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Fred Couples, Renaissance Man

DUBLIN, OHIO | Fred Couples walked up the hill toward the Muirfield Village clubhouse last Friday afternoon, a warm wind whipping the sleeves of his green shirt as a symphony of fans begged him to sign their caps and flags. Couples had just finished playing with Tiger Woods and Keegan Bradley for the second straight day in a grouping that produced more star power than birdies. In deciding to accept a spot in the Memorial field again, Couples had asked to be paired with Woods because, at age 53, he knows the chance may not come along again. Scores aside, it was a very good week for Couples, who will return to Muirfield Village as captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team in October. On Wednesday, Couples flew from Los Angeles to Washington, where he and International team captain Nick Price spent 20 minutes with President Barack Obama. “When you go in there and you’re in that little West Wing and all of a sudden they say, ‘The president will see you now,’ it’s like holy (cow),” Couples said. “It’s like how many times in your life have you heard those words, ‘The president will see you now?’” In Couples’ case, it was the fourth time but the thrill remains. Standing on the practice green at Muirfield Village, occasionally twisting his finicky back the way he always has, Couples’ enthusiasm was contagious as he talked to a handful of reporters. He hadn’t wanted to make the trip to Washington, preferring to spend Wednesday practicing, but when Commissioner Tim Finchem summoned him, Couples put on a suit and tie and is happy he did. Couples has played golf with George Bush 41, met Bill Clinton as a member of the victorious 1993 Ryder Cup team and had met Obama previously as Presidents Cup captain. During the visit with Clinton 20 years ago, Couples was with Jay Haas, who will be one of his Presidents Cup assistants. “We were in line to shake (Clinton’s) hand and he got to Jay Haas and Bill Clinton said, ‘How is Jan (Haas’s wife) doing and how are your kids,’ and he named his five kids,” Couples said. “I don’t know if they have a little piece in their ear … seriously … I heard all this and it blew Jay’s mind, blew his mind.” The stories you collect when you meet presidents. The Wednesday meeting with Obama was short but sweet. “He walks in there, he’s tall, he’s thin. Just looked like he was in a great mood,” Couples said. “He was very funny about golf and his game and a couple of other things. He said, ‘I’m scrappy but there are three things I do – I don’t cheat, I putt everything out and I play really fast.’ Those things sounded pretty fun.” Couples and Price twice asked Obama, the Presidents Cup’s honorary chairman, to attend the matches this fall and both times Obama declined. Something about being busy, the president said.


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