DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Fred Couples says the only thing that will keep Tiger Woods’ from dominating again and breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record in the major is his knee.
“At Tiger’s age, I’m more concerned about his body than his game,” Couples said Wednesday at the Memorial. “His game will come back. But it’s hard to come back when you’ve got knee problems and hip problems and Achilles problems and all that stuff.”
Couples knows what it’s like to play injured.
The former Masters champion and No. 1 player in golf first began suffering from back pain in 1994, and it has bothered him ever since. Even now, Couples is aching so much that after the Memorial, he might not play again until the U.S. Senior Open at the end of July.
But he says a left knee, especially one that’s been through four surgeries, is much different.
“I couldn’t imagine not being able to use my left knee to play golf,” Couples said. “I think it’s basically impossible to do what you used to do. And in golf, that’s the toughest thing.”
Couples said it can be tough to try to reclaim the No. 1 position – in golf or any other sport – because it can be a mental drain. He figures Woods is the only player who is strong enough between the ears to handle that.
“For him, that won’t be the problem. It’ll be this knee issue,” Couples said. “I don’t think he swings violent at it. I don’t think he does anything different than Charl Schwartzel when they swing. I just think his knee is a little tender and he’s got to get it right so he can come out and start to play every day feeling good.”
PRESIDENTS CUP PLANS: When he agreed to be Presidents Cup captain again, Fred Couples jokingly sent Tiger Woods a text telling him to play his way onto the team so he won’t have to be a pick.
Given the fact Woods has missed two tournaments already with left leg issues, and had to withdraw from another after nine holes, it might not be a joke. Couples isn’t worried, though. He figures if Woods isn’t good enough to make the team in September, or doesn’t feel healthy enough to play the matches in Australia in November, he’ll let Couples know.
“If he’s not ready to play, he’ll be the one to tell me, ‘Don’t waste your pick on me,'” Couples said. “I don’t even know how much he’ll play, but he doesn’t have to prove a lot to any captain.”
Couples will be playing the week before the Presidents Cup at the Australian Open, and he said his two captain’s picks also will be in Sydney with him. Doesn’t that mean Woods will have to play the Australian Open if he’s a pick?
“Well, if he wants to play, yeah,” Couples said. “If I pick two people and the other guy is there, he should be there.”
There’s some wiggle room there, however.
Woods’ camp was irritated when the Australian Masters, where he played the last two years, had its date on the schedule taken away and given to the Australian Open. The Aussie Masters is run by IMG, however. Woods’ agent is no longer with IMG, and odds are Woods won’t be with the agency much longer.
Couples said all he wants is for his players to be competing somewhere before the Presidents Cup. That could be the Singapore Open (where Phil Mickelson will play) or another event in the region.
A GREEN JACKET AND BLACK TIE: Masters champions are allowed to take their green jacket home with them while they hold the title, and Charl Schwartzel is taking it with him wherever he goes.
“If you get to keep it only for a year and then leave it, you’ve got to pretty much enjoy it,” Schwartzel said. “No point leaving it if you’re only going to see it every two months.”
He brought it with him to the Memorial, even if just to look at it in the closet.
The last time he wore it in public was at Wentworth last week at the BMW PGA Championship, when the European Tour had an awards dinner and asked him to wear his prize.
One problem: It was a black-tie dinner.
“And I’m dressed up in a green jacket,” Schwartzel said. “Most people thought I was a waiter.”
MICKELSON’S NEW WEAPON: Phil Mickelson is working on a new 2-iron to take to the U.S. Open at Congressional in two weeks.
It’s really not new – he’s had it for about six years. But he thinks he has it just about right.
“It hadn’t quite worked right until I bent it, tweaked it a little bit. Now it feels pretty dialed in,” Mickelson said. “I’ve been experimenting the last few weeks trying to get the right 2-iron that flies about 255 or so off the tee, which is kind of what I’m gunning for. I think this one is dialed in just right.”
In a slight change, Mickelson has decided not to play the St. Jude Classic the week before the U.S. Open. Instead, he will go to Congressional next week to get in his practice.
CADDIE CHANGE: In what appears to be a game of musical chairs with caddies and players, the biggest change is Joe LaCava no longer on the bag for Fred Couples. Instead, LaCava is working for Dustin Johnson.
Couples had encouraged him to find another bag, mainly because Couples was on the less lucrative Champions Tour and not playing much this year because of a bad back. So when Johnson’s bag became open, LaCava took it.
“He’s been a great caddie. He’s caddied for a lot of great players,” Couples said.
Couples said it might be difficult early on for LaCava to get the right club for Johnson, mostly because Johnson is one of the longest hitters in golf. He also thinks LaCava will be good at knowing when to tell Johnson to scale back, and not hit driver.
“Other than that, I have a lot of respect for Joe,” Couples said. “I think he’s done a phenomenal job, and I hope he stays with him a while, because I’m not taking him back.”
They won’t be separated very long. Couples and Johnson are playing together the first two rounds, along with Nick Watney.