Skip to main content
Original Issue

Priority Male Fred Couples would rather be a good father than a great golfer

The U.S. Open, like life itself, is what you make of it. On
opposite ends of the spectrum as the players prepare for
Pinehurst are Lee Janzen and Fred Couples. Janzen, the defending
champ, also won in 1993, and when he tees it up next week he'll
be staring down history because only five men have won the title
as many as three times. Couples, though he loves the challenge
of the Open and Pinehurst, will not even be fully focused on golf.

Janzen can't wait for the Open because he always seems to play
so well in it. In addition to his two victories he has had a
couple of close calls. He came in 13th in 1995, when a double
bogey on the 71st hole cost him, and tied for 10th in '96
despite a triple bogey early in the week. Janzen's also
confident because he thinks he has an edge. "A lot of guys are
trying to figure out the secret, racking their brains and
pressing hard," he says. "I feel like I know something that they

And what might that be? Simple. "There is no secret," Janzen
says. "You act like it's not even a tournament. Just enjoy the
course. If you play well, you play well. If you don't, you
don't. Just don't worry about it."

On the surface, someone as laid-back as Couples would seem
perfectly suited to take that bit of advice to heart, but
instead he already sounds defeated. "Winning would be close to
an upset," he says. "The Open isn't a tournament that I've ever
gone to feeling like I was going to win."

Last week's Memorial, in which he finished tied for 59th, was
only Couples's third start since the Masters, and he isn't
furiously prepping for Pinehurst. The reason has nothing to do
with the Open. The King of the Couch has clicked the remote, and
the Golf Channel is off and the Family Channel is on. "I'm not
into golf right now," Couples says. "I know my time has
semi-passed. I'm not quitting, I just don't feel like beating my
brains out practicing."

There are three things more important than golf to Couples: his
wife, Thais, and her two children, GiGi, eight, and Oliver,
five. When Couples married Thais last year he had an instant
family--just add water. Couples, 39, had wanted a family for a
long time, and the new additions to his life helped offset
recent subtractions. His mother, Violet, had died on Mother's
Day in 1994, just a few weeks after being diagnosed with cancer,
and his father, Tom, succumbed to leukemia on Thanksgiving in
1997, the same year Thais was diagnosed with breast cancer,
which she beat.

Suddenly, Couples is a father, and it's an opportunity he
relishes. "If I'd had kids when I was 25 or 30, I would not be
anywhere near the player I am," he says. "I've been at Jay
Haas's house and seen his son look up and say, 'Dad, do you have
to go already?' That's hard for my kids, too, because they've
never been around golf. I have chosen to stick around because
that's what I want to do. It's a lot of fun to go to softball
and soccer games and to the park and the zoo."

When he was single and alone, Couples would hit balls three
times a week, mostly out of boredom. "I never felt like I was
lost when I came back out on Tour," he says. "When I teed off on
Thursday, I knew I was going to play well."

That has changed. Now he has better things to do than practice
when he's home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and his game hasn't
been as sharp. After a practice round before the Memorial, he
admitted that every shot was a struggle. "If you don't work on
your game, you're not going to beat David Duval and Davis Love,"
Couples says. "I'm not done playing golf, but I want to have a
good time. I've been doing this since I was 20. That's a long
time. You never give up, but right now I'm playing just to be

The 34-year-old Janzen, who took off this week so he could work
on his game at home in Orlando, will be ready for the Open. He
hits high, soft iron shots, has good distance control and a
sweet short game, and plays smart. He'll be among the favorites.

Couples will show up at Pinehurst, too, but might not make it to
the final round on June 20, Father's Day. He could be back home
by then, celebrating.


"I'm not quitting," says Couples, "I just don't feel like
beating my brains out practicing."