Smooth Operator: Fred Couples still has Game

I did something I have always wanted to do and that was to go to a PGA event and follow Freddy Couple from tee to great for 18 holes.  And I almost made it happen at the Colonial in Ft Worth.  I made it for 14 holes, but the heat was too much for me, I could image it was getting too much for Fred also.  He was playing Freddy golf but seemed to be struggling with his back more than usual.  If you have ever followed Fred, he is always moving and stretching to keep his back from tightening up.

 

 I joke with David Feherty once during one our short visits during his charity contribution to my wife’s and my charity organization, that CBS should film all of the stretches Fred does during the round and produce a video for Fred to promote.  He thought it was a great idea and Feherty rolled that into a number of stories he had about Fred that I will not go into here.  But I am sure the heat and slower play took its toll on Fred’s efforts to keep his back loose.

 

But for a little while I got to walk along the fairway after each of Fred’s tee shots,  stand almost as his caddie as he made his approach shots and could almost line up his putts from where I got to stand on the greens or sit in the stands next to the green.

 

What an experience I and thousands had and what a golfer.  Boom-boom exemplifies golf for me.  The casualness of his stride to the tee, down the fairway, to the green, and through the ropes to the next tee oozes class and style.  He never changes the pace of play or his demeanor.  No matter if he hits his drive in the third cut of rough or eagles a hole from a 100yds with a lob wedge, his reactions stays the same.  His trademark; flipping of his visor, run his fingers through his mane, readjusts his visor and then, ‘snap’, it is Showtime is the only reaction he makes.  And this could mean he is excited, pissed, or just needing to get a tee out of his hat…it is so subtle of a release for him it has been the key I watch after almost every shot.

 

You will never see him make a jester of frustration, a pump of the fist in discuss, or in excitement.  He is just ‘Steady Freddy’ until the ball falls into the 18 cup.  And then it is all smiles and ‘Man, did I have fun’ attitude..

 

OH, he burns inside from making a mistake and he can flash that Cheshire Cat grin when he sinks a forty footer for eagle or flash the sternest Hawkeye glare when he slam dunks a shot from the fairway in his ‘in-you-face’ ‘I just took the lead’ statement and exhibition of excellence golf skills.

 

Now I don’t know Fred personally.  Never have met him formally, but being an overly observant person have gotten to know Fred from the outside.  I am like the thousand other of his fans and like most or not all, hope one day, before Fred or I get too old, we get to meet so I get the opportunity to personally thank him for the contribution he made to my golf game.  

 

I feel that every kid could learn a lot about how they should carry themselves on and off the golf course by walking the course and studying Fred.  What an outstanding example of how golf should be played.  From the swing that flows like molasses and produces so much power to the impeccable style and fashion in the clothes he wears, all or ‘Freddie’.

 

Now, Fred is not an angle.   That is what I like about him.  He is about one degree from being just like me or you.  He is not perfect; he is not guarded by a dozens of security guards and having to make attempts to change the world.  He uses his golf to do all of his talking to the world.  The only difference is that he can play golf better than me or you (and that would even go to you Tiger if you have honored me by reading this).  Fred can get mad and he is probably one of the best jokesters ever.  He message comes clear to all who have spent time watching him from the outside.   All he wants to have a good time. 

 

My wife jokes with me when we play golf together, mostly because I am a kid a heart and always want to be, about me thinking out load during the set up of my shots.  She knows how I have studied everything about Fred’s swing, his power stroke through the ball at impact and his only target when he aims his shot is the pin…no matter where it is placed on the green.  And she knows my frustration because I can’t do any of them.  But it is fun to try and mostly I credit Freddy for providing me an example of what could happen if I slowed my backswing down and placed the clubface squarely on the back of the ball.

 

Like most golfer I loose consciousness in my set-up to the ball for a pressure shot and it is not uncommon for me to say to myself out loud …”Freddy, Freddy, Freddy…what would Freddy be thinking about right now?”  That rhetorical question clicks my brain into visual mode.  And it generates the memory of the video one of my instructors made of my swing and then superimposed it over a video of Fred’s swing. 

 

That video was proof positive that the only thing similar to our two swings was when we were both addressing the golf ball.  From that point our two swings, as in life, never meet, but the memory of his swing broke down frame by frame with my swing provided me more golf instruction of one of the most powerful full golf swings in golf.  And what I feel is one of he best tempo’s of a golf swing there is. That one slow motion video produced more positive swing thoughts for me than any instruction from any golf instructor I have ever had.

 

What was the one thing that I remember when I am standing there in that pressure moment asking Fred what he would do?  The answer is slow down

Like almost all golfers when they get into that position they have one of two thoughts. Like ‘I have got to kill this ball to make that shot’ or ‘Oh boy, lets get this over with’…both produce a quick jerking shot that nobody knows where it is going to go.

 

So the answer from my imaginary Fred Couples standing there telling me what he would do, my first move in my backswing is like watching that video in slow motion.  A slow and steady takeaway until I feel it get to the top where I am ‘Cocked & Locked’.  Then, as the memory is running in my mind, I think about that split second pause Fred has at the top and I make a one-two count, which in real time is a split second.   From the top my thoughts are still Pace…and then, just like Freddy, I ‘strike-up the band’ by bring those hands down and from inside with my only goal to hit the BACK of the ball…. The result: EVERYTIME, I do this I produce one wonderful shot that makes me understand for that short split second what Fred must feel when he is starring his shot into the spot he had targeted. 

 

I was on the edge of my lounge chair along with millions watching Fred at 2000 Byron Nelson standing on the tee of #17, joking with his caddy about the pin placement which on that Sunday, like all Sunday at the Nelson, is three paces from the front, three paces from the right and four paces from the left on the little finger of the green that sticks out on the pond of the TPC #17.   When Fred stepped up to that shot he wasn’t thinking of going for the fat of the green to the left and putting for a sure part to stay in the lead and win the tournament, he was taking it to the pin.  What was running through his head?  I can image from all of the studying I have made since Fred won the 1992 Masters that his thoughts, if formulated, would be something like..’Its not fun to go for something everyone can do and I play golf because it is fun. And this is a game…but a game of skill and I feel if the fans are going to come out to watch this game they want to see us make shots that players of our caliber can make and not the shots that they could make…So, I choose fun and the opportunity to test my skills..’  OR he would think something like that.  And what happened is in the history books and engraved in my memory.   Fred came up short on that shot which resulted in him losing the tournament by one shot. 

 

Most people remember that shot and how tense of a moment that discussion was to watch Fred take that risky of a shot.  The thrill was, Fred could make that shot…  My memory of that moment was when Gary McCord asking David Feherty, ‘Is he going for that pin?’ and Feherty’s reply was…well David’s reply is my wife’s remark to me when I set up to my shot and she sees my eye set on the pin behind a hazard or on the edge of the water.. and I talk to the wind asking Freddie what he would do…she blurs out to our playing partners.. ‘He going to put a Freddy on that shot’.. 

 

Yes, memory of that shot at the 2000 Nelson made me brave the
Texas heat last week and walk a few miles in Freddy’s shoes. But it was not the memory most had of the ball bouncing off the rocks in front of the pin and going into the #17 pond, but the memory of the expression on Fred’s face as he walked down from tee-box to the drop area of #17 that made me want to pay my respect to a guy who knows what golf is all about.  Fred had that look of satisfaction standing at the #17 drop zone, flipping the Visor, taming his mane of hair and readjusted his visor.  He attempted the shot he wanted to make, He stayed committed to the shot and he was bound to have FUN at all costs and that is what I respect and think should be how golf should be played.  Nobody oozes style or reflects the positive image that every golfer should have after taking a high level risk and failing like Fred…nobody does it better,   Fred is a one of a kind, he always will be and is truly my hero…A Smooth Operator.

 

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