Fred Couples is in a tight spot. While it’s hard to deny the best player of the last ten years a spot on his President’s Cup team, Tiger simply isn’t half the man he used to be. There’s a shadow hanging over him—and that’s the lack of playing time. So Fred seems to be trying to extricate himself from the abyss by saying that if Tiger wants to get on the team, he’s got to play more.
Couples has texted Woods but not spoken to him. He has spoken to Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, since Tiger missed the cut at the PGA and says that Woods is “very excited” about the prospect of playing.
“I texted him before Bridgestone, ‘I’ll be watching,’ ” Couples said. “He goes, ‘yeah I know you’ll be watching, I want to be on that team.’ So I said, ‘you’ll be on that team.’ “
Along those lines, Couples told Steinberg, “We’re going to figure out a way to get this done.”
Still, there is one condition.
“In my opinion for him to play I think he needs to play a little bit,” Couples said. “He just can’t show up the week before in Australia, and I have made it clear that whoever I pick will be playing in the Australian Open the week before and he’s committed to playing already.”
If Tiger has any feelings of friendship for Fred Couples, he’ll pull himself out of consideration. Tiger could claim that his knees just aren’t up to the strain of playing two weeks in a row, and I think people would respect him for that. That’d leave Couples free to put Keegan Bradley on the team, which in my mind offers less risk (but also potentially less reward).
But Tiger wont’ do that. He’s all about Tiger, and I’m sure he thinks a good performance at the President’s Cup will polish his tarnished image. There’s more potential upside for him: If he plays well, the buzz starts again. If he plays poorly, or just average, he’s no worse off.
Couples on the other hand risks a lot. If he uses a Captains’ pick on an obviously slumping Tiger, and Tiger doesn’t come through, Couples loses. Golf pundits will wonder why Couples didn’t pick Keegan Bradley (or anyone else). Worse, if the US team loses, the second guessing will make Couples the new Hal Sutton. On the other hand, if Tiger plays well, Couples gets no credit (“of course he had to take Tiger—it was a no brainer”). A US win in the wake of a Tiger resurgence becomes Tiger’s win. A US loss in the wake of a Tiger slump becomes Couples’ loss.
I’ve long been a fan of Fred Couples. I hope this works out for him.