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Couples Back on PGA Tour this Week & Next


Last week's winner on the over-50 Champions Tour, Fred Couples has rejoined the flat-bellies for the Houston Open. The $6 million PGA Tour event began Thursday on the Tournament course at Redstone Golf Club.

The 52-year-old Seattle native will also go against the (mostly) youngsters in the Masters, which starts April 5th. Couples has had success in both tournaments, with his last win on the PGA Tour coming in the 2003 Houston Open and his only major title in the 1992 Masters when he beat Raymond Floyd by two strokes.

Couples has a particular affinity for the latter tournament, where he's played all but two years since 1983 and has accrued 11 top-10 finishes, with his most recent in 2010 when he ended up in sixth.

Couples, who won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on Sunday with a birdie on the final hole, will be playing the first round of the Houston Open with a couple of other gentlemen who own green jackets, three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and 2011 winner Charl Schwarzel. The trio will be teeing off Thursday at 12:40 p.m. local time.

On Wednesday, Couples, the captain of the victorious 2011 U.S. Presidents Cup team who attended the University of Houston, met with reporters and discussed the state of his game and chances for another win, either this week or next. Here's what he had to say.

Q. How are you doing? Obviously playing pretty well coming off the win in Mississippi?

FRED COUPLES: Now I'm with the big boys and I played at L.A. and missed the cut. Went to school here, so I'm very excited to be here. A good week, I think, for all of us to play, and it's certainly not Augusta National, but they do their best to make you feel like you're there. That's pretty much at my age why I'm here. They gave me a spot to come play. I know a lot of people here. I won here so long ago, it doesn't even feel like bringing it up, it was on the other course, too. I hope the weather stays good and we all have a good time, and for me personally it's nice to play well here and head to Augusta.

Q. Last won in 2003. You always played well here.

FRED COUPLES: I finished third and fourth back to back a few years ago. I went to Augusta, maybe missed the cut the one year playing what I thought was really well, and it was the only time I ever missed the cut there. I mean, leading away from that, really it's a good course for guys to picture shots. You know, you try and cut a few tee shots, you try to draw a few. It's a very long course. Got a lot of water, lot of holes you can have a disaster on, too. So for me, I try to stay away from the big scores and try and make enough birdies. But, you know, last year I finished way down there, but it was nice the play on the weekend.

Q. What has the whole Champions Tour experience been like for you?

FRED COUPLES: I mean, it's a perfect spot for me to play and all of us. I don't know if Tom Pernice is playing here. I played with him last week on Saturday, and he played very well and he has got his Tour card so he can play every week he wants. It's nice for him to be out here and not on the Champions Tour, it's one less guy to worry about. The whole thing out there is, you know, you start to play very, very good golf, you have to putt well and do a lot of things. The same here. Course isn't nearly as hard. That's obvious. I think the players, when you get down to Saturday and Sunday, they still play very well and they know how to win.

And, you know, I didn't show up last week on Sunday for 14 holes. I thought, you know, I was going to win easily, and all of a sudden I bogeyed a par-5 from 230 yards in the middle of the fairway. Then all of a sudden, I really started to panic. That wasn't a very good feeling. It felt like I hadn't won in 20 years. I ended up winning. And so when I come here, everyone says we have a lot of confidence. No, I have a lot of confidence that I just won. This is a different ballgame. If I play really, really well here, I maybe can finish up in the top 20 or 25, and realistically my goal is to play well, and that might not - hit the ball well, I may make a 7 on the 18th hole, which a lot of guys will do, and miss the cut by a stroke. But at least going in there, I know I played well leading to Augusta.

Q. Seems like a transformation for you for everything that you've done on the Tour and now you're on the Champions Tour to say "I play well, I may just finish in the top 20."

FRED COUPLES: Well, it's a different mindset. It's like, you know, when your conference, you know, as Vermont and going in there and I think they beat Duke. That hasn't happened ever. When you're playing golf courses that we on the Champions Tour play, there are some good holes. There are still a lot of hazards, deep bunkers, but when they're 50 yards longer, it makes it a little harder. I hit the ball very long compared to some on the Champions Tour. If there's a hole with water all the way down left side, I can kind of play around it with a 3-wood and still have a 7, 8-iron in there. Out here, for instance, the 5th hole and 18th hole, you don't play around those.

You have to hit a equal tee shot and very good second shot just to think about making pars. That's what I try and do. If I make 5 on one of those two holes, I have no issues with that. But when you make bogies on the Champions Tour, you always lose ground pretty quickly unless you're a birdie machine. Basically for me, you know, I played a little last year because I was the President's Cup Captain, I got to see some of the guys. This is it. I'll play Augusta and then, you know, my last hurrah will be next week and I'll let these guys have their fun, and I'll go play some on the Champions Tour, but I do love coming to play on the regular tour still.

Q. You're saying this is it for you?

FRED COUPLES: Well, yeah, for this year. Hopefully, if I don't embarrass myself, I'll get a spot here next year and come back and play. But as far as me thinking I can compete on this Tour, I just do it to come out and see everyone, and I still feel like I can play well, but in the back of my mind, you know, I went to school here, I've won here, I played a lot of years here, and they're very nice to give me a sponsor's exemption before Augusta.

Q. How do you size up your chances at Augusta? You love that course. How is your back?

FRED COUPLES: My back feels all right. You know, my chances there are - they're probably a little better than here, because there's less players, although great players. I do know that course really, really well. It seems like can I can get around even better than most courses that I like and play. But, again, it all comes down to, you know, the right shot here or there, and it seems like, you know, at that tournament the last few years, I played fairly well, but like when I have a shot of doing something to work my way up, I don't continue to do it, which some of these guys get in streaks, they'll birdie three, four holes out of seven or eight.

I've yet to do that there. I still think I can play it. I'm more consistent in my scores. Whereas, you get the Rory McIlroy and Phils, that I get a stretch and shoot 66, 67. That's incredible in that course. For me, a really good score seems like it's 70 or 71. If I shoot four of them at the end of the week, I'm in a great spot.

Q. Who is your favorite next week between Rory, Phil, and Tiger?

FRED COUPLES: I think you know in the old days, you'd put Tiger up there and then let the other guys - Tiger worked his way, you know, to be one of the guys, but I think Rory is an incredible talent and he can take his game to any golf course. Sometimes there are guys that can play well here or there. Rory won a U.S. Open, lead majors for most of the time and he's won a lot of tournaments. He plays well every week. When he's there, he's fearless and he's a great competitor. And you got Phil, who I say it every time, it's a playground for Phil. Augusta National's playground. It is for me, too. If that's how you look at the place, you're always going to play well. I would consider Phil to be a favorite every year.

Q. Fred, how important was it for Tiger to get that win in your opinion after everything he's been through?

FRED COUPLES: Obviously, it's huge. You know, my caddy caddies for him now. I talked to him the other day. Even going in there he said he's playing very, very well. It's hard to win. If you haven't won in a long time, it doesn't make it any easier because you're Tiger Woods, but now that he's won, I think that's a big burden off his golf shoulders. He still plays very, very well. The whole idea he's driving it great, putting it great. He always does that. But it's hard to win. If you haven't won in a couple years, I don't care who you are. It's very hard to win, and prove that, it took him maybe an extra week or two, but, you know, 62 he had at Palm Beach was phenomenal and then winning at Bay Hill, even though he's won seven times, it's still - you beat everybody by five shots.

Q. Because of the things you mentioned earlier, is this a reflective time in your career at all? Is playing still the same as it was ten years ago in terms of hunger and pressure and all that?

FRED COUPLES: Well, I mean, I want to compete, I want to play well. So, I don't want to come and play the Houston Open and feel more pressure because playing with guys that are way better than I am. I mean, it's obviously they hit it better, they play more, they're better putters and chippers. But I still have a little savvy on how to get the ball around. That means, you know, that I'm going to come close to winning.

2008 and '9 it was a long time ago, even though I still had chances both those years of winning. But for me now, you know, when I go play the Champions Tour, the whole idea out there is really winning. It's not like I've won a lot, lot of tournaments, but I've competed well for a long period of time. This is my 32nd year really without stopping. And so when I go on the Champions Tour, a 12th place for me is not a good week. If I have, you know, time off where I go work on my game and come back and play okay and happen to win an event, that's what really the practice does for me now. I don't have time to hit balls every single day and work like Vijah.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.