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Couples Continues to Amaze at Masters
Fred Couples showed once again why he has such an affinity for Augusta National Golf Club. The 51-year-old, last year's Rookie of the Year on the over-50 Champions Tour, carded a 4-under 68 Friday.
Paired with his opening 71 Thursday, the Seattle native stands at 5-under 139, five strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.
In firing a 68 Couples set the new mark for the lowest round in Masters' history for a player 50 or older. The 1992 champion also dropped a couple of percentage points in his all-time mark for the lowest average score by any player with more than 100 rounds in the tournament.
On Thursday, Couples complained that his chronic bad back was acting up. But you wouldn't know it Friday as he had five birdies and a lone bogey in his second round. After signing his scorecard, Couples sat down with reporters and provided a health update as well as an explanation for why he loves Augusta National so much. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: Let me welcome 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples to the interview room. Fred, phenomenal round today, 4-under par 68. I'm sure everyone is eager to ask you about the round, so let me open it up to any questions.
Q. We all know your back is not always in great shape, and it's hard for you to play four rounds of golf, but how was it today, and are you surprised that it held up and what is it looking like for the weekend?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I feel good enough to play. You know, I took some shots last week at Houston and they were supposed to start to take effect maybe Saturday or Sunday there. It was kind of so-so. You know, I'm swinging. Since October, it's been pretty much a toothache, which is unnormal for me. It hasn't changed much. But I feel loose. It's just every now and then, you know, some of these shots I hit today with these downhill lies, on No. 7 and 9 and 10. I have to be honest, is when I make contact and looked where they were going, it was, big smile, because those were the three best shots hit all day and that's the biggest problem, is when I have a downhill lie.
But those were key shots. I did birdie seven, and on nine had a close putt for birdie and on 10 I hit a great shot. That's what I have to do. Those are why the rounds keep going. I would like to say it's easy to hit these shots, but again, I got it around for two days. I made a few birdies today, which I didn't yesterday. And I'm in a great spot to come out tomorrow. I'll have no problem playing Saturday and Sunday. Just it's very awkward to play golf when it's more painful. I've had a bad back for a long time, but the pain is not a whole lot of fun.
Q. You said yesterday with your back that it's kind of hard for you going around this course and hit shot after shot after shot; how did you plod your way around today and how did it result in a 68?
FRED COUPLES: Yesterday I hit the ball very solid and today I hit it just a little bit better. I would say playing four or three hours earlier in the morning, the course was -- I hate to use the word, a little easier than playing at two o'clock or one o'clock. Here, I would be playing even as a cripple, I love this place. (Laughter) I shouldn't say that; as a guy with a horrible back, I would get it around. I did it a couple of years and I just love playing here. To be honest with you, I feel like as long as I have -- at Houston and here, I'll finish. At Houston, I shot four fairly consistent rounds, which meant nothing, except to me, and I knew that I could last and play well. Then coming here was my main goal. I'm in great shape. Really all I can tell you is I'll come out tomorrow and try and shoot the best I can.
Q. Phil used the word reenergized to describe how he feels coming back; how would you describe it -
FRED COUPLES: Well I'm not reenergized (laughter) but I wait the whole year to come and play here. This is my favorite event. I've had great luck here. Had a couple other chances to win that I didn't. And I hope to play, you know, several more years. Last year was a phenomenal year, and this year is looking the same way no matter what happens. But I hate saying no matter what happens, because that's a bad excuse when you don't do well, because I'm definitely looking forward to playing tomorrow. But I just get -- you know, I think the excitement is there for everybody. But for me, it's just a place where I feel very good about playing. You know, it's a playground for Phil. We played a practice round and we were paired the one year he won. This is a playground and he has a great imagination, so when he gets in these places, he gets very excited to have these difficult shots (laughter).
Whereas for me, I get excited when those difficult shots are over and I've kept it somewhere out of a creek or somewhere else. But I enjoyed playing with him on Wednesday; I can tell you that, because he reeks confidence and electricity for this place. And that's no doubt. And there are some other guys that do it, too. They just haven't won it three times. I think that's what helps him get through. I have no idea what he's shooting today, but you know, he loves it here, as I do.
Q. You made five birdies today, can you summarize those and tell us what clubs you hit?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I birdied the second hole. I got it right down in front of the green and pitched it up over the bunker to about a foot. Then the 4th hole, they had the tee down and I hit a 7-iron to about 15 feet and made it. On 7, I hit a 9-iron about six feet and made it. Then on 12, I hit an 8-iron 15 feet -- is that it? Then bogeyed 16. I hit a pretty good shot, as everyone does, and it trickled down and I misread the putt up the hill and I hit it about, I don't know, six feet right of the hole and missed that for par. 15, yeah, I went for the green in two. Hit it where I wanted to in the bunker, and it caught the lip of the bunker and scurried through up onto the fringe and I 2-putted from about 50 feet. But I did make about a ten or 12 putter.
Q. Can you pull a Jack 1986 here?
FRED COUPLES: Six years ago maybe. (Laughter). You know, I mean, could I win? Of course. Am I looking forward to playing tomorrow? Yeah, you'd better believe it. So realistically, I figure I have to get somewhere, nine more birdies without many bogeys. I mean, 14-under; so today was a great round to make it a thrill-seeking Saturday for me. But can I still win? This would be the only Tour event that I probably could still win. Riviera I had a great shot, and that's probably the No. 2. But yeah, I think I can go out tomorrow and shoot a very good score, and then I'd have to do something crazy on Sunday, also.
Q. Why here?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I think that just I've played so many times. The course sets up very well. I still have a lot of length. But I know the course more than most people, and it helps.
Q. What do you think the main reason someone your age has never won this tournament?
FRED COUPLES: First of all, there aren't that many. (Laughter) When Nicklaus was 46, to me, that didn't seem to be unbelievable. Watson at whatever age, 59 at the British Open, would have been totally unbelievable. But I think when you're 50, 51, I mean, besides -- I don't even know who else besides myself, name I should know, but are there any other guys that are 50 to 55 that could win?
Q. Lehman. Is it a physical thing you think at this age?
FRED COUPLES: I just think the odds are against a 22-year-old winning. I mean, I'm not being smart, but a 22-year-old that comes out here, there might be two of them. You know, in the whole many years I've been playing, there have been some phenomenal rounds. I mean, I remember talking about a round Tommy Aaron shot 70 or 71 when he was late 50s. But to do all of this for four rounds is a huge feat. I just hit the ball fairly long, so it gives me an advantage. But like someone said, Ray Floyd; I don't know how old he was when I beat him in '92. I'm not smart enough to figure out how old he would have been.
FRED COUPLES: Still, I'm glad I won. I'm glad he's not the oldest winner of this thing. (Laughter). Just, there aren't many chances. So that's why.
Q. If Jack's was unbelievable, what would this be if you did it?
FRED COUPLES: Retiring, is what it would be. (Laughter) I would be gone. You know, it would be the biggest upset in it golf history. So, sure -- are you kidding? (Laughter).
Q. How did it feel to make that putt on 18 and to get the ovation heading into the weekend?
FRED COUPLES: Well, it was good to make that putt. You know, I played a very good round of golf, and I put it what I thought was on the good side, if I missed the green to the left. I wanted to put it up in the fringe and have it come back down much closer, but I thought I could hit a little better putt. And to make that putt was a good feeling. I hit the ball very well, five birdies and a bogey, so I'm glad to be done. I'll go home and get some rest.
Q. How's the back?
FRED COUPLES: You know, the back is okay. You know, not much different. I'm very sore and stiff, but I have a late tee time tomorrow. I'll get a lot of rest between now and then, and I've got two more days.
Q. What does it mean to you to be in contention and not just be here?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, well, I don't know when that day is going to come when I'll just be out here, but when it does then I'll have to figure out why I'm still out here playing at Augusta, even though you want to play for a long time. But for me personally, everyone loves the course. I'm the same. It's my favorite tournament. But it's a good golf course for the way I hit the ball. There aren't many of those around, but I score well. You know, so I'm not -- even though I'm not feeling that great coming into this thing, I still feel like I can shoot some good scores on this course. Yesterday was 71, and if I would have shot a 71 or a 72 today, that would have been great, also, but instead I played a little better and shot 4-under.
Q. How is it that experience translates into being able to play this particular golf course?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, I've played it probably 200 times. I'd like to say I know where not to hit a lot of them, but it's not uncommon to play around the hole and expect to get it up-and-down from off the green. You know, in two rounds I've played, I've had three bogeys, and they've been three-putts. But I did get it up-and-down a few times, and I've been on this side on the fringe with a long putt where I've two-putted from 60 or 40 or 50 feet. So those are my goals. Sometimes I don't hit them where I want to hit them, but like I was playing with Steve Stricker, and he goes, man, you just know every spot to hit it. I really don't know every spot to hit it, but I know where you don't want to hit it. And for two days and last year I did that a lot, and then there are times you've got to pull off a shot, and that's when you look at yourself and say, you just made birdie, or you might hit it in the creek and make bogey. And those are when you take your chances. For me so far I haven't taken many chances. Maybe on the 15th I went for the green with a 3-wood, kind of got lucky, it skirted out of the bunker and I two-putted from a long way. But I just like the course. That always helps.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.