had a tie for ninth and a tie for second, but he was 103rd in money. And he had dropped all the way to 157th on the World Rankings.
 
That was when Couples said enough. He went to see Butch Harmon in Las Vegas this year during the AT&T Pebble Beach in February. The next week, at San Diego, he finished in a tie for 13th. One week later, at LA, he finished seventh. He was 10th at the Players Championship. Then, finally, he broke through in Houston once again.
 
It was different, Couples said of that first visit to Harmon, hitting balls with a 9-iron and having him say your swing is pretty bad with a 9-iron. As we went to an 8 and then a 7, it didnt get a whole lot better that day. But I started to catch on a little bit
 
Freddie talks in stream-of-consciousness style, and he finished the sentence with several clauses and prepositional phrases. But you understand what he meant ' he couldnt even hit a short-iron correctly when he went to see Butch. Slowly, however, he began to come around.
 
Everyone knows that he really wasnt caught up with the whole golf thing when he was winning all those tournaments the first half of the 90s. He enjoyed lots of sports, but he himself was really a reluctant golf star. He was short with autograph seekers, just couldnt see himself as the idol of grown men and women. Many of his peers believe that is why he never quite became the best, simply because he just couldnt tolerate the demands of stardom.
 
Now, though, hes ready to tackle it again.
 
I appreciate golf a lot more than I did, he says. I have more fun playing than in the 80s and 90s. There is no doubt.
 
It's a simple answer - when I played really, really well, I expected to play well. I wanted to win, I won enough. I didn't win a lot, but I won enough (14 times) and seemed to win a few times. But you know, now, I didn't have any goal when I was trying to change this thought process of working with somebody different than Paul (Marchand, his former coach.)
 
But what happened with Butch is that I knew if I went there, I would continue to go because I didn't want to shame him into working with me two or three times and then - you know - say, Thanks, and I feel better and bye. I want to work with him a lot. And I used to do that with Paul. I had great, great, great success, so the triumphant part of it is that I know I can play.
 
The jaw-dropping moment in golf this year came in the post-game interview, when Fred broke down in the television interview and couldnt continue. Fred Couples ' crying on television ' at a golf tournament? Slowly, the importance of the moment on Couples began to sink in to the television audience.
 
I saw (interviewer) Peter Kostis come up. I mumbled a couple of things; then basically wanted to get the hell out of there. I needed to regroup a little bit, said Couples.
 
As I told (writer) Melanie (Hauser), it's fun to win, but, you know, it's different. I haven't won in five years. I haven't played really well in five years. And I worked hard on my game, and it meshed. And to win, it's a great bonus for Joey (caddie LaCava) and myself and my wife and his family. But, you know, I have a lot of people to thank. That's kind what was going through my mind. Didn't get it out very well.
 
In truth, not many people who were present Sunday know this Fred Couples. Where hes been the past five years, not many people want to go there. But Sunday he showed that he still has the desire. And hes willing to do the hard work. Maybe theres hope for him, after all.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the Shell Houston Open
  • Bio - Fred Couples
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