Fred Couples talks about Augusta, Michael Jordan and The Presidents Cup

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As the 2011 Presidents Cup looms near, US Team captain Fred Couples took time out to answer questions posed by Aussie Golfer.
Everyone wants to swing a golf club like Fred Couples. Smooth, languid and relaxed, Couples’ golf swing is a thing of beauty that sends the golf ball a long way and earned him the nickname “Boom Boom”. His successful, if slightly under-achieving career had Couples win 14 PGA Tour events, including his 1992 US Masters victory.

Couples edged out Raymond Floyd by two shots at Augusta National in 1992, and included one of the most talked about moments in the history of the US Masters. On the final day, his golf ball did the impossible on the par-3 12th hole and stayed dry after coming up short. To this day no one can quite believe how it didn’t roll back into the water like every other golf ball. But it didn’t, and the rest is history.

Couples’ record in major golf tournaments is incredible. His 25 Top-10 finishes (eleven at Augusta National) puts to shame the other nickname he is often given, “Mr.Skins”, which refers to his success in the Skins format where he has earned over $3.5million in 11 appearances.
His much publicised back problems have possibly robbed the Seattle-born Couples of more tournament victories, if not a few more majors, and during the last decade he has had to deal with the suicide of his ex-wife and the death of his estranged wife due to breast cancer. It makes you wonder how he still manages to appear so laid back and at peace on the golf course.

The golf career of Fred Couples is far from finished. The enviable swing is still as fluid as ever and he finished 6th at the 2010 US Masters, 15th this year and has won five tournaments on the Champions Tour.
He is the captain of the US Team headed to Australia for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in November, the site of the only loss the US have had in this event. With this in mind (and with thanks to ECCO Golf Shoes) we’re stoked that Fred Couples was happy to answer a few questions about his love of Augusta National, the role of Michael Jordan at the Presidents Cup, and to give us his thoughts on how the US Team is shaping up.

Golf has given you a fair bit of personal refuge over the years. Where does it sit now in your life and how important is it for you to continue to compete?
I have often said that I am a golfer and I like playing and competing very much. Other than the back issues that I have had over the years, competing has always been very enjoyable to me. Now I am in a better place with my back, and I hope to be able to compete at the level that I have in the past, and that I can continue to play for some time to come.

You’ve previously said you don’t miss all the attention from golf and can easily go for weeks without touching a golf club. Given the frustration with your back problems, have you ever thought about giving the game away?

As I just said, I do love playing, but sure, at times the game can be frustrating. And for me, when my back was not good, my frustration level was even higher. However, now that I am feeling better, I am very optimistic about playing at a level where I am happy, and I hope to continue at this level.

You’ve said Augusta and Riviera are favourite courses of yours. Without naming any, are there any you really dislike and why?

Courses I really dislike? No, but there are obviously some courses that fit my eye better than others. This is the same for me as it is for everyone who plays.

What is it about Augusta that brings out your best? Does it suit your game particularly or do you have better knowledge of where to miss than most golfers?

Clearly, I have said many times that Augusta is one of my absolute favourite courses, along with Riviera. I have many years of playing experiences at Augusta, and that does give me, or any other player who has been at the Masters many times, tremendous knowledge based on your playing experience. Someone who is coming there to play for just the first or second time has not been in as many playing situations, and that can make it more challenging at times.  But I simply love Augusta.

Most people very clearly remember your tee shot on 12 at Augusta in 1992, the ‘hole-in-one’ for par at Sawgrass and even Seve Ballesteros fondly recounted the bunker shot you holed in the 1991 Ryder Cup. What shots do remember most fondly?

You have just picked out 3 of the most memorable shots in my career. It is impossible to understate the importance of that tee shot on the 12th hole at Augusta in 1992, as it lead to the biggest victory of my career.

Let’s move on to the Presidents Cup in Melbourne in November; There has been some talk about the potential lack of experience in the US Team for the President’s Cup in November. How concerned are you?

I am very happy with how the U.S. Team is shaping up for the Presidents Cup matches. There is a mix of veteran players with match experience, and also a group of great young players who are playing terrific golf and bring a lot of enthusiasm to the team. I like the combination of the two, and I think we will have a fantastic team.

I’d love to hear more thoughts on Rickie Fowler. Along with a few other young golf stars at the moment, he appears to have a great maturity about him.

You know, obviously Rickie is a very talented young golfer, but there are lots of younger stars coming up on Tour.  They all have great playing backgrounds, lots of tournament experience, and are mature and capable. Given all their playing experience in amateur and college golf before getting to the Tour, they play well fast, and they certainly have done well in a number of tournament weeks this year.

Michael Jordan is making his first ever trip to Australia, reprising his assistant captain’s role. What did he bring to the team in ’09 and why is he going to be important to have around?

Michael brings a number of positive things to the team, and it was absolutely awesome to have him there with us in 2009. Everyone loves being around Michael, and he was especially helpful in working with a couple of the younger players on the team. This year will probably be even more fun for us, and he’ll be even more comfortable with his role. I have confidence in his contribution to the team, and I know that the players are anxious to have him be part of the team again this year.

If a Presidents Cup tie was to be decided by 18 holes of matchplay between the team captain’s, do you think you could handle Greg? (back and shoulder injuries aside)

Well, that would be an interesting way to settle the matches. You know, Greg and I have both been playing for many years and we have competed together in more events that I can even count. We both have had great careers, and I think we would put on a great match together. It’s fun to think about, but maybe the best for both of us would be to see our team players settling the match instead of their captains.