Couples dishes on Masters, Presidents Cup
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. - Fred Couples, playing here at the Northern Trust Open in “my favorite tournament,” ended up talking not about golf, but about food and his favorite major - the Masters.
It has been 20 years since Couples won the 1992 Masters, thanks to a final-round 70 and a ball that hung on the bank in front of the 12th green with velcro-like tenacity, refusing to roll back into Rae’s Creek.
For a trip down memory lane, here was the top 10 (plus ties) in the 1992 Masters:
• Fred Couples, 13 under
• Raymond Floyd, 11 under
• Corey Pavin, 10 under
• Mark O’Meara, 8 under
• Jeff Sluman, 8 under
• Ian Baker-Finch, 7 under
• Nolan Henke, 7 under
• Larry Mize, 7 under
• Greg Norman, 7 under
• Steve Pate, 7 under
• Nick Price, 7 under
• Ted Schulz, 7 under
Fast forward through 20 years of Champions Dinners at Augusta National, and Couples cherishes the memories.
“I’ve been known to skip some dinners at some events for this reason or that reason,” Couples said, “but I’ve never missed that dinner. It is special.”
Special because the legendary Byron Nelson would stand up every year and offer a few tantalizing tidbits of golf history. Now that Nelson is gone, the role has been assumed by two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw.
Special because of the jokes and stories invariably told by the talkative Sam Snead.
“San Snead was the guy in that room who would always tell a joke or two,” Couples reminisced. “It’s not a stiff dinner by any means, and the food is usually phenomenal. Everybody has their own little twists and turns.”
Special because Couples sits every year with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd.
“What a night for me,” Couples mused.
Special because of the food chosen by the previous year’s winner.
“Normally it’s chicken or steak and whatever the past champion provides,” Couples said, “and I think 90 percent of the time, people eat what he is suggesting on the menu.”
For Phil Mickelson, that food included a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream for each former champion.
“When Phil won, he had pints of Haagen-Dazs for everybody,” Couples said. “Quarts for him. He’d have a second. That makes it so special. They come out with these trays of vanilla pints of Haagen-Dazs and you go, ‘Wow, nice move there.’ ”
Couples was not overtly ridiculing the eating habits of Mickelson, but rather was responding to a comment from an onlooker when he suggested with a smile that Lefty might indulge in some extra ice cream.
Freddie particularly enjoyed the Spanish meal put together by Jose Maria Olazabal. Vijay Singh brought in a chef from Atlanta to create a few Fijian delicacies.
Who attends the Champions Dinner besides the former champions?
“It would be the chairman (Billy Payne), and then the people helping serve and all that,” Couples said, attempting to add a little humor with this conclusion: “Maybe a couple of them have won under a different name. I’m not really sure.”
After 15 PGA Tour wins and two consecutive victories as U.S. Presidents Cup captain, Couples is arguably the most popular (as in well-liked) golfer in the U.S.
Nobody seems to dislike Freddie, who probably will be named Presidents Cup captain once again for the 2013 showdown with the International team.
“I’ve talked with Tim (Finchem), and I’ve talked with a couple of other guys at the Tour,” Couples said. “I think I have a very good shot at it, and I would love to do it again.”
Couples, who has become more more introspective, philosophical and chatty in his senior years (he is now 52), talked about this country’s two highest-profile golfers, Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
“I don’t think you can really compare him (Mickelson) to any other players,” Couples said, “because a lot of guys get timid when they fail, and I think he gets stronger and plays better, which I think is a great attribute for his game.”
On Woods: “I don’t think he feels like he can’t close a tournament because he got beat by Phil or beat himself (at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am). I think he’s on the right track.”
Here at the Northern Trust Open, Couples is making his 30th appearance. He won in 1990 and 1992. Previously the event was known as the Los Angeles Open and the Nissan Open.
Last year, at 51, he slumped to a final-round 73 but still tied for seventh, five back of winner Aaron Baddeley.
Can he really win at 52? He is taking a supplement called Anatabloc, and he said, “I started taking it two months ago, and I’ve been feeling incredibly well. It deals with inflammation, and that’s what I have a lot in my body, whether it’s my fingers or shoulders. My back is what it is. It (pain) moves up and down my back because it bounces around. I really believe this stuff (Anatabloc) has helped me.”
Couples also traveled to Germany for Orthokine treatment, which is said to combat osteoarthritis and nerve root inflammation. Other sports stars such as basketball player Kobe Bryant and baseball player Alex Rodriguez have undergone the Orthokine procedure.
The oldest player to win a PGA Tour event was Sam Snead, who was 52 years, 10 months and 8 days when he captured the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open. Couples will turn 53 on Oct. 3.