Saturday, August 27, 2011

Couples doesn't back up tough talk on Tiger

So it recently hit me -- man, I used to be a sports writer. So why the hell am I not writing about sports?
Here we go.
I’ll take a break from being the old man yelling from his porch to be, well, the old man yelling at Fred Couples. (Nothing like reaching a key demo with some golf talk. Maybe next week I’ll break down professional bull riding!)
Frankly, I’m disappointed that Couples so casually added Tiger Woods to the United States’ Presidents Cup team on Thursday, just one week after calling out the former greatest golfer alive.
Couples, the U.S. captain and a PGA Tour veteran and fan favorite, stunned many when he “dared” to challenge Tiger publicly, saying that Woods needed to play in more golf tournaments.
Calling out Tiger used to be a career killer, for golfers and media alike. Woods is known for having a long memory, and if you got on his bad side he’d either crush you on the course or refuse to speak to you. (There’s a long-standing rumor that Woods wouldn’t do interviews with CBS’ Peter Kostis for years because Kostis had a close relationship with Phil Mickelson. And let’s just say the relationship between Tiger and Lefty has never been warm and fuzzy)
But Couples did it -- he called out Woods. He made it quite clear, if Tiger was going to be selected to play in the Presidents’ Cup, he would have to play more golf. Which, you know what, makes a helluva lot of sense.
You cannot dispute that Woods doesn’t deserve to play in the Cup. (Which, seriously, nobody ever cared about in the first place. It’s like tennis’ Davis Cup -- if it ain’t Wimbledon, nobody’s paying attention)
Tiger is three-plus years removed from his last major. During that span he’s wrecked his marriage, lost most of his sponsors, undergone two knee surgeries and suffered one of the biggest and most humiliating public embarrassments that any athlete or celebrity has ever endured.
And besides that, he can’t drive the ball in the fairway anymore.
Tiger Woods is no better than an average professional golfer at the moment.
But would you still want him on your team? It’s hard to argue. His career resume should get him a free pass to the Presidents’ and Ryder Cup teams for at least another decade.
But after all his tough talk, Couples just rolled over this week, saying, “There is no reason for me to wait till Sept. 26 (the cutoff date for Couples to set his Cup roster) to pick Tiger. He’s the best player in the world forever.”
C’mon Freddy, stick to your guns. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that quote was crafted directly from Tiger’s PR people.
It’s tough for me to swallow because I think that Couples was right in the first place. Tiger has never played in many tournaments. He picks and chooses his spots, and more power to him, he’s still been successful.
But there are plenty other good, young American golfers that are playing at a much higher level than Woods right now and also play in 20-25 tournaments per season.
Don’t they deserve a spot more?
With that said, if I were captain you’re damn right I’d pick Tiger. Leaving him off the roster would be like passing up Michael Jordan when you’re picking teams for 5-on-5 -- he may be washed up but jeez, he’s still Michael Freaking Jordan.
It made me so happy to hear someone call out Woods though. He claims to have changed, that the Bimbo Patrol and his little car accident made him into a new man with new priorities.
And yet, this New Tiger still plays in relatively no PGA tournaments, is still icy with the media and, oh yeah, stinks at golf.
So yeah, he’s changed all right. He doesn’t win any more -- that’s a big change.
In the grand scheme of things I don’t mind that Couples selected Woods for the Presidents’ Cup team, I just wish he wouldn’t have flip-flopped so much. Don’t talk tough then get all soft on us.
Every now and then I think Woods needs to be reminded that he’s not an iconic figure anymore. That he’s not untouchable. That he can’t get away with never playing golf tournament and being an ass to everybody that asks him a question.
But that’s what Tiger does.
And it’ll be interesting to see how much the interest lasts if he continues to not contend in these tournaments.
Woods still drives the bus that is the PGA Tour -- ratings double every time he’s in the field. So of course he’s playing in the Presidents’ Cup, it’s apparently not golf unless Tiger is involved.
And while I find it difficult to fault Couples’ decision, I don’t agree with his logic. Woods needs to earn a spot on the U.S. roster with his play, not with his aura.
And when I say “play,” I don’t necessarily mean his scores. I mean, he actually has to PLAY golf competitively. (I know, it must be daunting to get paid to play 18 holes while someone carries your bag for you. Very stressful)
But to me, it doesn’t even seem like Tiger is making an effort to change.
And that’s why I agree with Couples from last week, and am disappointed with Couples from this week.
Someone needed to light a fire under Tiger’s ass, and I thought Freddy was the man to do it.
Apparently not.

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