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A Win For Couples Would Be Devine

Don't think for a moment that bad golf doesn't bother Fred Couples.

It does. It burns.

One of the game's most talented players had scathing comments Tuesday for the way he has played since botching a chance to win a second Masters.

"I've been pathetic," he said. "My caddie likes to remind me that I'm 37-over par in the last two majors (U.S. Open and British Open). I was horrible. I would have been better off if I'd missed the cut. It hasn't been much fun."

And Couples loves his fun.

He's vowed to have some this week at the PGA Championship. It's a Couples love-fest for the hometown kid made good as the PGA returns to the Northwest for the first time since 1944.

"There's going to be a lot of screaming for me and I think it will be a big boost," Couples said. "I think I have a good shot at winning. I would quit and go to heaven if I won the PGA in Seattle."

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On Sahalee
Playing at home
His game plan
This was going to be the year Couples won a second major, joining among others Greg Norman, John Daly, Andy North and Ben Crenshaw as double winners. The death of his father, Tom, was behind him, a sad Thanksgiving Day like no other.

Couples found a new sweetheart, his split with a Dallas girlfriend a distant memory.

His cranky back felt good, no longer cramping during his big shoulder turns. Therapy, which included rolling on the ground and an occasional pill, worked perfectly.

Couples' game was brilliant early, and he won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January.

He was composed heading into the Masters, a tournament he won in 1992. Then came the Sunday 6-iron on No. 13 at Augusta National, a fat shot that found the creek. Playing partner Mark O'Meara seized the title.

Five weeks later Couples did it again, slicing a 6-iron into the water on the 71st hole of the Byron Nelson Classic, giving John Cook the championship.

Just two weeks later Couples bounced back to win Jack Nicklaus' tournament, the Memorial.

"I guess I just relaxed," Couples said. "I'm to the point where I don't have the energy to do this all year around. An to have your last three tournaments in a two-month period be the three majors is really not the brightest thing."

Memorial was a false illusion because Couples shot 18-over at the U.S. Open at Olympic and 19-over at the British Open at Royal Birkdale.

Since then he has switched irons, using Maxfli instead of Lynx, a company for which Couples was a part owner and did commercials.

"The grooves on my Lynx clubs were worn out," Couples said. "I've hit the ball well with the Maxfli irons. I'm waiting to get a new set of Lynx."

Couples has been swarmed by fans from the Seattle area who remember him from his junior days at Jefferson Park municipal golf course.

"A lot of people think they know you and want a second of your time," Couples said. "It's been something. I'd like to see the PGA here for the next 20 years."

Although Couples hadn't played Sahalee Country Club since 1978, no player in the field has more knowledge about how to play this sort of course, with towering Douglas fir trees and tight fairways.

"You have to hit a lot of 2-irons and 5-irons and putt well," Couples said. "It should be good for me."

Will the hometown pressure be too much? Will he remember his father had wanted to see him play at Sahalee?

"Dad will always be on my mind, but I'll still get to play in front of people who knew him," Couples said. "He loved the way I play golf and he loved me, but his death was awhile ago. This is the chance of a lifetime for me. A onetime thing. It might get awkward with all the people yelling for me but that's not going to be a distraction."

The 38-year-old is capable of lifting his game to great heights, if motivated.

"This could be some rush," he said.

Sahalee in Chinook means "heavenly high ground." After a hard summer, Couples hopes Sahalee was meant for him.