With Couples stepping aside, who will be the next Presidents Cup captain?October 08, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Two years from now in Incheon City, Korea, the U.S. team will attempt to extend its domination over the International Team in The Presidents Cup.
They will have to do so without Fred Couples, who after captaining the U.S. to its last three Presidents Cup wins, has decided not to pursure a fourth win.
That means the U.S. will need a new captain. Who will it be?
Here's a look at some of the possible candidates, broken down by categories. And no, we do not have insider knowledge on who'll replace Couples:
THE ASSISTANTS: Jay Haas has been by Couples' side for all three Presidents Cup wins. He would seem to be a natural choice from a continuity standpoint. Davis Love III was Couples' other assistant this year. He also captained the U.S. at the 2012 Ryder Cup. The only other assistant for Couples during his three-time stint was John Cook in 2011.
THE 45-SOMETHINGS: Figure that 40-44 is too young, so we'll look at those 45 or older still on the PGA TOUR. Steve Stricker seems like an obvious candidate. He's cutting back on his playing schedule, he's respected by his peers, and he offers the kind of cerebral approach that seems very worthy of a captainship. But if he wants to spend more time with his family, he might not want to commit to the time required to be captain. Plus, he's still got game.
David Toms has played on four Presidents Cup teams and he has major credentials. Got to think his name will be in the mix. Scott Verplank played on two Presidents Cup teams but will be eligible for the Champions Tour next year and may devote his time to that.
Oh, and if you're wondering -- Phil Mickelson will be 45 in 2015. Hmmm, player-captain? And if not Mickelson, what about Jim Furyk, who'll also turn 45 in the summer of 2015. It's not a matter of if but when each player serves a turn as a U.S. captain in an upcoming team competition.
Just guessing here, but being player-captain seems like just the kind of challenge that could pique Lefty's interest.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Like Couples, could the next captain be a player currently on the Champions Tour? Kenny Perry has played on four Presidents Cups. Tom Lehman has played on three (and has prior experience as a captain at the 2006 Ryder Cup). Fred Funk has played on two and could bring his own cheering section (Funk's Punks). Mark O'Meara has played on two, too.
FORMER RYDER CUP CAPTAINS: We've already mentioned Love and Lehman. Others who have captained the U.S. team in the Ryder Cup in the last 20 years include Paul Azinger, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Corey Pavin, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton and Lanny Wadkins.
Anyone have a feeling ... that it could be Crenshaw?
RYDER CUP APPROACH: The PGA of America brought back Tom Watson to be the U.S. Ryder Cup captain for 2014. Watson had first captained the U.S. in 1993.
Jack Nicklaus was Presidents Cup captain four times before giving way to Couples in 2009, and his love for the event was certainly evident last week at his Muirfield Village course. But we were lucky to have Nicklaus four times. Don't expect a fifth.
OFF-THE-WALL SUGGESTION: Couples and his laid-back approach obviously kept things relaxed in the team room. What about someone else who might provide that kind of affable personality, who could keep his players relaxed, who could entertain the media and maintain a smile on his face at all times?
Say hello to Rocco Mediate.
No, he's never played on a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup. He's never won a major. He wouldn't seem like any kind of candidate. But players like him.
Recall what Tiger Woods said after defeating Mediate in an 18-hole playoff to win the 2008 U.S. Open.
"Roc has been just unbelievably nice to me and a great friend to me over the years since my first year out here on TOUR," Woods said. "... It was a great battle all day and also a great friendship too."
Sure, it's a complete longshot. That's why it's off-the-wall.