There’s plenty of interesting info from Fred Couples’ and John Cook’s pressers on Wednesday from the Schwab Cup, which we can explore in a bit, but one particular comment jumped out at me. Cook recently replaced Michael Jordan as an assistant captain to Fred’s Presidents Cup team. He’s also BFF with Tiger Woods from their Isleworth days (and have been partners at the Tavistock Cup — as seen above in 2008).
Couples divulged that Cook’s relationship with Tiger definitely influenced his decision process. Though the duties of an assistant captain are vague and determined at the discretion of the captain/team, Cook made it clear he’d bend over backwards for Tiger:
“(Tiger) just texted me and said, ‘Congrats. Really excited to have you aboard.’ I said, ‘I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Get you water, get your energy bars, you know, whatever.’ That’s going to be my job,” Cook told reporters.
“So he was genuinely happy, he really was. I’m honored. I really am.”
I hope he was half-kidding about his job description! I mean, I’m sure Cook is a very nice guy, but when I came across that quote, I got a little nauseous. Then, a scenario was pointed out to me that really made me gag despite the slim chances of it happening. As you know, Steve Stricker has been battling injury, with a herniated disk in his back. While he’s given every indication to Freddie that he’ll play, there’s still the possibility they arrive in Australia and Stricker hurts himself during a practice round, etc.
When asked on Tuesday if he would consider running Cook, or Haas, in from the bench Couples didn’t even know that was an option. “That’s a heck of a question,” he said.
According to the captain’s agreement for the matches, “in the event of illness, injury or any other emergency, a team member may be replaced prior to 6 p.m. local time, Wednesday of tournament week. The captain will have the ability to select any eligible player to replace a player who has withdrawn, regardless of his standing on the respective point or money list used to determine eligibility.”
When informed either Cook or Haas could step in Couples seemed open to the idea. “I would have to get the grace of the guys on the team, but I would not want one of Norman’s guys to have to sit,” he said.
My God. Can you imagine if — again, chances are slim — Stricker couldn’t play and Cook replaced him as Tiger’s partner, while Keegan Bradley is sitting at home in Florida?? (But no, I don’t believe Fred plotted some sort of conspiracy theory to leave out Keegan and fill the team with his and Tiger’s buddies — that’s so absurd it’s laughable.)
Fred got stuck with a lousy situation, but here’s what he should have done, which would have solved all sorts of controversy and avoided a potential crisis. At the 2008 Ryder Cup, European captain Nick Faldo invited the up-and-coming young star Martin Kaymer to attend the matches as a “special assistant” — basically, to get his feet wet and take in the experience even if he only served as a glorified ball boy. Last year at the Ryder Cup, Sergio Garcia, who had taken a three-month break from the game, served as an assistant to Colin Montgomerie.
Naturally, it hadn’t occurred to Couples, according to Hoggard:
Couples said he has not spoken to Bradley since he made his picks and when asked if he considered offering him a spot as a special assistant, like Garcia and Kaymer, he pointed out, “Sergio asked to be there. They didn’t call Sergio. If Keegan were to call me I would fall down backwards to have him there.”
“If (Stricker) calls me tomorrow (and says he can’t play) I will fly to Keegan’s house and tell him (he’s on the team),” said Couples, who is limited to two assistant captains.
Would anyone expect a rookie to call a veteran (who was his childhood hero, mind you) and ask if he could join the team as an assistant? No. Keegan Bradley hasn’t played on five Ryder Cup teams like Sergio Garcia has. Fred should have offered that opportunity to Keegan when he called to tell him he had picked Bill Haas (but Keegan would replace Stricker if needed). Why didn’t he or any of his pals suggest that to Fred?
Unfortunately, that window of opportunity has probably closed (though I think if Fred called Keegan today and acknowledged he should have extended the invitation earlier, Keegan would accept). Instead the worst-case scenario could potentially be John Cook playing in the Presidents Cup while the PGA champion is watching from the other side of the globe.