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Friday, October 31, 2014

Freddie Talks Ryder Cup

One of the more entertaining aspects of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship has been Fred Couples answering all kinds of questions about the Ryder Cup. As you no doubt know, many people believe Freddie should be the next Ryder Cup captain, given his 3-0 record as a Presidents Cup captain.

Freddie's comments made waves all over the media and so, in case you somehow missed them, I've pulled a few thoughts from these articles at ESPN, USAToday, and (The photo came from the latter.) I think Freddie's thoughts will likely anger a lot of people because... well...

To be blunt, Freddie apparently doesn't see what all the fuss is about. Here are a few choice "Freddie-isms." I've added some personal comments in italics.

Fred Couples

On the difficulties of the Captain's job: "I've captained three Presidents Cups teams, which is much easier to do than a Ryder Cup, but it's still 12 players in a room, and I think they all are different in certain ways. No matter who the next captain is or the next one or the next one, you can’t run the ship with a big stern. It's impossible. You've got to let the players get involved.

"I think anyone would love to be the Ryder Cup captain. I particularly don't think it's really that hard to do, I really don't. I keep hearing it's a two-year process. Well, what would I do right now? I don't even know who's going to be on the Presidents Cup team, let alone the Ryder Cup team. So I could go have dinner with Rickie Fowler for two straight years and tell him everything, and then he might not make it. So I think it's all -- it's just a little bit much. We need a little more fun and that comes with winning." [Sounds like Freddie thinks the PGA is over-emphasizing the Ryder Cup a bit!]

On creating a task force: "I don't think anyone should panic. I don't think we need a 'task force,'" Couples said, employing air quotes. "I don't think we need the PGA of America straining about this. What I really think they need is to get players that have been on a lot of these teams to get a feel for what kind of captain they need."

On Phil's comments after the matches: Tom Watson captained the last U.S. Ryder Cup team, and was put under a harsh spotlight after the loss when team member Phil Mickelson said that none of the team's 12 players was consulted on any decisions made during the competition.

Couples is hesitant to throw Watson under the bus, but he also said he had no problem with how Mickelson got his point across. Couples said he thought Watson didn't "cradle his boys enough, and that's what they need." [Is it just me or doesn't this sound as if Freddie is saying you have to treat the team members like children?]

On the one mistake he thinks Tom Watson made: Couples questioned 2014 U.S. captain Tom Watson's decision to sit five-time major winner and Ryder Cup stalwart Phil Mickelson for both Saturday sessions.

"I know one thing, I will play Phil Mickelson on Saturday of the next Ryder Cup if he's on the team. That was the only thing I could see that maybe you could say that Tom, something happened there.

"Because we lost three and a half to a half [in the foursomes session], and I guarantee you it was because Phil wasn't out there playing. I guarantee it."

In another of the articles, he added that Phil was "the best guy on every team I've ever been on."

On the European "template": "I think the easiest part is just really not panicking. You've got to have your teams ready and just get points, and it's not easy to do. They make it look easy because they're winning and their formula, whatever it might be, is not because they're closer and they're friendlier to each other. That's the biggest crazy thing ever.

"Every team I've been on has been phenomenal, and I'm sure every team Europe's ever had has been phenomenal. They just win, so it looks easier."

On what the team members have told him: Couples has had contact with most of the players on this year’s Ryder Cup team. “There are several of them that I text and talk to all the time and I did during that week, too. I mean, some of the texts were disheartening, some were exciting. Some when they got home they said, ‘You need to do this.’”

* * * * *

There's a lot more in the articles (they're well worth the read) but there are a couple of observations in the article that I think are important because they give you an idea of what Freddie has been doing with the Presidents Cup teams.

First, there's this little tidbit concerning Freddie's first Presidents Cup:
While Couples frowns on calling it a task force – he prefers “committee” as a euphemism – he likes the idea of selecting Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to serve on the panel.

In his first term as Presidents Cup captain at TPC Harding Park, Couples said every top level meeting he had included his three-time assistant captain Jay Haas, Woods, Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, the team’s veteran campaigners, and Michael Jordan. It was Couples’ way of empowering team leaders as he applied an age-old sports adage that your best players have to be your best players in order to be successful.

“I think that worked out great,” Couples said. “Phil Mickelson has been on 10 of them, Woods, I don’t know, eight or 10. So those guys should really have a say.”
And finally, there's this observation from vice captain Jay Haas:
Haas, who will captain the 2015 U.S. Presidents Cup team, knows exactly what Couples brings in the role.

“I can only speak to how the players responded to him in the Presidents Cup,” Haas said. “I don’t know what it is. It’s hard to put your finger on it. He just has a knack at relaxing the guys.

“Somebody asked what were some of Freddie’s speeches like. They were zero. In fact, one time somebody said, ‘Fred, give us something.’ He kind of hemmed and hawed and he goes, ‘Jaybird, what do you have to say?’”

But Haas said Couples is “way more into it than he lets on and that we see.

“He knows the details. He’s already figured the scenario out. I think he would be a great choice.”
Once you add in Freddie's reminder that captains don't hit any shots, you realize that perhaps Freddie's biggest key to success as a Presidents Cup captain is that he never forgets that this is just a game. Perhaps that's what makes him so different from most Ryder Cup captains.

And why so many players want him to be one.

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