Tiger should pass on captain's pick
An open letter to Fred Couples
Congratulations on your recent win at the Senior Players Championship. It's great to see you playing through your pain and having success. I wish you all the best as you lead your Presidents Cup team to Australia in November.
I was wondering, though, if you could take some time to answer a few questions that I have about your decision to pick Tiger Woods with one of your two captain's picks. I get nepotism, cronyism and all the ways that we help out our friends and family. But what I don't get is why you would pick a guy who has been hurt for most of the year and who has played only eight PGA Tour events and had two top-10s.
Do you want the players to resent Tiger more than they already do? Golf is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy. So what do you say to Mark Wilson and Keegan Bradley, who have both won twice this year, if you leave them off the team? One of those guys is not going to make the cut.
I know, I know. A captain can pick whomever he chooses. I remember when Lee Janzen was left off the 1995 Ryder Cup team by Lanny Wadkins, despite the fact that Janzen had won three times that year, including the Players Championship. I remember the time at the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills outside Detroit when Hal Sutton thought it was a great idea to put Woods and Phil Mickelson out together as a team.
I get it but it doesn't make it right.
Your decision makes me think of the lines from that Janet Jackson hit -- "What Have You Done for Me Lately":
Yes, honey, I love him, he is fine
He does a lot of nice things for me
I know he used to do nice stuff for you
But what has he done for you lately?
It's history what Tiger did in all those big tournaments and match play events. That's old news. What has Woods done in the game lately? You tell us in your announcement that Tiger almost won the Masters in April. April? That's practically another decade in golf.
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Yet I know you are a good guy and that you probably felt some pressure from higher-ups in some office tower in a big city. I know The Man may have gotten to you -- the golf industrial complex that says you can't leave perhaps the greatest golfer in the world off a team that's competing on the other side of the world if you want people in the U.S. to watch. That makes a lot of sense. It's business.
Still, Tiger has to take some of the blame for your decision. He should have said he's not fit to play. He should have said there are more deserving players who rank ahead of him. He could have said, "Fred, I'm 28th and why should I take a place on the team? Let somebody else have a chance."
You might say athletes never back out of a challenge. Muhammad Ali fought way past his prime. Willie Mays should have quit a lot sooner. I know Kareem needed the money, but his skyhook was gone toward the end. Derek Jeter limps on because he helped the Yankees to a lot of World Series rings -- a decade ago.
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But Lou Gehrig took himself out of the game when he knew something wasn't right with his body. That's what the great ones do. Tiger is no Lou Gehrig. He's just a selfish player who is getting something for doing nothing. I want him to explain that to the kids at his Tiger Woods Learning Center and the kids from The First Tee, an organization his fame helped to inspire.
Freddie, you'll do great as a captain and your team will be strong with Tiger and the 11 other guys. But it sends the wrong message to the game and to young people when you make a decision as important as this based on past achievements and the desires of corporate America. Past success gives status to players on the Champions Tour, but it has no place at the highest levels of the game.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org