EDISON, N.J. -- Corey Pavin, wherever you are, accept this belated olive branch.
Like many, I spent the latter half of 2010 having a field day with your captaincy of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, belittling the sieves that passed as team raingear in Wales, poking fun at your colorless quotes, making cracks about your height, questioning whether your wife was actually running the show.
There's only one thing left to say after the developments of the past few hours: Bring back captain Corey, because the guy steering the Presidents Cup team is steering the team headed toward the Great Barrier Reef.
U.S. captain Fred Couples, in a remarkable admission, said Thursday night in Seattle that he has already told Tiger Woods that he's assured one of the two captain's picks, even though Woods' season has been punctuated by missteps, missed cuts and missed fairways.
Couples is having none of it. Or all of it, whichever way you hook or slice it.
"In my opinion, when you’re the best player in the world for 12 straight years and you’re not on a team, there’s something wrong," Couples said.
That's the crux of the critical blowback here. Woods was indeed the best player on the planet for 12 years. Problem is, we're in Year 14 now.
“I don’t know how you can criticize someone for choosing Tiger Woods," Couples said. "If he goes there and doesn’t play well, I would be shocked."
Hopefully, Couples doesn’t scare easily, or he could be in for some fainting spells when the matches begin in Australia, based on the way Woods has played in 2011. Perhaps Couples missed the parts at the PGA Championship where Woods missed the cut, hit balls in 22 bunkers, and hit a 20-foot putt so fat, it came up six feet short of the hole.
Woods hasn’t won in 23 months in the States and others have blown past him so fast, he has plummeted from second to 36th in the world, a spiral that will continue because he is ineligible to play for four weeks and his last PGA Tour win is about to fall off his two-year ranking period.
Couples sounds about as stable as Captain Queeg, rolling around two ball bearings in his hand and trying to figure out who swiped the strawberry ice cream.
This call is wrong for so many reasons, it's nothing short of astounding. Let's list a few.
At No. 11 in points is Jim Furyk, who has had a forgettable season on the whole. But Furyk is the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, a guy who won the FedEx Cup last year after finishing with three wins. Furyk, unlike Woods, has shown far more recent signs of life, including T9 last week.
Keegan Bradley not only isn’t on the team, he's 18th in points despite two victories in his rookie season. Phil Mickelson noted this week that Bradley is the perceived front-runner for tour player of the year, opined that Bradley ought to be the first player named as a captain's pick. Oops. Mickelson and Bradley are represented by the same management firm, so there's a bias here, but Mickelson's got a point. No other American won a major this year. Woods hasn’t won a major since mid-2008.
Even though Bradley, now No. 18 in points, was unable to amass a single Presidents Cup point last year, he is 10 spots ahead of Woods in the standings. Woods is 28th and sandwiched between immortals Kevin Na and D.A. Points.
Couples, a guy who will never be confused for Vijay Singh for his work ethic, is taking the easy way out. The captain's picks are not set to be finalized for four more weeks, until after the Tour Championship in Atlanta. What, he didn’t want to face questions for a month about his two at-large options?
Even for those who believe Woods deserves a pick, there is absolutely no defensible reason to announce the selection a month early. Too many other players who play well over the next month could get left at the curb as they angle for the last remaining spot.
The doltish Couples move certainly underscores the fact that the Presidents Cup is an exhibition, and not held in nearly the same esteem as the Transatlantic swordfight called the Ryder Cup. Making the pick now makes the PrezCup, a thinly veiled Ryder knockoff, look even more farcical.
Think the PGA Tour, which invented and runs the Presidents Cup, wasn't giggling in the hallways when their savant captain tabbed Tiger on Thursday? Moments after Couples told reporters in Seattle that Woods was already a lock, the tour sent out Couples' comments in a blast email, cementing the deal and trumpeting to all the world that Tiger was on the team.
Twelve years ago, after watching a couple of balls take cruel bounces at the 1999 U.S. Open, David Duval stoically answered a question about the caprices that had just cost him the title. "There is no such thing as 'deserves,'" he said. Well, looks like he was wrong. In a game known as the ultimate meritocracy, Woods was grandfathered in based on his resume from two years ago. If he handed any employer a resume with a gap that large in is performance history, the boss would say, "so, what's the deal with the last two years?"
If Woods wanted to earn a spot on the team the right way, he should have played last week in Greensboro, his last chance to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, which began this week at The Barclays. He was outside the top 125 positions required to make the FedEx series, tied in with rookie Will McGirt, who not only played well enough at Greensboro to get in the series, he was an overnight co-leader at The Barclays on Thursday night. Woods didn’t play. He said he had family commitments. Then he participated in a corporate PR stunt for EA Sports last Tuesday, sending a nice message of indifference while others were trying to grind their way into the FedEx picture.
Couples is so out of touch with affairs on the tour, he was unaware that Woods had not qualified to play in the FedEx series, and told him he wants him to add another tournament before heading to Australia to play in the Aussie Open (where he will receive an appearance fee) and Presidents Cup. Couples didn’t even wait to see whether Woods followed through and signed up for a Fall Series event before picking him. The Australian Open is Nov. 10-13 outside Sydney and the cup matches follow the next week.
Couples' assistant captain is Jay Haas, whose son Bill is 10th in Presidents Cup points at the moment. Guess who gets bumped if anybody makes the slightest move over the next four weeks and displaces him from the automatic-pick perch in the top 10? Right. Haas would then need to be picked to make the team. Awkward.
Plenty have compared Couples' decision to pick the skidding Woods as comparable to International team captain Greg Norman's decision to tab Adam Scott two years ago. Scott was in a months-long slump, and Norman figured being on the team might give the young Aussie a lift. What people forget is that Scott finished 1-4, however.
Picking Woods is akin to juggling dynamite. Couples, especially has ensured that a decent faction of Americans will be pulling against the U.S. team.
Nice call, captain America.