‘I’m so afraid to hurt myself’: Fred Couples provides ‘retirement’ update

Fred Couples

Fred Couples last week at the Hoag Classic.

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Fred Couples is in good spirits. He’s back in Rancho Mirage, California, where he once lived, and he’s playing Mission HIlls, where he once had a regular game. The course is “mint,” he says, in advance of this week’s Galleri Classic on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.  

Then there’s college basketball. Couples’ Houston bunch plays Duke on Friday night in the men’s Sweet 16, and a one-time roommate has been texting. The Cougars are playing in Dallas, he’s writing. We. Should. Go. 

Couples, though, tells Jim Nantz to chill. He’s playing golf.  

“I’m like, I’ve got a golf tournament, Jimmy,” Couples said. “I can’t just go somewhere to watch the Cougs play. 

“We’re working on it. They’ve got to beat Duke and then we’ll worry about maybe Sunday.”

But if the ’92 Masters winner is truly being honest, the best part of this week is that the last one is done, though it was maybe more than the fact that he was hurting and had to withdraw from the Champions’ Hoag Classic after just 27 holes. It was how. Yes, he’s been fighting back issues for years. But last week, for example, his fellow pros were hitting mid-irons — and Couples was hitting long ones. He said he was dinking around. Saturday, he said he couldn’t swing at all and punted. 

“It was just a waste of time,” he said.

But it also got the 64-year-old ruminating. Reflecting. 

Is this it? 

On Thursday, seconds into a pre-Galleri press conference, he talked of being old. Twice he said he hoped to play in the event for a couple of more years. So he’s sounding like he’s considering retirement, and somewhat soonish. Thing is, though, you’ve probably heard this before.

CARY, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 15: Fred Couples walks down the first fairway during the second round of the SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club on October 15, 2022 in Cary, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
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Remember two years ago, at an event in Madison, Wisconsin? Couples was contemplative then too. Said he wanted to win one more time. That was also very finish-line-sounding, and then it quickly became definitive. A reporter started an exchange by saying: “And when you win again, whether that … ” — and Couples responded like this:

“… I’ll be gone,” Couples said.

“Really? Out the door?”

“Yes,” Couples said. “So hopefully Sunday night, I will be gone.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“Cold turkey?”

“A pretty simple thing,” Couples said. “That’s why I keep choking on all these five-shot leads. I had a five-shot lead in Seattle a few years ago and I wouldn’t have won anyway, but Brandt Jobe shot, I think, 63. But, yeah, I’m done.”

“When you do win, wouldn’t you want to play one more?”

“No,” Couples said.



And then yes. Four short months later, Couples won. Made a ridiculous 12 birdies in his final round. But, as you can see, he didn’t stop. Last year, he became the oldest player ever to make the cut at the Masters. And here we are. And maybe, you, the Couples optimist, believes his effortless move to the ball can not only obliterate golf balls, but can also tell Father Time to take a hike. 

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Well, maybe not quite. 

But Couples isn’t finished, either. 

In what we’ll label his latest retirement update, Couples said he has a plan. He’ll play the favorites. He’ll ready himself properly, like he has this week. 

But there won’t be more weeks like the last one. No way. 

Thursday, a reporter picked up on Couples saying he wanted to play a couple more years. He had asked if that meant a couple of more years full time — and then Couples jumped in. 

“Well, you’re on the ball,” he said. 

“I have some hand-picked ones. I’ll play in Newport because I can get around there, I’ll play here, I might go up to Pebble and play. But I’m not going to travel around and play — I’ve actually felt OK in Hawaii and in Naples, but I just, I can’t — I’m so afraid to hurt myself by practicing for a couple hours and I don’t feel well. 

“When I was 35, it took me a long time to figure out: OK, what do I have to do so when I’m 36 that I can get through these 18 tournaments? Now that I’m 64, my goal is to not come play a golf tournament and feel bad and finish 45th. That’s not much fun. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but I’m past that. 

“So I’ll play a handful of tournaments and play with my buddies and enjoy golf.”

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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