Fred Couples: Strolling to the Schwab Cup Championship

Mr. Cool did it again. In a fairly effortless manner — although he might disagree with that — Fred Couples strolled around a course he likes a lot, to a six-shot victory. He played the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco with Mark O’Meara who gave it the old college try until he made a disheartening bogey on 15. He bounced back on 16, but concluded with a double bogey on 18. Until then, he had added pressure to Couples with three birdies on the front.

Overall, I need to just play a little bit better. Today was one of those days where I was pretty much kind of too far behind, especially with this golf course [on a cool day] and Fred’s length.

He played well, he’s obviously been playing well this year. The only chance I would have had was if I had got to 4- or 5-under for the day and he would have been 1-over, but he hung right there, he made some nice birdie putts when he needed to and I didn’t make the putts when I needed to. He just played a lot better

Couples kept pace with his own three birdies on the front. He made a bogey on 13, but his opening five-stroke cushion made it of little consequence as O’Meara faded down the stretch: 

I won by a lot but it was interesting on a few holes. There were a couple things that, you know, could have made things a little tighter, but I played — I felt like I played a really, really good round of golf and what I would consider to be, you know, part of the toughest course played all day.

I don’t know if anyone was shooting some very good scores but I watched the leaders, I played with Mark. I tried to stay as far ahead of Mark as I could and then I didn’t see anyone else getting 14-, 15-under.

Meanwhile, Kenny Perry won the yearlong competition for the Charles Schwab Cup. The way the points tally fell out at the end of the year, he just needed Bernhard Langer not to win the tournament. Fortunately for Perry, Mr. Cool got the job done, out of reach for even Langer, who finished T2 with O’Meara and Peter Senior. Perry was one back with Mark Calcavecchia, Rocco Mediate and Bart Bryant. Perry’s win was a function of a year’s worth of sustained good play: 3 wins, 3 2nds, a third and a total of 12 top 10s.

And fresh off his tournament win, Couples was inspired by Perry’s accomplishments and now has different plans for next year. Instead of playing a minimal number of tournaments, he wants to play enough that he can have a year like Perry did:

Well, next year is a big year. I’m going to practice, I’m going to be ready. That doesn’t mean I’m going to win tournaments, but at my age, you know, once again, I would sit here and not feel bad about it because this is the ninth time I’ve won. I wish I would win more, but the Schwab Cup is really never my goal because I can’t play 13, 14 times [because of his back] and let them play 22 times and beat them.

But that doesn’t mean I should be winning this and I’m telling you Bernhard Langer, Kenny Perry should win it, next year that’s my goal. My goal is to win the Schwab Cup.

So far at any of these years it hasn’t really been, it’s to win tournaments, it’s to play out here, it’s to enjoy it. And like I say, 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, I won’t even say it, not depressing, but Sunday night when you lose those four tournaments, it’s like 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.

And if his back holds up, he’s ready to make a run at playing serious golf:

On this Tour if you’re a really good player and you come out and play, you’re going to win your share of events in my opinion. If you played on the PGA Tour and won, you’re going to come out here and win. That’s my goal.

I feel like this year’s certainly not a waste, but it was a waste in not winning any events until this. I felt like possibly with some better practice I could have won three times easily, but in those tournaments that I played well in, I hit the ball pretty well and I putted well, but this week was totally different. I didn’t miss many shots and I got a big lead and kept it.

It’s so interesting listening to a player of Couples caliber looking back wistfully at losses and what might have been. You don’t tend to think of Mr. Cool as being vulnerable.

For the same reasons, you don’t tend to think of him as a fierce competitor:

Yeah, I love competition. Do I tell everyone that I’m a fierce competitor? No, because I’m not, but I love the competition. This week, I’ll say it again real quick, it’s Harding Park, this is a tremendous golf course. It doesn’t seem really hard but if you miss the ball in the wrong spot or miss the green, it can play really hard.

I think when you win anything, the look on people’s faces when they win the club championship is a nice feeling and I’m thrilled to death to win this tournament. I haven’t won in a long time, but it’s more of winning by a bunch and playing four really good rounds and then getting a trophy.

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