“Nothing he does with a golf ball surprises me,” CBS Sports broadcaster Jim Nantz said. “He’s one of the most popular golfers of all time.”
Couples was born on Oct. 3, 1959, in Seattle, Wash. His family lived in a modest house on Beacon Hill near the city’s Jefferson Park golf course, where Couples developed his signature rhythmic, picturesque swing. His long shoulder turn helped him to become one of the game’s best drivers. Couples earned a golf scholarship at the University of Houston. As a member of the Cougars’ golf team, he roomed with future PGA TOUR player Blaine McCallister and Nantz.
“The first time I ever witnessed Fred hit a golf ball, I knew that this guy was destined for greatness,” said Nantz, who became close with Couples. “The golf ball flew off the clubface like it had been shot out of a cannon. It was jaw-dropping.”
Couples turned professional in 1980 and became a dominant force in the early 1990s, winning both PGA TOUR Player of the Year and the Vardon Trophy, awarded for lowest scoring average, in 1991 and 1992. His resume includes 15 PGA TOUR wins and more than $22 million in career earnings.
Couples’ considerable length off the tee gave him an advantage over many of his opponents, but steady Freddy realized that putting was critical to his success. “Putting is the hardest thing in golf – if you can’t read a putt, you don’t have much chance,” Couples told GOLF Magazine in 2011. “You definitely need to feel confident in your read if you’re going to make putts consistently.”
A fixture for the United States in international team competitions, Couples played on five Ryder Cup teams and four Presidents Cup teams. He scored 3 ½ points for the United States in its dramatic, 14 ½-13 ½ win against Europe in the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island. Couples played for the U.S. on the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994, and won all three of his matches as the Americans beat the International team, 20-12. He captained the winning Presidents Cup teams in 2009 and 2011, and will once again lead the Americans at the 2013 President Cup, at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Despite back problems throughout his career, Couples has played at a very high level. Since turning 50 in 2009, he has won eight times on the Champions Tour, including the 2012 Senior British Open Championship at Turnberry.
Couples stands as one of the game’s unique characters, a player whose enviable swing and easy smile carried him to the game’s highest levels.