Oh Captain My Captain

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2009, 12:52 am

Presidents CupATLANTA – Kenny Perry wrinkled a sweaty brow and pondered the question for a pregnant moment. The three-time Presidents Cup and two-time Ryder Cup player has seen it all by way of captains, from the controlled chaos Paul Azinger delivered last fall to the relaxed swansong of Arnold Palmer at the 1996 Presidents Cup, yet there was no way to put a Twitter (140 characters or less) bookend on a Fred Couples’ captaincy.

“I haven’t got a feel for this,” Perry said during last week’s Tour Championship. “I don’t know how he’s going to do it. I think it’s going to be a very loose atmosphere in the clubhouse. I don’t think it’s going to be too much stress.”

Stress-free seems to be the consensus among American players bound for Harding Park and this week’s international grudge match. But then a life choice is no way to continue the American dominance of the biennial matches (the U.S. leads the series 5-1-1), not even with the Tour’s quintessential iconoclast at the switch.

Fred Couples
Fred Couples has a 9-5-2 career record as a player in the Presidents Cup. (Getty Images)

In many ways, Couples has played by the traditional captain’s playbook. His picks (Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan) were safe and all but dovetailed with the current points structure (Glover was 11th while Mahan was 14th), particularly when compared with International captain Greg Norman’s selection of an off-form Adam Scott and a Japanese teen sensation (Ryo Ishikawa) with a limited American resume.

Couples did rock the boat with his selection of NBA great Michael Jordan as an assistant captain, but even that was not groundbreaking considering MJ’s regular appearance in team rooms from The K Club in Ireland to last year at Valhalla.

“As relaxed as (Couples) looks he wants to win that thing. That’s why he has Jordan, someone that great,” Hunter Mahan said.

Most players agree Couples’ captaining style will likely fall somewhere between that of master tactician Azinger, whose psychological profiles and “pods” system produced a spirited victory at last year’s Ryder Cup, and Jack Nicklaus’ laissez-faire style at the 2007 Presidents Cup.

“In between (Azinger and Nicklaus), but probably a little closer to Jack,” said Mahan, who was also a captain’s pick for Nicklaus in 2007 and went 2-3-0. “I don’t know if he will use the ‘pods’ system or not, but I think (Couples) is going to learn from Paul.”

In many ways Couples – an individual enigma much of his career dogged by health issues and a melancholy wrapper that has been confused for decades for indifference or worse, professional detachment – has spent the last 20 years preparing for his current role.

In nine Presidents (four) and Ryder (five) cups, Couples has played for virtually every genre of captain – from the oligarchy of Lanny Wadkins at the 1995 Ryder Cup to Hale Irwin, the taskmaster of the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994. But it may be his two terms playing for Nicklaus that will define Couples’ captaincy.

In 2005 Nicklaus picked a slumping Couples and he delivered a crucial Sunday single’s victory over Vijay Singh to help lift the United States to victory. Seven years earlier in Australia, Couples found himself partnered with Tiger Woods. The duo went 1-1-0, but the United States still suffered its only loss in the matches despite Nicklaus’ best efforts.

“The best thing for me is all the captains (I’ve played for),” Couples said. “I've taken a lot from Ray Floyd and been on Arnold Palmer's team in the Presidents Cup and Jack Nicklaus. I get eight guys where I take a little bit, a little there. Paul Azinger, he did a phenomenal job.”

Unlike Nicklaus in 1998, Couples will enjoy something of an embarrassment of riches in the experience department. At Royal Melbourne, the U.S. side had four rookies, including Woods, while next week there will be only two rookies, and neither Anthony Kim (2-1-1 at last year’s Ryder Cup) nor Sean O’Hair (who finished T-8, fourth and third in his last three starts) can be considered liabilities.

Perhaps the biggest decision a U.S. captain must make is who gets paired with Woods, but at East Lake there seemed to be no shortage of volunteers. O’Hair and Jim Furyk were both mentioned by the world No. 1 as a potential partner and Kim has made it clear he covets the high-profile pairing.

But then, not even the annual pairings prognostication can compare to the unknown that has defined the early stages of a Couples’ captaincy.

“Well, it’s going to be fun,” Woods said. “I can’t wait to listen to him, his speeches and see where they’re going to go. When they start off one way, they never end up there.”

In many ways, the early part of Couples’ captaincy has mirrored that of his career, which spans nearly three decades and includes 15 Tour titles and a Masters green jacket.

What his players do know about their captain is that a “Cliffs Notes” once over of Couples’ career misses the most important points. Lost amid the syrupy swing and cool exterior is the heart of a competitor who, like Azinger before him, has been forced to overcome a series of injuries and delivered on the game’s biggest stages. The difference between the two is that Couples doesn’t wear his passion or articulate that drive as well as Azinger did.

“Freddie to me is kind of aloof, kind of out there,” Perry said. “He’s just a loose cannon. You never know what’s coming out of him.”

The only certainty with this captain curiosity is a desire to win, and that may be all that matters.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.