Column: If Fred wins, 'You'd never see me again.'

Associated Press Published: April 6, 2012
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Couples' strategy to conserve energy this time around was vintage Fred: He practiced less. He hit some balls on the range, played in the ceremonial par-3 tournament on Wednesday and planned to play the back nine before thunderstorms forced him to take the rest of the day off. Instead of feeling guilty, Couples took it as a good sign. He never needed an excuse to play hooky.

"Basically, I feel like I played enough," he said. "I don't need to wear myself out."

Even in his prime, Couples was that way. His swing is the same, too, long and graceful, with no wasted motion. He doesn't hit it as far as he used to — the nickname "Boom Boom" fell away years ago— but still plenty far. Then there's the temperament. Couples reminds rivals of the guy who just put down a cocktail on the patio, picked up his clubs and wandered into the middle of the tournament.

"He's amazing," said Sergio Garcia, who's part of a five-some trailing Couples and 35-year-old Jason Dufner by a stroke. "He always manages to do it somehow."

Yet the only thing hard to believe is that Couples will be able to play the last two rounds as well as he did the first two. The prospect hardly rattles him.

"I don't feel too much stress. Now, obviously there's stress out there and I'm not — what I'm getting at is, when you're playing here, I'm not going to let too many things bother me. It's so beautiful. You can't say it's your favorite place and then break a club on the fourth hole on Saturday. ... And if I don't do well, you know, I leave here with the attitude of I'll come back next year and do well.

"A lot of the tournaments I play in, at my age now — not 20 years ago — they are just golf tournaments. It's another week of golf. And for me to be tied at this moment, it's a little shocking, but I played a really good round of golf today.

"I have to do that tomorrow," Couples added, "or they will just fly by me."

Catch him if you can.

___

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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