Planet Golf — 22 August 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Captain Couples: On golf

SNOQUALMIE, Wa. — Fred Couples, who grew up in Seattle and remains one of the area’s most popular sportsman, held a press conference before this week’s Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge and talked about his game and the state of golf.

It was a year ago this week before the Boeing that Couples made the quick and controversail decision – at the time – to add a struggling Tiger Woods – at the time – to the Presidents Cup team. Couples, who was the captain, was ripped throughout the golf media world for that decision because Woods had not won in more than a year and was still hampered by a leg injury.

But the U.S. beat the International Team, 19-15, at the Royal Melbourne Course in Melbourne, Australia last November.  Woods won his clinching match.

Couples talked about how he dealt with the criticism along with opinions on other golf issues. Here are excerpts of his comments:

Q. Last year there was a big deal over the surprised that you picked Tiger (for the Presidents Cup). In your heart does it feel obvious that you feel vindicated at all?

COUPLES: You know, I’m not that kind of person, but I will say people still bring it up and it’s kind of comical because they still can’t put this all together. I watch the Golf Channel and I’ll see some scenario where they’ll say, yeah, but he shouldn’t ever have picked Tiger, he picked him because of who he was.

Who he was? I mean, yeah. When you hear it, you just giggle. Now, when I picked it here, look, I can see getting picked on, but it doesn’t really matter to me.

Now, Sunday night at Australia if he hadn’t have played well and he lost the singles match and we lost the cup by a point or something, then I think he would have handled it very well and I would have handled it, too.

But when you’re doing this, I just can’t imagine having a hundred other Presidents Cups in my shoes and not picking Tiger Woods. I did not see a big deal. And to refresh a couple people, they didn’t understand why I picked him early; because I wanted everyone to know that they might be getting picked, there’s only one pick left, so don’t think you can take a week off or slip a little bit.

And at the same time, Tiger played three other times and I needed him to play a couple, and he ended up going to Australia to play, too, so that’s how all that transpired.

But not vindicated. It was very fun to watch him play. He had a shot at winning the week before in Australia and Joe said he’s ready. And then of course the first match they lost 7 & 6, you know? So I’m thinking, wow, this is not working out so well here for the pairings. So they came up to me and Steve (Stricket) said, ‘Look, Tiger played okay but I was terrible, put me with someone else.’ I think Tiger played with Dustin Johnson and maybe got a point or half a point. But they were all critical matches, and obviously Tiger did well and we had a couple guys do incredibly well.

Q. So what are your duties as assistant Ryder Cup captain?

COUPLES: My duties? Yeah, would be to try and keep Davis loose. There’s Jeff Sluman and Scott Verplank, so we’ve texted a little bit. We’ve had some mass texting and I think it will stop for a little while. I think Davis (Love) makes his picks? You wouldn’t know?

Q. Will you have a role in the team selections?

COUPLES:  I’m not going to say anything this time because this is all his (Love’s) deal, but I think he’s got it down and there’s maybe a spot left for someone to dash in and take it. But he’s got maybe five guys and I would say out of those five, three of them are going to get it and maybe two other guys will fight for a spot, and that could be a mix of any of them. I mean, who you think might be one may flip flop with the four and five guys.

Q. Will you offer your input?

COUPLES: Yeah, we had a big call with Scott Verplank and Jeff Sluman last week. Excuse me, PGA I guess, when they were trying to solidify the seventh and eighth spot, nothing changed, so Phil (Michelson) finished eighth, which was a great help for Davis and the team.

Q. Do you enjoy captaining?

COUPLES: You know, I really do. The assistant thing, I think, is going to be incredibly easy, and like, ‘hi, I’m here to have dinners with you.’ But really, if anything happens to jump in there and maybe take a little slough from a player and put it on not Davis but on me, you know, because what do I care? You know how it happens, I mean, nothing horrible. If some guy says something that gets blown out of proportion, you jump in there and say, Look, I was right there, this is how it happened, didn’t mean anything by it, take it out on me. That’s not going to happen, but just in case.

It’s great golf and that’s the most fun. Fun being around everyone, but the way they play is great golf nowadays. And I don’t know how Davis will set it up at Chicago. He’s on his own there. At Royal Melbourne, both teams ‑‑ I mean, we won, but there’s very few bad shots. There was a couple holes that were par 3s where guys couldn’t keep it on the green, but, I mean, players are much better. Their team is incredible, the Ryder Cup. But when you look at our team, we have guys that are having great years and so that’s kind of what you need. I think they have lower‑ranked players, maybe players that people might think are better. But we have guys that are having great years. Bubba (Watson) and Jason Dufner are playing incredible golf. We just need a couple guys to step up and we’ll be just fine.

Q. With those five picks might Davis look for guys who have had a good history at Medinah?

COUPLES: Yeah, I don’t know much about Medinah. That’s a great question. I don’t know. Obviously naming them, there’s Stricker and (Jim) Furyk, (Rickie) Fowler and Bill Haas. I know Stricker and Furyk have played a few events at Medinah. I don’t know if Rickie Fowler’s played an event there or Brandt Snedeker’s another one or Bill Haas. He’ll look that up. He’ll figure all that out.

But I don’t think he’s going to pick ‑‑ you know, David Toms was close, he’s a top player but he’s not really close, but if he plays well and then all of a sudden he looks and he says, wow, he finished third at the PGA here one year and fifth at the U.S. Open and blah blah blah blah blah, you would have to take that take into consideration, even though he’s just past these other two guys. But someone’s going to have to really step up and play well the next couple weeks fast.

Q. How’s your game?

COUPLES: I expect to play well. I hit the ball better today. I’m going to go, get out of here and rest and maybe just go putt at Broadmoor with John and then come back tomorrow. I’ll play in the pro‑am early tomorrow and probably practice a little bit tomorrow afternoon.

Sometimes I just really have to ‑‑ there are some holes here where I cruise around and all of a sudden I hit a drive and I go wow. It just happens. A lot of it is it’s in your blood that you play holes a certain way. I mean, I struggle at Augusta on certain holes. I struggle here and I’ll shake my head. Then I’ll go play other holes and people will say, wow, that’s the hardest hole on the course, and I’ll make a birdie one day and almost birdie the next and blah blah blah blah blah. Today and tomorrow I just need to, you know, pay attention.

I do expect to go out and play well. But if I hit the ball better tomorrow, that will be a plus. I have no feel putting and these greens are really fast, so I need to really pay attention to putting because taking three weeks off and not hit a putt is a struggle. But I honestly needed, you know, I needed to get away from golf for a little while and get ready for the tail end of this year. Unfortunately, you know, I come up here not really totally ready but I think I’m on the right track. So like everyone else, I’ve got to get off to a good start Friday and go from there.

To be honest with you, I look forward to even next year, and I don’t know when it gets to where I start shooting 75s and 6s on Thursday and Friday when I can’t even compete, but at the moment I do pretty well there because I still hit it a long way and I know how to play the course.

Q. As a former Masters champion, what do you think of Augusta adding women membership?

COUPLES: Well, I don’t know about a Masters champ. I think as someone who’s played a lot of golf courses, I’ve designed one in the desert that’s all men, but it’s not ‑‑ it doesn’t hold the LA Open or a Palm Springs Open or the Desert Classic Open. So I think (Augusta chairman) Bill Payne’s doing an incredible job with everything and I think this is just the next step. I played with Condoleezaa Rice twice now and she is over‑the‑top excited. Yeah, she’s going to play there, she likes it there. She’s very excited about it. So I don’t know when it all started, doesn’t really matter, but I think it’s a great move. It’s going to be a small women’s locker room, I’m pretty sure, but that’s okay.

I mean, Augusta has women that play there. All men’s club means I can’t even bring a guest. I could bring a lady guest to play at Augusta at any time, so they now have women members.

Q. How’s Rice’s game?

COUPLES: She’s very good, yeah. She’s  kind of the honorary chairperson of the tournament in Alabama. I played with her this year. She has no problem playing golf. She’s actually very good.

You know, I play golf for a living. If it was a basketball and David Stern hired a woman, I would say wow, that’s all right. But in golf, any good move that’s positive I think is fun because it’s what I do and it doesn’t affect me really in any way, but it affects me a little bit because there’s two lady members and I know one of them. I can go play with her there.

Q. Will she invite you out?

COUPLES: Well, I can go. I’m a member by myself. I can’t bring you or I can’t bring anyone there.

Q. You can’t take your(green) jacket home with you?

COUPLES: I never have, no, no.

Q. Can you?

COUPLES: I don’t know. I honestly ‑‑ I don’t believe you can. I think people have. No, not many people have seen the one that I have, to be honest with you.

Q. Where would you wear it?

COUPLES: You know, I might take it to a steak joint with some nice khaki pants with the little Augusta thing out here and say hi. Who the hell is that?

Q. What would you do when you retire?

COUPLES: What would I do? I just had a great time in Italy and Greece, so I could do that a couple times a year. I mean, I will want to play golf, but you have to really play golf to be good. When you don’t think you can keep doing that and you’re not playing very well.

I mean, Tom Watson, he’s 60 (63) whatever. To me, he’s unbelievable. He comes out here. If you give him one shot more a day, you know, he goes from 8th place to 16th to 20th, but then he can win at any time because if he plays a little bit, he gets better quickly. But it’s very hard. He’s got a body that’s in pretty good shape. Mine is not. So for me, I just took three weeks off and I needed to get away. Part of it was because I won and I wanted to relax a little bit. But to get back to play like that will take a month and I’m not going to play much golf after this for the next month. So where do you go? Just what you asked. I’ll play once in a while and hopefully I’ll get a little bit on a roll and do well in that time. For me to play well every week, I have to work at it and work at it and work at it, and it just is killing me.

But if I want to play here, my best bet is to go have a quick lunch, kick my feet up, watch the Mariners, take a bath, relax, don’t do anything and I’ll be okay tomorrow. But if I have my buddies here and they all want to go play golf tomorrow afternoon because I play in the morning, I wouldn’t even play Friday. So that’s the real issue, and it becomes more fun to just play competitive golf. But then I haven’t hit that spot yet where I think I don’t play well. I think I still play well all the time and I want to play well and at the time I won’t physically be able to turn it around. The Jay Haas and the Nick Prices, Bernhard Langer’s got an incredible body and never really had many injuries, but people hurt themselves. I guess he hurt his hand. He would know more because he’s in here all the time. Sometimes people hurt their shoulder. My body’s been really shot for a while, but I can go play, which also is lucky.

Q. What do you think of Felix Fernandez?

COUPLES: I think he’s incredible. I think he’s fun to watch. I don’t think he’s cocky… I think he’s a great pitcher and enjoys what he’s doing, he has fun with it. He’s very, very good.

 

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 44th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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