Seattle native and World Golf Hall of Famer Fred Couples spent a few minutes talking about his game, his goal of winning one more title, playing until he’s 70, the closing window of staying competitive, and all else under the sun. He met with reporters on the driving range at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge, just before his practice round for the PGA TOUR Champions’ Boeing Classic being held this week.
Click here to watch interview, or read transcript below. (Courtesy Tee-Scripts.com)
How are you feeling coming into this week?
FRED COUPLES: I feel pretty good. I didn’t play Calgary obviously and there’s been a few weeks off, but I’ve worked pretty hard on my game and I love the course, everything about it. I plan on playing well and I think that I’m capable of — I’m in good shape swing-wise and we’ll just see what happens.
What does this tournament mean to you? Obviously everyone’s coming out, it’s your hometown.
FRED COUPLES: Well, I think when you grow up as a kid, the easiest way to answer this and maybe I’m wrong, I don’t think we had any tournaments up here. Then I don’t know the years, but I got to play in a 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee that I think Vijay Singh won. Then I did not play the world event (NEC Invitational at Sahalee in 2002). One of my first big tournaments on the Champions Tour was the 2010 U.S. Senior Open at Sahalee, so that’s when it was really huge. Then the Boeing is a cleat bonus to be able to come every year. I can’t imagine that Boeing will have a Boeing tournament here forever. I just told someone, how long are you going to play in — I said, well, body-wise I’d love to play until I’m 70 and we’ll see about that. You know, my sister’s not here, she’s staying down in Arizona with her kid who’s just starting school. Most of the family’s in Arizona, so I’ll have a few friends up here, but it’s like last year or two years ago I had a big lead going into the last day and I didn’t play very well and it was kind of — I took it better because they were all here instead of hopping in the car mad and angry. They kind of chilled me out a little bit, but it was still a really bad day, bad round and highly disappointing. It honestly was. After about the fifth hole, it was such poor golf, and I know Brandt Jobe played an unreal round and deserved to win, but that’s what I’m looking forward to tomorrow after that finish.
Has that been eating at you a little bit?
FRED COUPLES: Well, I think about it all the time. I don’t think about it every day, but I think about it five times a week so it’s almost every day. Just because — you saw Doug Barron react last week. I would not react like that because I’ve won a few times, not as much as I’d like, but I think my next win, I don’t ever want to say this, will be maybe my last. And that’s a goal, I want to win one more time. It’s just hard to prepare. Like I say, I haven’t played — I think it’s been four weeks now and I’ve actually played almost every day. I took yesterday off to do some stuff up here, but I want to be ready for the tournament and I feel like I’ll be fine.
Obviously there’s senior major tournaments, too, but if you’re going to win one more —
FRED COUPLES: Oh, I would rather win this than any senior major, yeah, for sure. Again, I don’t know how many players still live in the same town where they were 18. People always say, well, you don’t live there. I mean, I know half of the people when they were 18, all of them probably don’t live where they grew up. So for me to be able to come back and a course that I really, really like helps. Even coming back, there are some courses you don’t play well. I think this is one I can handle. You’ve got to play well to do that, but yeah, I’m always excited to play here.
We thought we were going to have to tease it out of you, bring it out of you.
FRED COUPLES: No, no. To be honest with you, I don’t know what I shot, it was either 76 or –
Seventy-six, that’s what it was.
FRED COUPLES: I don’t know on the Champions Tour if I’ve shot — I probably will shoot it tomorrow, but I don’t think I’ve shot 75 — let’s find out — in a 50-mile-an-hour wind at the British Senior Open, and then you want to hide and you just want to — okay, then I think I bogeyed 16 and 17 and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, it’s no fun.
Were you just off or was it nerves?
FRED COUPLES: No, I think it was nerves and winning. It wasn’t like I couldn’t function, I just was — and a lot of times — I was going over the round last two years ago, I don’t even know what I hit, but a lot of them were short and long and that’s highly unusual. Most of the time if I have a 6-iron and I want to hit it 180, I’ll hit it this way. I was short in bunkers, I was over greens, just off. And a lot of that has to do with feel and feeling the pressure, there’s no doubt, in your hands and all that, but I wasn’t like oh, my God, I can’t handle this. It just was comical.
And this golf course in terms of where it ranks on the Champions Tour in difficulty, is it near the top? We wouldn’t know, but —
FRED COUPLES: No. Length-wise it’s pretty long, so that’s a tough thing for us, but if it’s dry and firm and fast, then it shrinks up; any golf course does. So it probably won’t play to the length because it seems like we’ve had great weather here, but it’s just weird. It’s the kind of course where you’ll see 63s and 64s periodically, but at the end of the week if you’re not winning and you shoot 69-68-69, you’re going to be in that great top-10 thing. I found my way in there with good last rounds before. I have to get off to a good start tomorrow. I have a lot of 70s and 71s, you’re done. You shoot 71 here the first day against these guys, you need to shoot 64-64 to have a chance. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but every round’s key, every hole’s key. And I get it around pretty well. But that’s a great question. I think this fits in probably on the upper echelon of toughness, although like 63s and 64s happen.
Do you have traditions when you come back to Seattle, like I’m going to go to this restaurant or I’m going to do this?
FRED COUPLES: Well, as a kid, really I left Seattle when I was 18, so I went to college and turned pro when I was 20, so I rarely came out this way. So traditions for me, to finish here tomorrow at — I play at 1:00 — 5:30 and then go to downtown Seattle to eat dinner, with my body is not going to happen. If you’re driving out of here and you see a little spot to the right, you’ll probably find me in there tomorrow night.
A little gas station down there?
FRED COUPLES: No, no, I’m not going very far. My buddy, John Bracken, who we all know is the guy I stay with, he’s remodeling his house in Broadmoor, so I’m staying right down the road here and I won’t go very far. And that’s not uncommon, I don’t do a whole lot. I need to calm down after I play. And this is a beast to walk. I’m very stubborn about riding a cart, but I’ll be exhausted tomorrow night, I’ll tell you that much.
You say you want to play until you’re 70, but at the same time —
FRED COUPLES: Here, I want to play here. I don’t want to play 14 events for another nine years. You know, one of my favorite guys in the world — I interrupted you — is Tom Watson, and he just pretty much stopped, but he did it for a long time.
I was going to ask, you said your next win may be your last. Do you feel like a window’s closing a little bit for you?
FRED COUPLES: This pandemic is a sad, sad thing, but as a golfer, it really helped me. I played — time flies. March of 2019, is that when all this — so when the Tour stopped, we stopped, I played almost every day in the desert. I went down to the desert to get away. Very few people at my club, I never left the grounds, I played every day, which helped my golf game. So normally I try and play once or twice a week when I’m home. I played every day, I had to do something, so it helped. So my game is pretty good. I’m not a guy that says that, but you asked, but my game should be pretty good tomorrow. Does that mean I’m going to make every putt and shoot 68? No, but I don’t think I’m going to go and embarrass myself. I’m going to do pretty well and hit the ball sharp because I’ve been playing a lot.