Fred Couples’ latest LIV Golf take? At the Masters, he opened up again   

fred couples on fairway at 2024 masters

Fred Couples played a practice round with Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods at the 2024 Masters.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Remember the PGA Tour-LIV Golf tension this time last year? It was thicker than pimento cheese. The two tours were suing one another, the June 6 accord that no one, including players on either side, saw coming was still two months away from its CNBC coming-out party and golf fans rightly wondered if a food fight might break out at the Masters Champions Dinner.

And now? Different times, man. This week’s Champions Dinner host plays for a LIV expansion team called Legion XIII, Phil Mickelson’s social-media swagger is fully back and Jay Monahan and his C-suite are desperately trying to broker a deal with LIV to bring much-needed stabilization to the men’s game.  

And then there’s Fred Couples.

Couples, you might recall, has not minced words when it comes to his disdain for LIV Golf and what it represents. His biggest gripe is with those LIV players who’ve kicked the PGA Tour in the shins on the way out the door. But Couples also has aired other grievances. He has said he doesn’t care for the source of LIV’s funding (Saudi Arabia), that the league’s 54-hole, no-cut format is silly and that LIV’s proclamations that it’s changing the game are laughable. He has called LIV golfer and former Masters champion Sergio Garcia a “clown,” and, in 2022, told me that he didn’t think he’d ever speak to Mickelson again. Subsequently, Couples called Mickelson a “nutbag,” but also admitted that he still “likes” him. So, yeah, when it comes to LIV, Couples has had feelings — some unwavering, others conflicting — and he hasn’t been shy about expressing them.      

Couples, who slipped on the green jacket in 1992, is making his 39th Masters appearance this week. He’s easing into the proceedings, as Couples does. On Sunday, he played a practice round with another past winner, José María Olazábal. On Tuesday morning, he played nine holes with Justin Thomas and a five-time green-coat winner named Tiger Woods. After Couples fielded a few questions about Woods’ game (“he looks really, really good”) and Couples’ chronically sore back (“I had some cortisone shots last week”), he was asked about whether his opinion on LIV has changed.

Couples’ answer? In short, a firm…sorta.  

“I don’t think I’ll ever understand it,” Couples began. “Maybe I’ll go to one [LIV event] and see what it’s really, really like. I know how great they are as players. I get it all, and I get the 54 holes and you drive a cart to your tee and shotgun. That’s easy to pick on. Sometimes I’ve picked on comments that people have made, and I’ve picked on comments that they talk about the Tour, which I’ve said I have now 44 years invested in, and I don’t want anyone picking on a tour that I think is very good.”

Couples won 15 times on Tour between 1983 and 2003. In 2013, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He sees little value in the titles the LIV players are chasing week to week.

“Now, everything can get better, but let me tell you, if the LIV tour is better for golf, I’m missing something there,” Couples said. “But again, I’m not here to bash them anymore. I’m going to see them all tonight. Do I like coming to this tournament? I love it. Do I like five days before it seeing the people standing there saying we’re coming after the green jacket? I mean, when I was 35, I was coming off the green jacket, too.”

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The “people” to whom Couples was referring were the 13 LIV players in the Masters field this week. On April 3, Garcia tweeted a photo of the group with the caption, “We’re coming for that green jacket.”

“I don’t think you need to tell people what you’re doing,” Couples continued. “I mean, everyone at this tournament — you don’t think Ludvig Aberg wants to win the green jacket here, or Hatton?”

Couples began to soften again.

“I find their golf very, very good,” he said. “I love DJ. I love Brooks. I don’t know if they even comment on the LIV Tour. They just play golf.”

Couples began to dig in again.

“So please don’t tell me the LIV Tour is as good as the PGA Tour,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it.”

Couples will be hearing from Jon Rahm on Tuesday evening. So will all the other past champions here. That’s when the 29-year-old Spaniard will, from the head of the table at the Champions Dinner, make a few remarks to his fellow winners about what it means to be in their company. “He’s going to sit up there,” Couples said. “He’s going to serve us all great food and wine and we’re going to have a great time.”

Time heals all wounds. And a little Rioja never hurts, either.

“Jon Rahm is a tremendous champion of this tournament,” Couples said. “I don’t think there’s any issues at all with anybody.”

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