Fred Couples has until Tuesday evening to tell the world — and Tiger Woods — he was just kidding about that whole Presidents Cup wild-card pick thing, but don’t hold your breath.
Hear ye! Hear ye! Captains Couples and Greg Norman will let everyone in on the worst-kept secrets in sports at 5 p.m. (EDT) when they announce their teams for the November matches in Australia. Of course, Couples, who will disappoint at least one worthy contestant by sticking with his choice of Woods (whose selection he unofficially announced last month), is as likely to leave the world’s 50th-ranked golfer off the team as the former No. 1 is to bow out gracefully.
Having boxed himself into a corner by naming Woods, who hasn’t won a golf tourney since November 2009, Freddie must choose between reigning PGA champ Keegan Bradley and Tour Championship/FedEx Cup winner Bill Haas for the final spot. You can make solid arguments that both guys deserve the nod.
On one hand, winning a major should trump a limited-field, golfing-for-greenbacks event. Bradley, however, has suffered a fairly steep letdown since his PGA win in mid-August, and Haas’ dramatic splash shot from the pond in the playoff for all the marbles is fresh on golf fans’ minds.
In a perfect world, both guys would suit up to play Norman’s International squad at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. If Steve Stricker’s weak left arm does not improve, each may get a chance to do just that.
Blind faith. In the meantime, Woods’ former reputation earned Couples’ undying allegiance as well as kudos from renowned golf whisperer Jim Nantz. Next year’s Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III also weighed in on Couples’ side, although with a somewhat tepid endorsement of Fred’s draft pick.
“You certainly want one of the best players, ever, in the game, you want him on your team,” Love said during a Ryder Cup press conference Monday. “I’m hoping, as a friend, for Tiger’s sake, that he has a full, healthy season next year and we are not in this situation; that he’s back to his form, and he’s ready to go.”
Nantz was far more effusive in his praise of golf’s version of The Decision. The voice of The Masters went so far as to predict Couples’ endorsement would go down in the annals of golf as the pivotal moment in Woods’ comeback from scandal and injuries.
“Fred’s coming in right now when Tiger feels like the whole world’s against him and putting his arm figuratively around him and saying, `I believe in you. You deserve to have this chance, let’s go have some fun with it,’” Nantz told Australia’s Herald Sun on Tuesday. “And one day people will say, `Wow, that was a really neat point in Tiger’s comeback, when somebody showed an outward sign of hey, I believe in you.’”
Nantz acknowledged that a handful of U.S. golfers deserved the call from Couples, but he harkened back to Woods’ pre-Thanksgiving ‘09 prominence to support Couples’ preference.
Say no more. “Tiger’s done enough for the game of golf that he deserves to have a year when you go, `OK, I’m picking Tiger Woods and I don’t want to hear anything about it,’” Nantz said. “The guy’s done enough for the game, been dominant enough in the sport, where he deserves a chance.”
The CBS Sports announcer, who knows a thing or two about the impact Woods’ participation can have on TV ratings, pointed to Norman’s addition of Adam Scott to the International squad two years ago as a turning point for the then-scuffling Aussie golfer.
“Look where Adam is today,” Nantz said of the winner of the 2011 Bridgestone Invitational who’s earned 10 top-25 PGA Tour finishes this season. “I think that Fred is approaching [the Woods situation] in a similar vein.”
Couples can only hope Nantz is right and that Tiger is able to put some Ws on the board in Australia. After all, as Golf.com’s David Dusek indicated in this week’s PGA Tour Confidential, Couples prestige rides on Woods playing even a fraction as well as he did in the ’09 Presidents Cup, when he compiled a 5-0 record.
“If Tiger tanks in Australia, Freddie sinks, too,” Dusek said. “If Tiger comes through and wins points, Couples looks like a genius.”