Fred couples has a delicious swing, perfect clothes, Prell hair, a monster wallet and a killer wife. He docs everything well—except finish his sentences.
"I don't know," Couples says, "I really think.... I just don't.... Some guys can really.... But I guess I'm kinda like my dad. I just hate to...."
Talk about yourself?
"Right," he says, immensely relieved.
"Well, I don't see.... I don't.... I don't even get into it. It's something I don't think is very important to go...."
When interviewed, the 32-year-old Couples sounds like AM on scan. The words start to come out, double-clutch, regroup in his throat and then boycott the sentence altogether. Somewhere along the line, Couples had an ego bypass, the result of which is terrible for someone who is the hottest player in American golf; who was last season's PGA Player of the Year; who won the 1991 Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average, as well as three tournaments; who was the Schwarzkopf of the stormin' American Ryder Cup team; and who deposited hulking stacks of cash in banking institutions in his hometown of Palm Beach, Fla. Seve Ballesteros recently called Couples the best American player. And get this: Couples has finished sixth or better in 16 of his last 20 tournaments. This is the stuff that slays other players. "That sounds like something Jack Nicklaus might have done in his prime," Johnny Miller, working for NBC, said as he watched Couples during the telecast of the Bop Hope Chrysler Classic in January. "That's incredible." Couples is either going to have to learn to talk about himself or join a monastery.
Wouldn't you like to know how a man who made more than $3 million over the last four years did it without ever taking a lesson? How somebody with a jewel thief's grace, a baccarat player's looks and a royal gait can stroll into a packed bar and order hot chocolate? How a man who is in demand all over the world for as much as $50,000 per exhibition appearance can constantly say nyet so he can lie on his couch and watch TV? ("I don't read at all," he once said, only half kidding. "I don't know how.") How a guy who wears clothes so wonderfully well that the company that bedecks him (Ashworth) went from annual sales of zilch in 1987 to $17 million in 1991 can't be dragged out dancing by a team of wild Clydesdales? How a player with whom golf clubs look so right that one manufacturer (Lynx) has just agreed to pay him $4 million over five years to use its sticks cannot understand the first thing about the golf swing?
Being with Couples for a tournament is like spending a week in a paddock with Seattle Slew. Men are aching, fillies are drooling, public-relations men are doing double-tuck layouts, but it seems to have no effect on the star. When Couples won the Player of the Year award, his acceptance speech, start to finish, was: "I really don't want to talk about myself. I want to talk about what the PGA means to me. It means hanging out with my buddies. I don't do much else but sleep and cat, and because of all of my friends, they voted me Number One. Thanks a lot."