Couples on Ryder Cup: 'It's all about the players'

By Rex HoggardFebruary 5, 2015, 12:00 am

SAN DIEGO – Dressed in board shorts with an Air Jordan hat pulled low on his forehead, Fred Couples ambled up the ninth fairway on Torrey Pines’ North Course joking with Tiger Woods and making fun of Joe LaCava, his former caddie.

Couples said he ventured out to Torrey Pines this week to pay off a few Super Bowl bets that went south for him.

“It was ugly,” smiled the lifelong Seattle Seahawks fan who estimated he lost about 10 bets with various friends, including LaCava.

Few, if any, from outside Woods’ inner circle are afforded an entire morning with the former world No. 1. Couples moves just as easily around Phil Mickelson as he does Michael Jordan and disarms all with equal parts charm and chumminess.

It’s why Freddie emerged as the clubhouse favorite to captain the next U.S. Ryder Cup team before the European victory celebration had wrapped up.


Farmers Insurance Open : Articles, videos and photos


“You have to have the ability to let your ego down and let a system that has worked in the past, that allows us to be more prepared, like the [Paul Azinger] system in 2008,” Mickelson said on Wednesday. “Fred is absolutely one of the guys that would fit that bill.”

Players en masse threw their support behind Couples to be the next American skipper both publicly and privately. It’s why he had a meeting with PGA of America chief executive Pete Bevacqua in early December to talk about a Couples captaincy.

While Couples can at times go astray in conversations, rambling off topic with amusing anecdotes and observations, on this he was very direct when asked about the opportunity.

“I’d love to do it. Whoever is the next captain I believe they want other players involved who would be the next few captains,” Couples said. “It would be fun.”

Fun has been a central theme in all three of Couples’ victorious turns as a Presidents Cup captain and the Ryder Cup task force, which met on Monday in San Diego, has touched on everything he would bring to the table.

In his signature style Couples said he is content to let the process unfold at its own pace as he awaits a second meeting with PGA president Derek Sprague in the next few weeks

“I haven’t asked. I’ve played a couple of rounds with Phil and I just walked nine holes with this cat (Woods),” said Couples of the two task force members. “You know, they know what they’re doing.”

And Freddie knows what he is doing when it comes to team competitions.

At the root of the American Ryder Cup woes, at least as far as Couples is concerned, is a format that forces captains to juggle lineups and sit players during the team portion of the competition.

“The Presidents Cup is easier. At the Ryder Cup you have to sit someone,” he said. “I think there is sometimes animosity when our guys are sat, and I’m not talking about Phil [who at the 2014 matches sat an entire day for the first time in his career]. It’s hard when everyone wants to play every single match.”

There are parts of the gig that don’t exactly fit with Couples’ laidback persona, including a two-year window of intense media exposure and a hectic week during the matches filled with off-course obligations.

“Well, I was Presidents Cup captain and flew to Australia for a media day. That didn’t really interest me,” he said honestly.

But for Couples, being a captain is not complicated. It’s all about the players in the weeks leading up to the matches and when the first tee shot goes in the air it’s about letting them play.

“If I was the captain I would have nothing to do with Minnesota [site of next year’s Ryder Cup]. What am I going to tell them? I can’t tell them to chip better or putt better or drive it better. They are doing the best they can,” he said.

He also made it clear that whatever the PGA has been doing the last 10 matches, a span in which the U.S. has won just twice, needs to be fixed.

No endless dinners, no time-consuming team meetings, just golf.

“When we go to Augusta you don’t go to black-tie dinners, you do everything on your own. I’m not saying the Ryder Cup needs to be that way but I’m saying it should be catered to the players,” he said. “It’s all about the players.”

Even the closing ceremony is an obligation Couples would rather do without, explaining as only Freddie can that no one wants to sit through another hour or so of speeches, win or lose.

“I saw a fistfight at the end of the New England-Seattle game, I mean do we want to go sit and listen to a closing ceremony? When and if we win in Minnesota will they [Europe] want to go listen to that? I don’t think that should happen but I’m not running it,” he said.

Most of all, Couples thinks the decision should be up to the players whether that choice is Freddie or someone else.

“The next guy they choose will be someone the players want,” he said. “I know that sounds harsh, but I think if you sat with our top 50 players and had them write who they wanted as a captain two years ago, I don’t think many guys would have chosen Tom Watson.

“I idolize Tom Watson, he’s helped me with my game, but I’m just talking about the players.”

In short, Couples would be the ultimate players’ captain, a leader who owns the team room with a smile and a joke. Maybe even a few friendly wagers.

He does, after all, need a few bets to go his way after the Super Bowl.

Getty Images

Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm