When it comes to players’ opinions regarding who should be the next Ryder Cup captain to lead Team USA, only one name is consistently spoken.
That name is Fred Couples.
The Bridgestone tour team member and three-time Presidents Cup captain – who also boasts a 3-0 record for those tournaments – has been mentioned time and again by some of professional golf’s best players as a possible leader to take the helm during the 2016 Ryder Cup matches. Those players include Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the latter of which made no bones about his feelings toward Ryder Cup leadership during the 2014 tournament held in Scotland.
What’s even more interesting about the collective interest in Couples is possibly his own lack thereof, or at least his reluctance to act too incredibly enthused by the speculation. “If it happens, it happens,” Couples was quoted as saying in regards to a potential 2016 Ryder Cup captaincy.
Couples’ nonchalant attitude – paired with his proven leadership during his three Presidents Cup tournaments – may be exactly what Team USA needs to break the mold of American upset during the biennially held Ryder Cup matches.
A Proven Record
Fred Couples’ winning record certainly speaks for itself; obviously, the 55-year-old golfing legend is doing something right. But what is it that not only makes him a successful Presidents Cup captain, but one that is incredibly appealing to the very players that he could be coaching during the next Ryder Cup?
Phil Mickelson believes it is Couples’ implementation of the very system that Mickelson himself wanted to employ during the last Ryder Cup matches in Scotland. In fact, the exclusion of the pod system during the 2014 matches – along with various leadership decisions made by Tom Watson – is what Mickelson attributed the American team’s loss across the pond to.
The pod system is a relatively simple strategy that was successfully utilized by Paul Azinger during the only Team USA Ryder Cup win of the 21st century: The 2008 Ryder Cup matches held at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The pod system was developed by Azinger after the only winning American coach of this century saw a documentary on Navy SEAL training on the Discovery Channel. The system – which breaks large teams down into smaller groups – was the tried-and-true Naval recruit strategy that, when applied to Team USA, went on to break the American losing streak in 2008. Of course, instead of carrying guns, these recruits are carrying golf clubs.
Even though many players are already excited about the prospect of Couples leading the Americans during the next Ryder Cup matches, Couples has made it clear that the PGA of America’s leadership hasn’t exactly given him a vote of confidence – not yet anyway.
In regards to the position, Couples was quoted as saying, “I’m not a PGA of America guy,” before going on to state that he wasn’t asked by the higher ups to participate in the 11-member task force that was formed in response to the most recent American Ryder Cup loss.
Still, Couples already has plenty of ideas. In response to Tom Watson’s strategy during the last Ryder Cup, Couples stated that, “[Watson] didn’t cradle his boys enough, and that’s what they need,” implying that a top-down leadership strategy without listening to players’ ideas ultimately hurt the team’s performance.
Couples also made it clear that he wouldn’t have benched Phil Mickelson during Saturday’s rounds at the last Ryder Cup, stating that, “Phil Mickelson has been the best guy on every team I’ve ever been on.”
From the sound of Couples’ recent statements concerning Tom Watson’s Ryder Cup performance, as well as his enthusiasm about Team USA’s players calling him immediately after the tournament to persuade him to consider throwing his hat in the ring for a 2016 captaincy, it’s clear that if Couples should be called upon to lead the Americans in their next Ryder Cup bid, that he’ll be more than ready to answer.