The weeks following the American's Ryder Cup loss have sparked speculation on two fronts: what went wrong last month and who will be tapped to fix it in 2016?
Fred Couples' name has been discussed as a solution to the latter, and Wednesday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship he offered a variety of opinions on the former.
Couples, 55, captained three straight victorious Presidents Cup squads, in 2009, '11 and '13. He also played on five Ryder Cup teams and served as an assistant captain to Davis Love III during the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. According to Couples, the creation of an 11-person task force in the wake of Gleneagles is a sign of overkill.
"I don't think anyone should panic. I don't think we need a task force. I don't think we need the PGA of America straining about this," he told reporters at the season's final Champions Tour stop. "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."
Tom Watson wasn't the right fit, as his hard-line stance alienated some players and his questionable lineup decisions led to a five-point defeat. Couples believes one of his best traits as a potential captain is relating to the 12 players in his team room, something he feels Watson failed to do.
"I just think by watching, he didn't cradle his boys enough, and that's what they need," he said.
Couples also believes that Watson made a critical error by sitting Phil Mickelson for both sessions during Saturday's play, when the Europeans stretched its lead from two points to four heading into Sunday's singles matches - and it's one that he would not repeat as captain.
"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," Couples said. "Because we lost three and a half to a half (in the afternoon session), and I guarantee you it was because Phil wasn't out there playing. I guarantee it."
The task force assembled by the PGA of America has yet to meet, but Couples' track record as the Presidents Cup captain has made him a top candidate to lead the Americans at Hazeltine in 2016. He stated that he would welcome the nomination as captain, but added that the job may not be quite as difficult, or involved, as some contend.
"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," he said. "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."
Couples noted that the Presidents Cup is "easier" to captain than the Ryder Cup because the Ryder Cup requires more difficult lineup decisions. Citing the successful partnership of Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson that developed in the months leading up to Gleneagles, he believes that the Europeans currently have an edge because of their commitment to teams and lineup decisions regardless of individual match outcomes.
"I think the easiest part is just really not panicking," he said. "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."
Couples even offered the argument that the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain doesn't necessarily need to be a golfer.
"He doesn't need to know anything about golf," said Couples, who noted he received advice as Presidents Cup captain from former MLB manager Joe Torre and NBA star Michael Jordan. "They all have their teachers, they're all cooked food, they all have an incredible hotel room, they all have caddies, they all know the course and they go out and play. I can't tell them anything on the golf course. What am I going to tell them, it's a cut 5-iron or this putt breaks to the left?"
As the focus continues to shift away from 2014 and toward 2016, Couples' candidacy will likely only grow - and the main reason for that is clear, even to him.
"The one thing that I see personally with me is I don't intimidate any of the players," he said. "I don't make them nervous, I make them relaxed because I'm just another guy."