Couples 'n' Love A look back at the spring of '92, when the golf world was smitten with two friendly rivals

April 23, 2000

Couples and Love, Love and Couples. Fred Couples and Davis Love
III were the Gold Dust twins of 1992, taking turns winning
tournaments during the first four months of the year. Their
streak began at the Los Angeles Open, where Couples beat Love in
a playoff. Three weeks later Couples won again, at Bay Hill, and
ascended to No. 1 in the World Ranking. In April he won the
Masters. Love shadowed him every step of the way, taking the
Players Championship and then, on consecutive weeks, winning at
Harbour Town and in Greensboro. By the end of April both players
had pocketed more than $1 million. Theirs was more a pairing
than a rivalry. Before tournaments Couples and Love held joint
press conferences, and they were often put in the same group for
opening rounds. Predictions were made. "This will lead [Couples]
on," Raymond Floyd said after the Masters. "Fred can win this
tournament as many times as Nicklaus or Palmer."

Then, almost as quickly as the Couples and Love phenomenon
began, it ended. Love had only one top 10 finish the rest of the
year. Couples, whose marriage unraveled that summer, didn't win
again either--and showed an aversion to being No. 1. (When asked
why he seldom answered the phone, he famously explained, "I just
have this feeling somebody's going to be on the other end.")
Eight years later Couples, now 40, and Love, 36, sat down with
SI's Gary Van Sickle to revisit their big year.

SI: What do you remember about 1992?

Love: I remember thinking in the playoff in L.A., If I can beat
Fred, I've beaten the best guy out here. Then when I won the
Players Championship and he won the Masters, I thought, If I can
only keep up with this guy.... It looked like Fred was going to
be the guy to beat for a long time to come.

Couples: Winning the Masters was a highlight, as was going into
Augusta as, quote, the Number 1 player, unquote, after winning
at Bay Hill. The Masters was a relief, like, Wow, I did it.

SI: Why were you able to play so well?

Couples: Davis had played a lot with Tom Kite, who is a great
wedge player. I remember Davis saying he had his wedges grooved
to where he could hit his pitching wedge 105 yards and his sand
wedge 80. It was our short games, that's what it's all about. We
didn't throw away strokes. Plus, I remember playing the par-5s
incredibly well. I was probably two under every day on the
par-5s. Tiger Woods is doing that now--except that he is
probably three under every day.

Love: Fred got his confidence with his putter, and when he gets
on a roll with his putter, he's hard to beat. He had some
personal things going on, but golf was a good distraction.

SI: You each had three wins and had won more than $1 million by
the end of April. What did it feel like to play that well?

Love: I felt as if I didn't have to work. I wasn't searching for
something. I was just going out and playing. You go through
periods when you say, "I have got to figure out something that
will work today until I can get to the range and work out this
problem." Other times you can't wait to get out on the course.
That's what it was like then. I had that feeling at the World
Match Play this year.

Couples: It was very easy. I knew I was going to do well every
week. I felt like 69 or 70 was par for me. Looking back, I
could've won a lot more. Sometimes I relaxed. If I had been a
little different, I might have won twice as many times. If I had
a different mentality, I might have pushed myself, but that's
the way I am. I was a very good player who could win, but I
wasn't a great player. Davis and I were like David Duval and
Tiger Woods, except I loved the way Davis played. I don't know
if Tiger pays that much attention to Duval's game or anyone
else's, but when I played with Davis, I watched the way he drove
the ball and listened to the way it came off the club face
because I felt we had fairly similar games. We could hit the
ball 100 miles but also hit a seven-iron 140 yards. Davis is
doing that a lot more now; he's not so gung ho to hit a
five-iron 230.

SI: How tough was being in the spotlight?

Love: Fred got more frustrated than I did. He doesn't like to
answer questions anyway. There were a lot of distractions, and
it affected our games, but it was fun to run at the top.

Couples: It was fast and furious, and I was new to it. All of a
sudden everyone wanted to know what I was doing every two steps.
"I'm going over here. Now I'm going over there." It was all
nonsense except for answering questions about golf. I handled it
nicely at times and not so well at others. Tiger dictates when
he's going to do interviews. I felt like the Tour was dictating
when we did them. It was a bit of a circus. Davis and I didn't
get the help that Tiger is getting, but it wasn't the same
amount of media, either. He has 300 writers; we maybe had 40 or
50. I don't like talking about myself and my game. I was saying
the same things over and over. I never paid attention to the
fact that the writers were different in Chicago or L.A. or
Phoenix. They all asked the same questions. You become cynical.
All I wanted to do was have Thursday come, and it became a
struggle getting to Thursday.

Love: There was a constant buzz about us. I was excited to play
every week. Tournaments started pairing us. Then we started
coming into the press room together. That was really how we
became friends. Fred stayed at my house after the Players
Championship that year. He pretty much flopped on the couch. A
lot of my friends came over, and Fred's standard line was,
"There's way too much going on around here." Now that he has
kids in his house, he's used to it.

SI: What happened the rest of the year?

Love: I knew it would be hard to sustain that kind of play, but
I felt like it was never going to end. Looking back, I could've
done a few things differently to keep it going, like managing my
time better and not getting wrapped up in little things that
seemed important but wore me down. I lost interest in '93
because I was tired. I lost my focus, got complacent and
developed a bad attitude.

Couples: I relaxed after the Masters, took two weeks off. I lost
my edge, and when I finally came back, I didn't play well. It's
not that I didn't try as hard. All of a sudden I just wasn't
shooting the same scores. I was ready to go in '93 and had a
decent West Coast. Then I blew out my back at Doral.

SI: Do you look back fondly on '92?

Love: It was an incredible time, an amazing year. It gave me
confidence for a long time. I've never had another extended
stretch in which I played that well. I saved the Tommy Armour
845 irons I used that year--the only complete set of old clubs I
have ever saved--because every time I look at them, I say, "Wow,
I sure played well with these clubs." They bring back good
feelings. I think about that year all the time.

Couples: From '89 to halfway through '92, it was the greatest
time I ever had playing golf. Now I wonder if I can play well
three weeks in a row, much less three months in a row. I look
back at '92 and think, That was a long time ago.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY SIMON BRUTY Sitting pretty Love (far left) and Couples each call 1992 his best year ever. COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Masters miracle When Couples's ball stayed up at 12, he seemed fated to win.

"It was very easy," Couples says. "Looking back, I could've won
a lot more. If I had a different mentality, I might have pushed
myself."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)