Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bubba Watson may have taken home the green jacket last weekend at the Masters in Augusta, but it was 52-year-old Fred Couples who, with a shared 12th-place finish, went out and showed the youngsters that he's still got what it takes to hang with them on the course.
Please enjoy Jim Murray's 1990 column on Freddy Couples.



Golf Can't Be as Easy as He Makes It Look

    No one could ever understand why Freddy Couples didn't win four out of every six golf tournaments he entered.
    He had the perfect build, the perfect temperament and, if not the perfect swing, it was close enough.
    Golf always seemed to be kind of a lark to him. Other guys would bite their putters, glare at shots, kick their drivers. Freddy never even looked perturbed. You'd think he was playing for a $2 Nassau instead of $180,000 first money.
    The pros called him "Boom Boom" because his tee shots didn't just fly the course, they orbited it.
    Fred Couples took the Riviera course at the Nissan L.A. Open Saturday and shook it like a dog shakes a rag doll. He went after it like a fighter whose man is on the ropes glassy-eyed and bleeding. It was caveman golf. Not for the squeamish.
    Ten birdies in 18 holes is not golf, it's Murder One. A mugging. If it was a fight, they would have stopped it.
    Riviera was as defenseless as the Denver Broncos. Not a breath of wind coursed its fairways and greens. It was like playing in a vacuum. Or on a pool table.
    The conditions were so idyllic, even Couples' record-tying 62 could not shake the competition out of the tournament. Birdies and eagles flew like confetti at a country wedding. The course was so vulnerable, Couples never bothered to jab with it. He threw rights, so to speak.
    He not only tied the course record, he broke the 54-hole tournament record. His 62 could have been 59. He had birdie putts on at least four of the eight holes he didn't birdie.
    It was an awesome display of power golf, but the golf world's only surprise is Fred Couples doesn't do that all the time.
    "He does that all the time, doesn't he?" was rival Rocco Mediate's reaction when told Couples had logged in with a 62. Locker room opinion has it Fred Couples can shoot a 62 any time he really puts his mind to it.
    There's the rub. Prevailing notion also has it Fred Couples is a kind of apple-cheeked, raven-haired kid brother on the tour whose attention seems to wander from time to time. He doesn't seem to see anything particularly difficult about hitting the golf ball.
    That may be just his trouble. You tell people who have seen him play, who have tracked his mammoth drives, crisp irons and un-yipped putts that he's won only three tournaments and they look at you as if your are putting them on. "Come on! With that swing?!"
    If the game comes to you as easily as it does to Fred Couples, you're supposed to be in double-figures in tournaments won and taking dead aim on Hogan's or Nicklaus' major-tournament totals.
    Fred Couples seems to give the impression he's able to go out there and shoot 62 without ever really putting his mind to it. "If Ben Hogan could caddy for him, he'd never lose" goes the refrain.
    Occasionally the mind seems to leave the body with Fred. He will hit a good shot, but to the wrong place. He's like a guy who loses a pot with four aces.
    The notion is, if Freddy just cared more he could be the next Arnold Palmer. But Freddy sometimes lets the golf course off the hook. Fred won $693,944 last year without winning a tournament. In fact, he's won $1,183,706 since winning a tournament. The feeling on the tour is, Freddy takes too many pitches.
    Freddy thinks it's a bum rap. "People yell at me to smile, to charge. I know they'll expect me to shoot 62 again tomorrow, but that's not realistic. I might shoot 75. I make bogeys."
    If Tom Kite makes a bogey, they blame the wind, the weather, a noise in the gallery, the lie or the fact a hole is laid out wrong for his game. When Fred Couples makes a bogey, they blame Fred Couples. His game should be bogey-free. The only thing wrong with Fred Couples' swing, they tell you, is that it comes attached to Fred Couples. Fred has to get mean, get mad. Golf shouldn't be fun, it should be torture. An afternoon in a dungeon.
    It's not likely Fred Couples will wake up screaming. Or be noticeably nervous on the first tee at the final round. Freddy won't walk out there as if he were going to the electric chair. He'll walk out there as if he were going to 10 more birdies, maybe a 61 this time.
    One thing is sure: Freddy won't choke. Freddy doesn't hit a bad shot because he suddenly can't swallow. If Freddy hits a bad shot, it's because he over-clubbed or under-studied, not because the course-or the shot-scared him. They don't make that course.
    No one has ever shot back-to-back 62s in this-or any other-tournament.
    If anyone can do it, Fred Couples can.

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

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