Aug
25
2011
WTF, Freddie?!?
By Stephanie Wei under Presidents Cup

It's good to have friends in high places

First things first, as any of my longtime readers know, I love Fred Couples. He’s my childhood hero and a fellow Seattle native. He can do no wrong in my eyes. But really, Freddie?? (I still love you, but c’mon!)

US Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples has flip-flopped from his comments last week regarding the prerequisites for Tiger Woods to be selected as one of his two captain’s picks. Kinda like a Presidential pardon — or Freddie just pulled a Freddie.

Couples has told Woods that he’s decided to add him to the US squad already, according to the AP.

Couples, the Presidents Cup captain, has taken the drama out of the debate over whether Woods would be on the team, saying Thursday at the site of the Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic that it’s already a done deal.

The PGA Tour just sent an e-mail blast with the quote from Couples:

Q.  A question on The Presidents Cup.  Do you talk to Tiger ever?  You mention that you’d like to see him play.  Where does that stand as far as your thoughts on it?

FRED COUPLES:  Yeah, well, I mean, it stands where I told him that he’s going to be on the team.  I kind of told ‑‑ the question came up, and there’s no reason for me to wait until September 26th to pick Tiger.  He’s the best player in the world forever.  I mean, you guys ‑‑ is he playing well right now, no.  He almost won Augusta three months, four months ago, so you don’t do that by playing poor golf.

Couples had said that Tiger couldn’t just show up at the Australian Open (which the world no. 36 has already committed to playing) and had to add more events to his competitive calendar to deserve a captain’s pick.

“I’m the captain, and he wants to be on the team,” said Couples. “This is my chance to hold my rank above him one time.”

Earlier this week Tiger said he was considering playing in a Fall Series event. What do you think the chances of that happening are now? Who knows. Maybe Freddie and Tiger made an agreement that Tiger will still add another tournament.

The top ten players on the points list automatically qualify for the 12-man team, which are accumulated on a system based on their performance during the last two years.

Obviously, Tiger has captured 71 PGA Tour victories and 14 major championships, but as we’re well aware, he’s struggled in the last two years. His best finishes this season were T10 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and T4 at the Masters, where he sustained injuries to his left leg. He tried to come back at The Players in May, but withdrew after posting 42 on the first nine.

Since returning from an eleven-week layoff due to injury, he’s placed T37 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

While he’s been a key contributor to the American squad in past Presidents and Ryder cups and arguably the greatest golfer in the history of the game, should that be enough to warrant him deserving of a captain’s pick? Not in my opinion.

Maybe he’s trying to pull a Greg Norman from ’09. Norman, the International captain, controversially selected a slumping Adam Scott, hoping the matches would boost Scott’s confidence and get his game back on track.

While Scott didn’t play well at Harding Park (record: 1-4), he did break out of his funk the following season and won twice internationally — the Valero Texas Open and the Barclays Singapore Open. Coincidence? Maybe. Or perhaps Norman’s experiment worked.

What actually bothers me most in this whole situation is the timing of the announcement. Couples should have waited until September 26 after the Tour Championship when the points close to formally declare his picks. I mean, at least pretend you were considering other worthy candidates and perhaps factoring in their performance over the next four weeks. We implicitly understand cronyism and politics plays a part in these corporate matters, but was it necessary to make it so obvious?

What also irks me about Couples’ decision is that it takes away the opportunity from guys who have had a spectacular season or multiple wins in the last two years. While there’s still time to qualify on points, this is what the current standings look like:

So, who will Freddie tap as his second pick? The frontrunners are two of golf’s brightest young stars: Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler.

My guess is Bradley. He’s already got Phil Mickelson’s strong endorsement. Since he’s a rookie, he’s only had one year to accrue points and he’s already 18th. With the incredible season he’s had — two victories, including a major — he deserves the opportunity to represent his country.

Then there’s Rickie Fowler, currently 12th in points. While he performed impressively at the Ryder Cup last year, he still hasn’t notched a win on the PGA Tour. With some solid finishes — better yet, a victory — in the playoffs, Fowler could break into the top ten by September 26.

Here’s hoping we see both Fowler (or another meritorious player*) and Bradley representing the country at the Presidents Cup in November.

*Update, Friday, 12am.

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)