It seems as though Freddie Couples, 48, has it all; matinee idol good looks, a game that has earned him 15 PGA Tour wins, including the 1992 Masters, loads of money ($3.5 million won in The Skins Game alone!), two PGA Tour Player of the Year awards, and now the Captaincy of the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Because of his easygoing nature and liquid smooth swing, fans think Couples never gets flustered or uptight. In fact, says his best friend Davis Love III, Freddie is one of the tensest players on Tour. He just keeps it inside and always handles himself with class and distinction.
I had a chance to sit down with Freddie and find out a little about what’s going on with him these days.MA: How are you feeling ?
FC: I am doing OK. I practiced a little bit in Vegas and worked with Butch (Harmon) a couple of times. I played about eight rounds of golf at Shadow Creek, had a few money games and got the heart rate going. I felt pretty good going into the season.MA: It’s not the heart rate going that people are constantly talking to you about, it’s your back, of course. How is your back feeling and how do you feel that it is going to hold up?
FC: I feel better, so knock on wood. I’m O.K. But you know anything can happen. I can hurt it getting out of the car or picking up my golf clubs or whatever. But as far as swinging it actually feels pretty good.MA: What are doctors telling you about your back? Why does it flare up and lock up, as you said?
FC: We talked about surgery but I said no. I’m trying to do a couple of simple things and not do too much. But basically I would say it’s like a 75-year-old person’s back. I’m on my way to hopefully go in the other direction. I’ve been working with Tom Borris for so many years that it got to the point that he was frustrated. Then I met a guy in Waco (Texas) who worked on it a couple of times. He’d loosen it up and then I’d get back to the other stuff with Tom. I think I will be able to play for at least a few more years.MA: You mention that you’re working with Butch Harmon. Is there anything that he’s doing with your swing to take some of the stress off your lower back?
FC: Yeah, but it is very difficult to do. Butch is just an incredible teacher. I feel like I really don’t know anything about the game. I don’t really understand some of the stuff he’s telling me, however he wants me to try moving more like a David Duval finish or Anika Sorenstam. I’ve seen it on video. I certainly can’t do what they do, but that’s the feeling I’m trying to get so that my spine will kind of go with my finish. That’s where Butch is very good. He knows how to take stress off without ruining your swing and I actually felt like I was doing it and I felt pretty good. As far as the swing it’s always the same. I’ve got to shorten it and tighten it. It helps me hit the ball crisper and obviously with a little more accuracy.MA: You have had an amazing run of success at The LG Skins Game and you have won the event five times. Why do you think an event like that fits you so well?
FC: Well I have played in it a bunch. There’s really no answer. You get the best players in the world and they go there and they make 13 pars and five birdies and shoot 67 and they win a couple of skins. I go in there and hit it all over the lot and I win the darn thing, so there’s no rhyme or reason. I enjoy playing in it. At a Skins Game it’s basically a TV thing. You’re out there and if you play two or three bad holes in a row and all of a sudden you hit a 2-iron on a 230-yard par-three you feel like you’ve won a tournament `cause you won a skin. That’s the enjoyment for me. It’s two days of nine holes, so play the best you can. MA: Looking at your bio, your first victory on the PGA Tour, brace yourself, was at 1983 Kemper Open.
FC: Were you born yet, Matt?MA: Yes , I was born, I remember it. It’s cliché to say it’s not much more than yesterday, but does it feel like it?
FC: No. It feels like a long time ago. And the more I hear people talk about the 1992 Masters I keep thinking that was 16 years ago! I’m actually more of a guy who looks at other guys and what they’re doing. I don’t look too far in the past. I enjoy when people come up and say “I like the way you play.” Even last weekend when I was in Vegas, there were a couple guys that claimed they were at the Kemper Open in 1983, which was 24 years ago, and it just sounds funny. MA: What are your goals in 2008?
FC: One of my goals is to play better than I have. I still believe I can play and I’ve said this my whole life, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. And now I want to be consistent. And when I get up there on the leader board be able to play on Sunday and see if I can win again. Anyone out there, whether you’re a young kid who just got on Tour, you want to see if you can win. Or, if you’re an old guy like me, you want to see if you can still win. The odds are well against me. But I know I still can play and I hope to play better this year.MA: How exciting is it to be named the captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team?
FC: Not in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen. I think I'll do a great job, and I'll certainly have a great time. The Presidents Cup is a treat to play in, and it will be doubly to captain the thing. As close as I am to these guys, I feel like I'll have fun with all of them, whether they're 50th in the rankings or first. I think it's a great time in my life to be able to take the U.S. team to San Francisco and go against Greg (Norman), who I played a lot of golf with and admire what he does. It's just going to be fabulous.MA: Any plans on how you will approach the event?
FC: I don't expect guys to sit around and listen to me at night. But we're going to be playing and doing things, ping-pong and fighting and wrestling each other and getting rid of some of the tenseness before the morning starts.MA: Good luck this year and with the Presidents Cup, Freddie.
FC: Thanks, Matt