Fred Couples defends controversial U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s picks
In a candid conversation with his co-host, George Downing, Couples seemed confident while revealing his take on the prospects of the current American fence-sitters.
“Here’s the guys that are not confirmed and need to make a case,” Downing prompted Couples. “No. 7: Max Homa.”
“I’m like one of the 19 assistants, I’ll say Max Homa’s gonna be in Italy,” Couples replied. “I’ll say Max Homa’s gonna be in Italy, without getting anyone in trouble.”
“Cam Young,” Downing said.
“Cam Young will be in Italy,” Couples replied.
“Will be in Italy.”
“The rest is — I’m stopping,” Couples said.
Fast-forward to Tuesday’s captain’s picks announcement from Zach Johnson, and it turns out Cameron Young is not on the team — and neither is Bradley.
Bradley, who played on the 2012 and 2014 Ryder Cup teams, has had a bit of a career resurgence and was 11th on this year’s points list. Young was 9th. Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas were ranked Nos. 12, 13 and 15, respectively.
Bradley seemed particularly stung by the oversight, telling Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, “I’m super bummed out. I thought I put together a really good year with two wins including in Hartford over an elite field. I’m proud of what I’ve done.
“I’ve always been an outsider in the sport but I’ve tried to get closer to the guys I thought would be on the team,” he continued. “I feel like moving forward I’m going to have to automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup.”
On Couples’ most recent episode of The Fred Couples Show on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, he and Downing addressed Bradley’s insinuation that being a self-described outsider contributed to the fact that he wasn’t picked.
“There’s no ‘outside,'” Couples said. “I saw Keegan Bradley’s statement. I left him off the [2011 Presidents Cup] team when he won a PGA. It’s the harshest thing you can do to a guy. I feel like it’s the players’ team, but you can’t have guys telling the captain here’s who I want, should be on it, unless you’re a Jordan Spieth or a Scottie Scheffler, or a [Patrick] Cantlay.”
Couples and Downing then discussed the reasoning behind having six captain’s picks, which they agreed is basically a way to ensure a good matchup with the automatic qualifiers.
“Now they’re picking other guys that may not have the record of Keegan, but they pair them up perfectly,” Couples said. “I like Keegan. He’s an older guy, and he’s not in tight with them. If that had 20 percent to do with it, I won’t argue that.”
One of the most surprising picks for many observers was Justin Thomas, who is the lowest-ranked member of the team on the U.S. points list and has been public about the struggles he’s experiencing in his game.
But Couples assured Downing that JT’s inclusion was basically a shoo-in.
“I’ve got 50 texts today, why two or three guys aren’t on the team,” Couples said. “And I don’t have an answer for that. The only answer I have is, this is the team, and the team has spoken. And if the team likes another guy a little bit better than that guy who didn’t win six tournaments and do all this, then, then no one has a problem with any of it.
“And I think the JT thing is the strongest pick. That was a no-brainer.”
Couples said that if the situation was reversed, and Jordan Spieth needed a pick to pair with Thomas, he would do the same thing. Couples says he also believes in Thomas’ ability to rise to the occasion.
“The analytics would say no, the way he plays golf, said yes,” Couples said of Thomas. “One of the things JT can do is he can dissect the golf course. That’s what we’re counting on.”
The 2023 Ryder Cup begins September 29 in Rome.