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Taking one for the team

Fred Couples
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There’s a quirky, enigmatic genius about Fred Couples. We’re seeing it again this week in the way the U.S. Presidents Cup captain is handling the Tiger Woods issue.

Couples is eager to choose Woods as a captain’s pick for the Americans’ date with the Internationals in November, but he’s got a big problem with Woods so off his form.

Does Woods deserve to be on the team? Can he get himself ready to play over the next three months? Does he want to play?

So what does Couples do? He figures out the truest way to gauge the intensity of Woods’ interest. He puts the ball in Woods’ court.

Couples comes out publicly and says Woods needs to add an event or two before the Australian Open and Presidents Cup in November. It’s brilliant, really, because if you believe in Woods, if you want him on your team, all you want to know is whether he really wants to play.

Though you want to trust him to tell you whether he thinks he’s worthy and whether he can get himself ready, ultimately it is best if he shows you. That’s all you want before committing to pick the greatest player of this generation.

Because, frankly, as the winner of 14 major championships, as a man who’s generated more interest in the game than anyone who’s ever lived, isn’t Woods an exception to the rule? Hasn’t he earned the right to decide for himself if he wants to be on this team?

This isn’t about Couples wanting Woods to show him his swing is going to be right. The PGA Tour Fall Series begins three days after Couples announces his two captain’s picks. This is all about Couples wanting Woods to show him how much he wants to help the Americans win.

The other part of the genius in this is that Couples has created an opportunity for Woods.

This is a chance for Woods to commit to something larger than himself, to commit beyond a trip to Australia. If Woods commits to a couple PGA Tour Fall Series events, or a PGA Tour and European Tour event, he is fully committed to playing for more than himself. A lot of Tiger critics don't see that kind of sacrifice in Woods' DNA.

This all might just prove to be a game changer for Woods. An added purpose, a new motivation beyond what’s in his best interest, maybe that's a different grade of fuel for Woods to burn, an octane boost that helps bring his game back.

If that happens, and we see Woods right himself in the Presidents Cup run, Couples’ quirky genius gets an assist.