Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fred Couples

Way back in the day, B.T.W. (Before Tiger Woods), golf wasn't cool.

Fred Couples
The Coolest Golfer Ever
But even before Tiger made it popular to play golf, there a guy who made it fashionable. This man was Fred Couples. He's beginning to show his age now, but back then he was "the man." He was the epitome of the saying, "Every woman wanted him & every guy wanted to be him." He looked like Don Johnson, and walked like he didn't have a care in the world. He had this very unorthodox swing, but it was silky smooth. And if any one word defined him, it was that last one: smooth.

A few years ago, my Dad & I traveled to Pinehurst, NC to watch the U.S. Open Golf Tournament live & in person. One of the treats of that Sunday round was walking the course in the crowd almost alongside Fred Couples. You'd just have to watch him walk. He's so... smooth. As smooth as watching liquid chocolate being poured out. It was a fun experience. The other cool thing -- this guy's nickname is "Boom Boom." It's because he's such a long driver of the golf ball. At the time, his sponsor was Bridgestone. And there were these hot blond girls in the crowd that Bridgestone paid to follow him around & wear these cute outfits that said "Boom Boom" on them. Now THAT is cool!!

There are a few athletes that come along from time to time who just seem to be "favored by the gods." Like, Sandy Koufax or Gale Sayers. Fred was one of these. Lucky things would happen for him on the golf course that don't happen for anyone else. Extremely fortunate events. Like (in the video at the bottom, starting at time-marker 0:36) when he holed out from the roadside bunker at the 17th hole at St. Andrews after leaving it in on the previous shot. That is, without question, the most difficult bunker shot in all of golf. And he holed that sucker out. Or, (starting at time-marker 2:00) when he hit his approach shot short at the par-3 12th hole at Augusta in the final round of the Masters Tournament that he went on to win, and it DIDN'T go in the water. It held up on the slope. That NEVER happens! Never has, and likely never will again. But Fred was touched by the golf gods, and he just sort of acts like that's par for the course.

Fred Couples
The Achilles of golf
But as the myth goes with those who are touched by the gods, other gods become jealous that a human would be favored above them. And in their envy, these gods act out on their vindictive natures by striking down the favored human. And so, the greatness of these individuals once touched by the gods is only fleeting. Sayers tore ligaments in his knee, and Koufax walked away before he blew out his elbow & ruined his quality of life. For Couples, it was his back. He's always struggled with spasms & back pain that kept him from playing and practicing at an elite level for an extended period of time.

Anyway, this is a compilation of some of Freddy's best moments on the golf course. My favorite moments are from the the 1996 edition of THE PLAYERS Championship. He won that tournament. This is the tournament where they have that island green par 3. The first highlight (starting at about the 4:15 mark) is where he put it in the water on his first shot, re-teed it up, and then holed his 2nd try for a par. The second moment is from the final round of that '96 tournament on hole #16, where he sunk a long putt for eagle. And the final moment is also from the final round of that '96 tournament, where he sunk a long putt for birdie.

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