Now that Fred Couples is a two-time Presidents Cup-winning captain, let’s look back at a time when it seemed unlikely that he would have the kind of attitude it would take to be a team leader.
The oft-told story about Couples that illustrates his aversion to interpersonal communication is that he used to say he never answered his phone “because someone may be on the other end”. But perhaps a better example of what made Couples future as an inspirational captain even more questionable is from John Feinstein’s excellent 1995 book, A Good Walk Spoiled. Early in the book, Feinstein tells the story of the 1993 Ryder Cup played at The Belfry in England. Couples was having an especially bad Cup that year, going 0-3-1 before Sunday’s single matches, including an embarrassing 6 & 5 loss with partner Paul Azinger to Ian Woosnam and Peter Baker in Saturday’s Four-ball. As Feinstein tells it, USA Captain Tom Watson tried to give Couples a few words of encouragement but Fred was having none of it. When Watson said “everything’s alright, don’t worry about a thing”, Couples snapped back, “Just leave me alone, Tom. I don’t need any pep talks right now.”
It would be 16 years later that Fred Couples would be delivering the pep talks, instead of deflecting them, as a first-time Presidents Cup captain in 2009.