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Fred Couples Ready to go at Senior PGA Championship
Fred Couples returns to competition in this week's Senior PGA Championship. The first major of the year on the Champions Tour begins Thursday at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich.
After a sterling rookie year on the over-50 circuit in which he won four times, Couples won twice in 2011 - including his first Champions Tour major title in the Senior Players Championship. In four starts this season, he won in late March's Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic and has earned $391,125, while adding another $172,940 on the PGA Tour.
On Wednesday, Couples sat down with reporters to talk about this year's tournament site, the state of his game and his expectations for the week. The popular Couples will be paired in the first two rounds with Jeff Sluman and Kenny Perry; the trio will start play Thursday on the first hole at 8:10 a.m. ET. Here's what "Boom Boom" had to say.
MODERATOR: Fred Couples joining us at the 73rd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, the 1992 Masters champion. This will be Fred's second appearance in the Senior PGA Championship. Tied for second in 2010 at Colorado Golf Club. Fred, you won earlier this year on the Champions Tour, just some comments on your season so far and your play coming in this week.
FRED COUPLES: Well, season so far is I don't feel like I played much, but I've played pretty well when I played and I'm excited to be here. The last time I was here was in the Western Amateur which I'm sure everyone knows Point O Woods, which was a great event for amateurs. And then to come out yesterday on a Tuesday in the pro am and there were a good amount of people, I'm sure the galleries will be large this week. And it is a very, very nice course. You're going to hear a lot of things about it, I'm sure. And like I said, I played yesterday, I'm going to go out and play today, try and obviously get my game going a little bit and get to know the course. And that's really about all I got for you.
MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.
Q. Fred, I know it's only been one round, but how would you assess the golf course, particularly in terms of the par 5s and such, which is such a strength for your game.
FRED COUPLES: I think the golf course is long, but not ridiculous. There are a couple key holes, I think they're more the par 4s. The par 5s are quality holes. You can't get away with, certainly, a miss-hit tee shot or a second shot if you're going for these greens. The way Jack's built it, it's maybe a little forgiving, but if you're off, you're going to struggle to make pars. We're talking about the par 5s now. So to be honest with you, I don't remember where the par 5s are. I think maybe the fifth hole is a par 5. Well I don't really know. It's hard it depends what way the wind blows. Yesterday it was into the wind and that's a very good hole.
And then I believe nine's a par 5. So I play, that was my first hole yesterday and I did hit a good drive and there's not much to shoot at up there. And then the next hole is a really pretty par 5, 10. Which I think is a little reachable. But at that time I was just trying to maneuver the ball. So that's why we're playing at 1 o'clock. Jay and Slu wanted to play at 7:30 today and I said, hit the road, go right ahead. I didn't think it would be worth playing at 7:30, if it was cold, to play the course. So we wanted to come out and play maybe a little dryer and see what it's like. But to be perfectly honest, I think par 5s for me are key holes, but from what I saw quickly yesterday there are holes that you think that you hit a good drive and you go for the green and you miss-hit a second shot, you're going to really scramble to make five.
The greens are difficult, but they're tough to play from the wrong spot. I think you know what I mean. So when you're going, if you short side yourself, there's a little bit of rough, it's pretty thick, and the greens have some roll to them, they're not extremely fast. I think they're going to get harder and as the week goes it will be a tougher golf course. So I think the first couple rounds are very key for everybody and then Saturday and Sunday I think that, as they say, the better ball strikers will manage to get it around because you don't want to be chipping or actually putting from 50 or 60 feet on these greens.
Q. Question for you, first time, this is a small community, I'm from this community, cover television news locally. Can you give me just your opinion on this course, this tournament has been played usually in major metropolitan areas, so I don't know if you had a chance to see the community, just your response to the community and holding it in a different venue.
FRED COUPLES: I'll be honest to the core here, as of two weeks ago I didn't even know the PGA Senior was in Benton Harbor. I knew we were going to Detroit for the Senior Open and that was my mind. Then I was like, oh, well, good. So I've been here, I don't know where Point O Woods is from here, but I was about 18 years old when I was here. But as far as the Champions Tour, some of our events and obviously the PGA we played, I did not play, but we played last year at Valhalla, which is a great course, I know we're playing here in two years again, for us it's nice. It's a small community. But I think that golf-wise they will support it as if you were playing in Chicago or L.A. or St. Louis.
So the PGA of America, they know what they're doing and they pick places, even on some of the - one year I'm from Seattle we played a PGA up in Seattle and the place went crazy. And then we had a U.S. Open a couple years ago in Seattle and it was sold out months and months in advance. So I'm looking, as I saw yesterday a, lot of people were out there and driving over here it looked like there were people out here on a Wednesday to watch. So the tournament should be a huge success. Me personally, I have some favorite cities that I like, but it doesn't, I go to my hotel room and come to the course and Sunday I get out of here. So that's pretty much the routine for 33 years.
Q. Some players have said that there's so much movement in a lot of these greens that it doesn't take much to get on the wrong side of a hump and that sort of thing. Do you expect to hit some shots that don't turn out the way you want to and feel as though it's a bit unfair or you're just not getting result that you think you probably should have?
FRED COUPLES: Yeah, do I expect to hit some shots that are going to end up in some awkward places? Yeah, I do. If I was totally on my game I would still tell you the same answer. I played with some pretty good players yesterday and a few of them putted them off the greens. And if you're not careful I think you won't see a lot of that from us, but you'll see some chip shots come out that have rough a little fast and roll past the hole and roll off the green where you might be chipping again or actually in a worse spot. But it's easy to, you go to Augusta National, which is my favorite place, and I've seen guys putt balls in the water, chip balls in the water on the 13th hole. And they go for the green and they pull it left. When you do that, you're supposed to then say, okay, I got to make a five here. There's no reason to try and hit some chip shot off a tight lie and spin it and get it close to the hole, you're supposed to protect yourself and play.
This course I've only played once, so if I could say anything I think the 10th green is a little bit much. The rest of them, they're all doable, and if you're putting, the greens are at a pace now again it's Tuesday, so we haven't even thought about starting this tournament yet. So if the wind blows, any course plays hard. It doesn't really matter. So that you can throw out the door. Obviously, if the wind blows here the scores are going to go crazy. But as far as getting a break, you know, if you hit a bad shot and you pull it quite a bit left of where you're going and it catches a bank and rolls 60 feet away and you 3 putt, it's part of the deal.
But here there's not a whole lot of easy misses. It's going to be tough to play out of the sand, it's going to be tough to chip. So I would rather take my chances of having it roll on a knob and still stay on the green than I would hitting a shot the other direction where it misses and goes down into one of those bunkers, I think that's a worse spot to be in. But again it was a quick round yesterday, tried to watch the amateurs play. Today I'm playing with three pros, so we'll figure out a lot more on the course today and then know a little bit on some of the holes.
The golf course is beautiful. I just don't remember all 18 holes immediately. I could probably go over it and think about it, but holes like number 7 and 8 and 9, those are as pretty as you're ever going to see. The 7th hole is spectacular. And it's the smallest green and if I remember right it was the flattest green. So I think that's probably why most people like the hole. But when you're going to get guys 3 putting and doing all that, they're going to complain. And when you get guys hitting the banks where they roll down there two feet from the hole they're not going to go away and say they got lucky, they're going to say, yeah, I hit a great shot. That's part of the deal.
But at - after seeing it and hearing everyone, my goal is to think you're never really out of it, because everyone's going to make bogeys. And I don't know if I have no feel for it. I don't know if under par is going to win, 10 under is going to win or if 2 over is going to win. But I know it's a very hard course.
Q. Along those lines, what will this course force you to do in terms of what types of your game really need to be on and what type of player does it favor, do you think?
FRED COUPLES: What type of player? The answer to that I think is a great iron player. The fairways are a little forgiving and one of the things I'm doing well, knock on wood, is driving the ball well. But my iron game needs to be tightened up a little bit here today and before we start tomorrow. I just really haven't played enough holes to see how good I'm hitting it and I'm not really hitting it that great. But for most of the field putting is always a chore on any tournament, but this week you'll have to make a lot of, not four and five footers, probably a lot of six and eight footers for 2 putts. It's just going to be that kind of a week.
I think it's going to be a very long, slow process to play every day because of the greens. Because you're never going to putt a ball up there and tap it in, I don't think. I just don't see how that's going to happen. So you're going to be out there for a long, long time. But it's a beautiful place to be standing around, I'll say that.
Q. As many years ago as it was, what do you remember from that Western Amateur?
FRED COUPLES: Losing. Losing to David Ogrin.
Q. Had you played -
FRED COUPLES: Is he in this field? David Ogrin? No, I played two or three years. I just remember playing and making the qualifying and playing in front of like eight to ten thousand people. The U.S. Amateur got a lot of people to come support that event, but this tournament was famous for anyone who came. It was obviously a great course, and a lot of people came out to watch. When you're 18 years old and you're used to playing in front of your parents at junior tournaments, then you come here and you've got 8,000 people lining the fairways, it's a little bit of a culture shock.
MODERATOR: David Ogrin is not in the field.
FRED COUPLES: Okay, good.
MODERATOR: If he was, would you have anything to say to him?
FRED COUPLES: No, no, no. We played college golf. But I do remember losing to him the last time I played.
Q. This guy caddied down there in the tournament.
FRED COUPLES: Oh, is that right. It's no longer? I asked someone in the gallery yesterday.
Q. They moved it.
FRED COUPLES: Oh, okay. They moved it.
Q. A lot of people here like your chances this week. Based on how you're playing, how do you feel about your chances?
FRED COUPLES: Well, like I say, today is a day I got to go out, I'm going to practice a little bit and play and then I need to hit the ball a little better. I've not played - I played Savannah after Augusta, which was the first week in April. And I withdrew from Houston, withdrew from the TPC, didn't really play any last week. So my chances are I like my chances, we'll just have to figure it out as the week goes along. I'm going to have to really putt well. I feel like at Augusta, which is not like these greens, they're much faster with some roll to them, but I'm a pretty good lag putter and that's something that you're going to have to do well here. So today pretty much in every green we get on I won't even play where I hit my shot if it's close, you just get on the greens and putt and try to figure the greens out.
But I think that the better players will do really, really well here. I don't know, everyone says that, but you got the better players are usually the better ball strikers. I don't think length is a big factor here. I think the ones that are playing, a Fred Funk who won at Houston, Tom Lehman plays well every week, Bernhard Langer, I don't think you'll see a lot of surprises come Saturday and Sunday. I really don't. And I usually don't say that. I just think this kind of course predicts the guys who plays all the time. Just an opinion. Probably a wrong one, but just an opinion.
Q. Is there much difference between, in a senior event, how the U.S. Open, Senior Open would be setup versus the Senior PGA Championship. We see these differences in terms of the U.S. Open and the PGA and kind of how Mike Davis versus Kerry Haigh would set it up. I know you don't, it's only been several under your belt, but are there subtle differences in how the setup is here in terms of how they set the course up?
FRED COUPLES: Well, this is a new school course, so it's got to be setup for that way. When you go play Valhalla I think he set it up - I didn't play there - but he probably set it up like he would for a PGA. One of the things they kind of have to do out here is when you get a hole that we all think we should be playing from the back tees and something happens, I think they do a great job, they move the tee up. And that doesn't happen on a lot of holes.
The only PGA I played was at Colorado and I think that we were 6 or 8 under par and that was a really, really hard golf course. So it was setup pretty well. And then the USGA I played in Seattle and I didn't even know where the, if I even played last year in the Senior Open, I don't even know. But that was set up really hard. A lot of rough. I have a tendency to skip a lot of events. Which is not a bad thing. But I like this course. The fairways are pretty wide, but if you're off the fairway there, you're right into some pretty good rough. And these, this course is well bunkered. It's another thing we didn't touch on. I didn't drive it in any fairway bunkers yesterday, but that's not a promising spot to be in.
I really think it's the whole talk is going to be about the greens and the greens are just part of the thing. But when you play somewhere a long, long, long, long, long time like Winged Foot or Augusta, you get beyond talking about the greens. Here there are going to be a lot of 3 putts. It's just part of the deal. It's going to be a hard, hard, hard week. But you just got to hang in there and expect to make a few birdies. And the par 5s, if they're set up right, they can be reached. And if you can play those a couple under, I think are there five par 5s and five par 3s or something on this course. I should know all that.
But the last thing I'll say is, I think that when you stand on the tee, it's an incredible looking golf course. There's not really a bad hole on it. But you're going to be in some bad spots. That is a given. You're going to be buried under the lip of a bunker, you're going to be in junk you don't want to be in. And then you're going to be making birdies too. So you got to take the bright with the bad and it sounds easy, until Thursday, when you go out there and hit your first shot. But I think that it will be a great week.
MODERATOR: Four par 5s and five par 3s.
FRED COUPLES: Okay. Well the par 3s are awfully hard. I would - the 4th hole, I know I don't want to make any 5's on that hole, I don't know what I'll take on that hole, but that's one of the hardest par 3s we'll play all year. And the other ones are really good middle iron shots. But the par 3s will be very, very key. They're very hard holes.
MODERATOR: Fred Couples glad you're here. Thanks for your time.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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