Now that Couples can get tee times, only Love has caught him. Can Love pass him? Four years younger, Love already has six Tour victories. By his 28th year Couples had only three. True, Love has no majors, but Palmer and Lee Trevino didn't win one until they were 28. Couples is the better escape artist. Tour pro Blaine McCallister says Couples hits trouble shots "that just aren't possible," but Watson says that Love hits it straighter. Love is the more fundamentally sound player, but Couples has more talent. "I see Freddy as the guy to beat the next 10 years," says Love, "as long as he doesn't get too frustrated with constantly being the guy to beat."
He might be already. Couples's corners seem the more tattered by the constant attention. Since his Masters win he has played 10 rounds, nine of them in the 70s, including rounds of 72 and 73 last week at the Byron Nelson Classic, where he failed to make the cut. At Greensboro he snapped at a photographer, a highly un-Fred-like thing to do. Early in his streak he told the press, "I love talking to you guys. I'd come in every day if I could." Lately he seems to have changed his mind. "I shot 73," he said after the first round in Houston. "There's nothing to talk about." Of course, it was his 10th event in 12 weeks. The word no is going to start popping up more often in Couples's speech.
Love seems to be weathering success better, but he's getting squeezed, too. He went into Houston off two straight wins, trying to become the first guy in 14 years to win three straight. But on Saturday he shot a 77, at one point turning to his caddie, brother Mark, and saying, "I've lost my mind out here." He's getting it back, slowly. "Once the novelty of this wears off, and Freddy and I just get into a rhythm, it's going to be fun," Love says.
Couples and Love will face each other eight more times this season—at the U.S. Open, the Western, the British, the PGA, the World Series, the Canadian, the Tour Championship and the Johnnie Walker World Championships. Both want to be the first Tour player to win $2 million in a season; both want to be Player of the Year. And both want to make some Tour history. "I'd like to see if one of us can win five," says Couples. Love goes one better: "I wonder if two guys can win six each."
"Wait a minute!" It was Hubert Green at Houston, interrupting all the wallowing. "You're acting like they're the only ones who can play golf. What about Corey Pavin? What about John Cook? Greg Norman is still available, last I heard. I mean, Fred and Davis are fine players, but what did they do this week?"
Uh, Couples finished 22nd, Love 38th.
"Well?" said Green.