Fred Couples: Tiger Woods has to play

Updated: August 18, 2011, 12:26 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

U.S. captain Fred Couples has repeatedly said he wants Tiger Woods on his Presidents Cup team, but now Couples is saying Woods will need to add a tournament prior to the Australian Open in November if he expects to be picked for the squad.

Couples I'm the captain, and he wants to be on the team. This is my chance to hold my rank above him one time. And I'm going to do it.

-- Fred Couples on Tiger Woods' spot on the Presidents Cup team

Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship last week, effectively ending his PGA Tour season and leaving him no more chances to qualify for the 12-man team on his own. He would need one of two at-large selections to be made by Couples next month in order to play for the team that will take on an international squad at Royal Melbourne the week following the Australian Open.

"I really want him on the team based on my opinion that he's been the best player for 10 straight years," Couples told reporters Wednesday during a news conference. "I don't think you can push him down because he's not playing maybe as well as 20 other guys that could be picked. A couple of times I've been picked for a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup, and sometimes that's just the way it falls."

Couples has said several times he would pick Woods for the team, regardless of his recent poor form, as long as he is healthy. But on Wednesday, Couples suggested that Woods needs to add a tournament.

"I've talked to (Woods' agent) Mark Steinberg about him playing (other tournaments). We're going to figure out a way that we can get this done," Couples said from Rye, N.Y., site of the Champions Tour's Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. "He can't just show up the week before in Australia. I have made it clear that whoever I picked will be playing the Australian tournament the week before. But I need him to play more than just there. There's quite a few tournaments after the Tour Championship."

At the PGA, Woods indicated he might not play again until the Australian Open.

He is not eligible for the PGA Tour playoffs that begin next week and conclude at the end of September with the Tour Championship. Four tournaments  known as the Fall Series  follow the Tour Championship, with stops in Las Vegas, San Jose, Sea Island, Ga., and Disney World. Woods has won the events at Las Vegas and Disney, but has not played either in years.

Tiger Woods
AP Photo/Matt SlocumFred Couples said that Tiger Woods, who missed the PGA Championship cut, will need to play again to earn a Presidents Cup spot.

Couples and Woods are longtime friends, and when Couples agreed to return as captain, he jokingly sent Woods a text message telling him to play well so the captain wouldn't have to waste a pick on him.

Turns out it was no joke. Because of injuries to his left leg, Woods went from the Masters on April 10 to the Bridgestone Invitational on Aug. 7 without completing a tournament. Then came the final major, where he missed the cut by six shots and finished out of the top 100 for the first time in a major. Afterward, Woods suggested he would use the time to work on his game with instructor Sean Foley.

When asked if he would add any tournaments prior to Australia, Woods said "he might," but didn't sound convincing.

After his press conference, Couples told Golf Digest for a story on its website, "From what I see, he's looking to turn it around quicker, but not playing much golf. He may read that and say, 'Screw him.' I mean he's my favorite player. But to get better, you gotta play."

Making the situation uncomfortable is the fact that Couples has only two picks, and they have to be made on Sept. 26, the day after the Tour Championship. PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, for example, would also need a captain's pick despite having won twice this year. So would Rickie Fowler.

Couples pointed to Luke Donald and Dustin Johnson, who play about two dozen times a year, and are getting better.

"I just don't know how he can sit there and think his game is going to improve," Couples said of Woods.

Woods and Steve Stricker went 5-0 two years ago in the Presidents Cup at Harding Park. The only team -- Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup -- that Woods missed was in 2008 because of knee surgery.

"I'm the captain, and he wants to be on the team," Couples said. "This is my chance to hold my rank above him one time. And I'm going to do it. Look, he has carried this tour for a long time. If somebody looks at it wrong, if I end up picking him, which I probably will, they would be crazy. He doesn't want to go there and lose. He hates to lose. So he's going to do his best. But I've got to push him to play a little bit so he'll do a little better."

Couples also said Bradley was not guaranteed a captain's pick if he needed one. Bradley is a 25-year-old rookie who has won twice this year, including the final major of the year.

"I firmly believe that the way he's playing, he's going to play his way on the team," Couples said. "And that would be, for him, the safest way of getting on this team. If he doesn't make it, he's got a great shot at being picked."

Players have until the third playoff event -- the BMW Championship in Chicago that ends Sept. 18 -- to finish among the top 10 and qualifying. Bradley is at No. 18.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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