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Couples to Tee it up Again with the Flat-Bellies
This week Fred Couples will be making his 32nd appearance in the Northern Trust Open. Originally called the Los Angeles Open and later the Nissan Open, the tournament is played annually at one of Couples' favorite courses, Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Though he's only won the event twice, in 1990 and 1992 - the same year he secured his only major title, the Masters, Couples is a regular contestant because of his fondness for the golf course and the tournament.
"I liked it from the get go back in 1981 when it started and it's just a peaceful spot," the 54-year-old Seattle native told reporters on Wednesday. "I used to live at another house close to here and moved away, and came back. You know, there are great courses that people like and there are some that don't, and I don't know why anyone would not like this course.
"It's just the perfect layout. It's very fair. It's going to be, what, 80 degrees here this week. So it's nice to be out in warm weather. A lot of people are going to come out. It's a great event. Northern Trust has done a great job and I think this is their seventh or eighth year and the tournament has gotten much better than it has in years before."
This is one of the few appearances Couples makes on the PGA Tour, and Riviera is among the handful of courses worldwide where Couples can compete head-to-head with the PGA Tour's finest. The other is Augusta National, where Couples seems to annually threaten to win another green jacket, even though he's past his prime.
Couples will be paired in the opening round Thursday with Keegan Bradley and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. Couples was stunned to learn that his win in the Masters came before Spieth was born. "Wow," he said.
"He's 20. I'm 54," he added. "This is going to be a blast. He's one of my favorites. He walked into that Presidents Cup and he owned the place."
During his conversation with the media on the eve of the 2014 Northern Trust Open, Couples touched on a variety of subjects, including his successful run as the captain of three straight U.S. Presidents Cup teams and his introduction to Spieth. Here's what he had to say during the Q&A.
Q: Your thoughts on competing here for the 32nd year?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I have to thank Northern Trust for giving me a spot. I'm lucky, this is my favorite tournament, and I've played a lot of times, won a couple times. But to help the tournament and Northern Trust, I'm grateful, and eventually I won't play in this and I'll watch the tournament as much as I can, I live a mile from here. But right now, I played well here this morning, and I've played well here this morning. My goal is to try to hang with these guys. I have a great pairing tomorrow with Jordan and Webb Simpson so it's very exciting for me with that pairing, so we'll see what happens.
Q. When did you move to live a mile away?
FRED COUPLES: A few years ago. I have a bunch of friends coming out and a bunch of people staying with me. The same 20 people will be out here watching.
Q. Did you always like the area?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, I liked it from the get go back in 1981 when it started and it's just a peaceful spot. I used to live at another house close to here and moved away, and came back. You know, there are great courses that people like and there are some that don't, and I don't know why anyone would not like this course. It's just the perfect layout. It's very fair. It's going to be, what, 80 degrees here this week.
So it's nice to be out in warm weather. A lot of people are going to come out. It's a great event. Northern Trust have done a great job and I think this is their seventh or eighth year and the tournament has gotten much better than it has in years before.
Q. How much do you hope to play?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I have to keep playing well, and well might be a Top 30 finish it. I have a bet with a friend of mine, and if I can do that - I don't like that pressure, I'd like to worry about winning if I play really well. But I do expect to play well, I really do. It's my favorite course, I still hit the ball pretty far and I seem to be putting well. But the greens are much faster than I'm used to, so that becomes a little bit of an issue. It just takes time to get used to greens that are rolling fast and I haven't played much this year. Really I expect to play well. What that is, it could be missing a cut by one or two.
Q. How did it come about you coming here?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I would ask them - if they said no, I would wait two months. It's my favorite event. I've said that many times now, but I think Justin Rose, he's injured, and he's playing, and Keegan Bradley and Jimmy Walker, those guys are guys that will usually play in this, but it's always great to see Phil, who is not here because of something he's doing, but he'll play several years. My goal is just to help them out, help the tournament every year.
FRED COUPLES: You know, probably not, because I started late and I made a few calls and texted and they said they were playing.
Q. And a buddy named Tiger -
FRED COUPLES: Well, some day. He would be a guy that I think could maybe come here, but you know, that's a different thing, and probably Phil, too. Phil didn't play here much. I'm going to ask them both some day but Phil has won here a couple of times recently, and he has a family outing he's doing and wishes he was here, but he'll be back.
Q. Is the scheduling a factor?
FRED COUPLES: Well, if you look at the field, I just got a Presidents Cup, and I think there's 19 of the 24 guys this played in The Presidents Cup are here, and the reason I know that is I told the guy, well, look - I've been waiting for a few months and he said most of them are here and I started going over it and most of them are here. So it is a very strong field. But with no Phil or Tiger, it's not the best, but there are a bunch of foreign players who are playing before next week's match play, they are out here. I looked at it and it's a very, very strong field.
Q. Can you just address Raymond Floyd being selected as a vice captain by Tom Watson and Floyd's influence on you?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I texted him congratulations and he texted right back. I'm very excited about it. I don't know the year, but he was with Azinger, was he not, when they won? He to me has the right - everyone says the steely eye, but he's also kind of a mild, good guy in the locker room. He's going to tell you the right things, and not that no one else is or Curtis Strange or Davis Love won't. He was a mentor a long time ago, because he taught me the goal was to shave a shot off. We sat down one night and he said, "Just cut one shot off every round you play." And I said, "How would you do that, by making another 5 foot putt somewhere?"
He said, "No, that's not what I see. I think you need to play the par-5 the differently," and I started listening to that and I started playing a little smarter and I started to cut off some shots that had nothing to do with making 5 foot putts because that's just part of playing golf. But the mental part of butchering par-5s, because I didn't hit a good drive, that was killing me. That's really one of the things I got, and we became friends and loved his wife to death and his kids and all that when they were younger and we just hung out. But to see him being chosen by Tom Watson, that's a great choice.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.