Fred Couples questioned Tom Watson’s controversial decision to bench Phil Mickelson at the Ryder Cup on Thursday, while confirming the task force established after the American loss has contacted him about becoming captain.
Couples made the comments in a casual question and answer session while conducting a clinic for young golfers at the opening of a 6-hole golf course in Maricopa, Arizona.
Asked about the Ryder Cup, Couples said, “I’m not bashing Tom Watson, but sitting Mickelson, your best team player? Are you kidding me?” Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, has long been a close friend of Watson, whose captaincy of the US team was widely criticized after the September loss in Scotland.
Mickelson and his partner Keegan Bradley split their two matches on opening day at Gleneagles, defeating Europe’s heavyweight stars Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia in the morning session before losing to Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson in the afternoon. Neither Mickelson nor Bradley played again until the Sunday singles.
At the press conference after Team USA’s loss, Mickelson was openly critical of Watson’s management style, suggesting he did not consult team members. At 65, Watson was the oldest-ever Ryder Cup captain, something Couples—also a good friend of Mickelson—noted in his comments.
“An older man with younger guys. It just wasn’t a good fit,” Couples said.
Couples, who is 55, acknowledged that he has been in contact with the PGA of America task force charged with ending Team USA’s losing run. Just last week Couples described the creation of the task force as hasty and suggested it was an overreaction.
Speaking to Golf.com at the event, Couples confirmed the task force contact and said he believes his record gives him as good a chance of becoming captain as the other widely touted candidates, David Toms and Mark O’Meara. Couples has been captain of the last three Presidents Cup squads, all of which won.
It has been widely reported Mickelson and Tiger Woods were among those who called or texted Couples after the Ryder Cup loss to express support for him becoming captain in 2016, when the match will be held at Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota.
– Coleman McDowell contributed to this report