Fred Couples, a former winner of the Masters, remained steadfast in his opinions regarding LIV Golf League players who have criticized the PGA Tour since leaving.
Couples said he doesn’t dislike any of the players who have defected to the LIV Golf League, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but he doesn’t like some of the comments they’ve made, in a press conference following a practice round ahead of the Masters on Monday at Augusta National Golf Club.
“I have no problem with any of them — just please do not bash a tour that I have 43 years invested in,” Couples said. “It bothers the hell out of me. They don’t bother me. They really don’t. They’re golfers. I’m a golfer. I respect them all.”
Couples called Spaniard Sergio Garcia a “clown” and three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson a “nutbag” during a PGA Tour Champions breakfast last month in Newport Beach, California.
At the breakfast, the Couples said, “If you’re giving Phil Mickelson $200 million at age 52 to shoot 74 and 75, God bless you.”
Couples stated on Monday: “On my [radio] show I’ve told everyone, ‘Sergio is one of the top 10 players I’ve ever seen hit a ball, but if he’s going to make comments about the tour that I play, I’m going to make a comment back, and if it’s offensive I apologize, but they’re on another tour. Go play and have a good time.”
Six former Masters champions, including Mickelson, Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Reed, and Bubba Watson, are currently participating in the LIV Golf League.
On Tuesday evening, they are all anticipated to attend a champion’s dinner that will be hosted by the current champion, Scottie Scheffler.
“You know, I’m not expecting anything different,” Couples said. “I’ve made comments, but they need to understand if they’ve looked at anything I’ve ever said, I call myself the same stuff I’m calling them, I just don’t think they should bash the PGA Tour or anybody, just go play golf. Tomorrow night will be a great dinner, will be a lot of fun.”
Since the 150th Open Tournament at St. Andrews in July, numerous players from the LIV Golf League and PGA Tour will be competing in the same tournament when The Masters gets underway on Thursday. A total of 18 LIV Golf League competitors were granted invitations to the Augusta Open.
“Brooks Koepka I love, Dustin Johnson absolutely love,” Couples said. “I’m not good enough to be paired with those guys. They’re going to play with those who are probably going to win this thing. But I have no problem with anyone on the LIV tour. I really don’t.”
Couples, 63, participated in a practice round on Monday alongside Tom Kim, Rory McIlroy, and Tiger Woods. Since failing to cut St. Andrews, Woods will be making only his second start.
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“He hit it really, really well,” Couples said of Woods. “He pulled a couple drives. But last year we played [in a practice round], he never missed a shot. I’ve never seen anything like it. For him, he’s just out there just trying to walk around and play.”
After sustaining severe injuries to his right leg, foot, and ankle in a car accident outside of Los Angeles in February 2021, Woods is still walking with a limp. His right foot almost had to be amputated, according to the surgeon.
“You know, I don’t really ask him a lot,” Couples said. “I think that’s not something when I text him or talk to him, really what our conversations are about. I think when he tells you I’m only going to play four events, and Augusta is one of them, he’s ready to go. It’s probably not going to be easy, but I think he’ll be fine.” Woods had his first official start in 508 days at the Masters last year, where he placed 47th.