Insider: Couples to play more tournaments, goal is to win Schwab CupSAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 03: Fred Couples smiles while on the sixth green during the Final Round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park on November 3, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)November 06, 2013
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
Fred Couples knows the window of opportunity on the Champions Tour is relatively narrow.
Unlike rookies in other professions, the 50-year-old newcomers on the Champions Tour are poised, polished and ready to win immediately. The first five years are the time to get it done and history tells us performances and the chances to win begin to decline soon afterwards.
For some players, the window is five years. A few others have extended it to seven years and the very few special players have continued into their 60s as dominant forces. But there aren’t many of those.
Couples celebrated his 54th birthday on Oct. 3. He is one of the unique players who could continue to win big, as he did Sunday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park.
And that’s his plan.
“Next year is a big year,” Couples acknowledged. “I'm going to practice, I'm going to be ready.”
Couples’ laid-back approach to things suggests he is not goal-oriented. That’s not the case.
“I don't usually set many goals because on the regular TOUR they're so darn hard (to achieve),” said Couples, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame who won 15 PGA TOUR events in a 21-year period beginning in 1983. “The goal is (just) to win.”
But on the Champions Tour, Couples believes it’s more realistic to set targets.
“Out here a goal is to win the Schwab Cup and I think that's doable if I play a lot and play well,” Couples said.
Couples has won nine times in 53 starts on the Champions Tour. He’s won two majors – the 2011 Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship and the 2012 Senior British Open. Four of the victories came in his rookie season on the Champions Tour.
Until now, the Charles Schwab Cup hasn’t been a priority for Couples for the simple reason that with his limited schedule, it’s been too much of a stretch to expect he could contend in a season-long competition.
“I can't play 13, 14 times and let them play 22 times and beat them,” Couples said. “Next year that’s my goal – to win the Schwab Cup.”
And that means he expects to play more.
Couples doesn’t hesitate to say that his original goals on the Champions Tour were essentially to win some tournaments and have fun competing. But his tune is changing.
Those four runner-up finishes this year bothered Couples a lot and in ways that those who watch him can’t completely comprehend. The guy is a competitor. Nobody gets as good at anything as Couples has in golf if he’s not a competitor.
“My first year out here I ran around, I felt like I was winning every other week I played and then this year it certainly wasn't – I don't know the right word,” he said. “I won't even say depressing but Sunday night when you lose those four tournaments, I guess it is depressing.
“It's a little depressing to go home and have everyone say, ‘Oh, you'll get it next time,’ and I would go the next time and not get it the next time. Now I finally won a tournament and I can look forward to next year.”
Couples said that what people see isn’t always what they get from him.
“Am I competitor? Yeah, I love competition,” he said. “Do I tell everyone that I'm a fierce competitor? No, because I'm not, but I love the competition.”
That wouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who knows Couples or competes against him. Kenny Perry, the newly crowned Charles Schwab Cup winner and presumptive Champions Tour Player of the Year, welcomes seeing more of Couples because he knows Couples is a magnet.
“I love Fred Couples,” Perry said. “I just like hanging out with him. I like his insights. He's a huge sports fanatic, he loves all kinds of sports. He does have a lot of talent but there are a lot of other guys that have a lot of talent, too. It just makes the Champions Tour more compelling. If he wants to dive in at it head first and bring it on, I say bring it, let's see what you've got.
“It's so funny how his personality really brings everybody to him. He's a really neat guy and people can relate to Fred Couples and I think he just brings them in.”
Couples and Perry played together in the first round of the AT&T Championship in San Antonio in the penultimate Champions Tour event of 2013.
“Huge galleries,” Perry said. “He made 8 on the first hole, par 4. We had huge galleries all day. Then the next day I'm doing well in the tournament, I'm not playing with Fred and I've got like four people following me, and I look over and Fred's way up there and he's got the whole gallery because they're all following Fred Couples. It's pretty neat, they love him.”