Fred Couples won four times on the Champions Tour in 2010, claiming three of the first four events he played in. Couples went on to win the Byron Nelson Award with the lowest scoring average in Champions Tour history and also earned Rookie of the Year honors. He hopes more of the same is in store in 2011 and recently sat down with Phil Stambaugh to talk about his accomplishments last year and the upcoming season, which includes a defense of his Toshiba Classic title this week.
What do you remember most about your first Champions Tour victory at last year's ACE Group Classic in Naples??
COUPLES: It was cold and windy early in the tournament. I remember playing really, really well and not in a cocky way. On the back nine on Sunday, I thought I was actually cruising to my first Champions Tour victory and I looked up and saw Tommy Armour III was shooting 61. I took a big gulp thinking "geez, I've got to win this event." I actually birdied a couple of holes coming in and beat him by a shot. I just remember playing really well and realizing this Champions Tour is pretty tough. You've got to shoot a lot under par and there's lots of competition.
How satisfied were you with your 2010 season? Did it exceed your expectations?
COUPLES: I think play-wise, I enjoyed the expectations I had going out there. I knew I was going to win. I won three in a row and lost a couple majors, one of them in a playoff and another to Bernhard Langer in my hometown of Seattle. That was a great week from the start. If I would have lost the U.S. Senior Open like that in another town, it might have been difficult, but being there and playing in front of that many people was a great week. 2010 was very, very good for me. I lost a couple of other tournaments but I won a few as well. I was happy with it. I'm kinda edgy about this year but last year was lots of fun. I felt great and played great.
What's your assessment of the differences between the two Tours??
COUPLES: Right away would be the length of the courses. I feel like if I went out and played the PGA TOUR for five or six weeks, I wouldn't be as sharp hitting 4-, 5-, and 6-irons. That's just part of it. As far as the pin placements we play and the condition of the golf courses, it's similar. The Champions Tour has a little rough, not major rough and I don't think the PGA TOUR does lots of times either. Competition is competition. When you go to a Champions Tour event, the competition is very strong.
How about leading the Champions Tour in putting? Statistically, you had never finished higher than eighth in putting and that was in 1992.
COUPLES: I was No. 1 on the Champions Tour in putting last year. That is the biggest upset in the world of sports.
What will be your schedule this year with the additional duties of being the U.S. Presidents Cup captain again??
COUPLES: It won't affect it really at all. I'm a Champions Tour player now. I'll play at the Masters and will probably play a couple other times on the PGA TOUR just to get out and see the guys. I'm all on the Champions Tour.
Are you using any new equipment this year??
COUPLES: Everything is the same as last year.