Fred Couples dishes on Tiger Woods, playing with back pain, the Ryder Cup and if he’ll ever earn that captaincy

Fred Couples is back in your earbuds. The 58-year-old is set to host monthly shows for SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio beginning Tuesday with former Super Bowl champions Eli Manning and Justin Tuck joining him on show No. 1. He’ll wrap up the two-hour show with some golf talk, joined by a popular voice himself, Jim Nantz.

Couples joined the GOLF.com Podcast this week to talk about the show, Tiger Woods, his prospects as a Ryder Cup captain and the gravity of the Ryder Cup itself. He attended the 2016 Ryder Cup as a fan and plans to fly to Paris for it again this year, where, as he discussed on the podcast, he expects it to be the the best 24 players ever assembled for the event.

Simply put, why does Fred Couples do sports talk radio? What do you get out of it?

To be honest, I know this is going to sound crazy but I live in L.A. and Newport for my whole life and am not a music person. I listen to talk radio and I’m not big on news, so it’s usually sports. I just enjoy it. When I got the call to do this show, I thought, ‘Wow, can I handle this.’ Golf is what I do, so I thought, ‘Can I do more than golf? Can I do other sports? Can I get athletes that play golf to come on, certainly athletes that don’t play golf.’ It was very intriguing to me. It’s very nerve-wracking.

What is your favorite non-golf sport to play or non-golf sport to watch?

Well, I’m a baseball fan. My dad played baseball. My brother played baseball. I really enjoy everything. As I get older — I’m 58 — everyone knows I love TV but it’s very difficult for me to sit through a full football game. Thirty years ago you couldn’t turn the channel every two seconds and watch golf on one channel, college basketball on another, hockey on another, lacrosse on another…I enjoy just watching people. I like to watch other people. I might go to a basketball game and not even look at the guy with the ball half the time just to see what everyone else is doing. It’s intriguing.

In terms of golf, you’ll have plenty of time to talk about Tiger Woods, who played this weekend at Torrey Pines, another step on the comeback trail. Everyone tends to say the same things about him seeming happy, seeming fast, smiling. What have you seen out of him that hasn’t already been said 100 times?

That’s a great question. He’s someone I have fun texting with. We talk about his kids and golf very rarely comes up. It wasn’t that long ago that we were at the Presidents Cup — I was an assistant, he was an assistant — golf never came up in seven straight days. I didn’t ask him. I don’t know if some of the other team players asked him…my caddie Joey (LaCava) of 20-something years is caddying for him. He never gives out much. All he said is that he’s just very excited. I can see that…Now, is he the player he once was? Of course not. Can he be? Yeah, if he’s feeling good and healthy. There is another thing where you have these little back issues. At the end of the day, you’re exhausted. There was a time where I was miserable. I just couldn’t take it. It’s like having a toothache all day long.

His back injury history is well-documented. So is yours. I understand they’re not the same, but it was reported last week that he might be warming up with driver first, and that that tip came from you. Is that true, and what is the idea there?

It may have come from Joey [LaCava]. There was a time where I couldn’t hit a pitching wedge or a sand wedge. Even when I played OK golf, I would go practice and by the time I would warm up hitting sand wedges and nine-irons, my back would already hurt. I would start out with driver and hit them at 70 percent. It was just a fluid swing and I would stand really tall and it never affected my back. There were some days where I never putted, never hit any irons, just swung drivers to warm up and headed to the first tee. I think there’s nothing wrong with that. Tom Watson for the longest time has warmed up with a three-iron. That absolutely blows my mind.

Obviously, Tiger has been stretched and worked out. When he goes to the driving range, there’s that little time of 20 minutes. Tiger would tell you that if he plays golf and there’s a wait on the tee for two groups, or if someone loses a ball, he stands there for 10 minutes, it’s like you’re starting over. Your back is a very controlled thing and once it gets going, I used to say I could play 36 holes once I started if I never stopped. The problem was if I sat down, if I waited and stood and stood. It was horrible. I think he’s doing this drill. I don’t know if he did it in San Diego, he may be doing at home. But it’s really just something to get your body going where you don’t feel the strain of the bending of your back to hit wedges.

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About Patrick Gonzalez

A wandered spirit at times, but passionate about family values, interested in world cultures, and taking the journey through life with vigor and no fear in trying something new. Patrick received his FAA pilot’s license in High School before acquiring a driver’s license. He still flies regularly to keep proficient in instrument and multi-engine ratings. Traveled all over the world while in the U.S. Navy and became very appreciative of different cultures. After his military service he grew a passion for golf and became a PGA professional. He authored “Golf’s Deadly Sins” and has over 30 years of teaching experience. Patrick says that experience has shown him that nothing invented by man will ever come at you harder than life itself. "It’s always better to be on the ground wishing that you were flying, than flying wishing you were on the ground."

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