Fred Couples, who has celebrated after decisions have gone against LIV Golf players, and questioned the upstart league’s money and those who have taken it, and blasted its CEO, now wants to share with you a thought on birthdays and weddings.
Yes, Couples had held little back over the past few months in his comments on the Saud-backed series, though, if you’ve seen or heard the thoughts of those in the pro-PGA Tour camp, he’s not exactly on an island here. Still, his skill to shoot low — World Golf Hall of Famer, green jacket wearer, owner of one of the more enviable swings ever — and be a straight shooter may make you want to listen to him more than some others. And that brings us to Thursday, where, two days after six Tour members jumped to LIV, and one day before the series plays its fourth-ever event, he had a word on the schedule and the format.
To provide background, LIV is playing eight events this season and 14 next year; it plays without a cut, while the PGA Tour often does; and LIV plays 54-hole tournaments, while the Tour often plays 72.
“To all my friends who I missed birthdays & weddings …… so sorry, I was busy earning a living on the @pgatour and in my line of work the goal is to EARN your way to work weekends,” Couples wrote on Twitter. “And by weekends i mean 72 holes. Sorry not sorry .”
The 47-word blast no doubt came in light of both the six signings, and changes made last week by the Tour in an effort to stop others from leaving. Both are significant. Playing this week for LIV for the first time are Cameron Smith, this year’s Open Championship and Players Championship winner; Joaquin Niemann; Harold Varner III; Marc Leishman; Cameron Tringale and Anirban Lahiri; and Smith, at No. 2, and Niemann, at No. 19, now become LIV’s highest-ranked players. On the PGA Tour side, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that 20 players will be defined as “top players” starting next year; the device in which the Tour will define those players will be a reimagine Player Impact Program, and it will receive a purse bump, from $50 million to $100 million, to reward those players; four more tournaments, in addition to eight announced in June, will be tabbed as “elevated events” with purses worth at least $20 million; the 20 players will play in those events, the Players Championship, the majors and three other tournaments; all fully exempt players will start the season with a $500,000 stipend; and players will receive a $5,000 travel stipend. And … all of this starts soon: The PGA Tour season ended Sunday, and the next one kicks off next week.
As we noted, Thursday was also not the first time Couples has stood atop his soapbox.
Since the middle of February, when LIV Golf started to create headlines, Couples has tweeted 31 times, and 10 of the tweets have been on LIV Golf. In February, he tweeted three times after various players recommitted to playing on the PGA Tour. In May, he tweeted after the Tour denied players a waiver to play in the first LIV event — ”DENIED …. DENIED …. DENIED,” he wrote — and tweeted the same three words, though lowercase, after a court ruled early last month that three LIV golfers could not play in the Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs. In June, Couples tweeted three times as the Tour and LIV went head to head for the first time, with the Tour in Canada and LIV in London.
Couples’ most pointed comments, though, may have come in an interview with GOLF’s Alan Bastable. Talking as the American captain in the Icons Series, a new match-play event that pitted 12 athletes from the U.S. against their counterparts from across the world, Couples commented both on the source of LIV’s funding, and the players who have taken it, among other topics.
“These guys — you’ve seen their interviews, right?” Couples said. “Have you ever seen Phil [Mickelson] look so stupid in his life? They know it’s a joke.”
Then in early August, ahead of the Shaw Charity Classic on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, Couples provided two lengthy thoughts on LIV, though neither question mentioned the series by name. Among the items he brought up were an antitrust lawsuit against the Tour filed by LIV players; LIV’s CEO, Greg Norman; and another comment Couples made to Bastable, in which he said this of LIV player Pat Perez: “I heard of all people Perez was a little confrontational. He’s a grain of sand in this Tour. He should be soft and kind, but he’s, like, raising his voice. I’m done with it.”
This is the exchange at the Shaw Charity Classic:
“Did you ever imagine in your life that the world of golf would be in such disarray as it is now?” a reporter asked.
“It’s not really in disarray in my life, but I have laughed quite a bit the last couple months, and even myself, kind of made a comment, I just find it hard to imagine,” Couples said. “When I talked about something, I mentioned that I’m a peon from Seattle, which I really am. I’ve done a lot of great things in golf, maybe got people to watch the game, but I’m not changing the game. Now all these guys think they’re changing the game and to me it’s comical, it’s really comical. To have music on every tee and have people drinking beers and think that’s cool, yeah, it’s cool, they do it at my club, but I’m a part of it. I play in member-guests all the time, people drinking all the time. I’m happy for them, but I never thought the cast and crew that would do that would be the guys doing it.
“And now they’re suing us, which is just another thing. If they win or lose, I don’t really care. I’m 62, I play the Champions Tour, but it’s a little heartbreaking. Go do what you’re doing. Suing the Tour, 11 guys when there’s probably 200 guys on the Tour, I just find it really, really weird.
“And I have a funny feeling I know where it’s coming and it’s coming from their leader, who no one’s liked for 25 years. And that’s not being mean, that’s just — that’s the truth. He’s not a friend of mine, but he never would be because we don’t get along. But he’s running a tour that he thinks is incredible. I’ve listened to everybody, Davis Love and Justin Thomas. We text every night. They’re really suing us, you know, and J.T.’s finally got that picture. I won’t put his name too much deeper, but now he gets it that they’re suing him and it’s offensive.
“But again, I love that Charl Schwartzl won, I love that [Branden] Grace won, because they’re very quiet guys over there. Brooks [Koepka] is the same. I’m glad they’re gone, but stop trashing the PGA Tour. If you don’t want to be a part of it, you’re suing it? Just go away and make your millions and play golf just like I’m going to do this week.”
A reporter then asked: “Do you take it personally?”
“Well, it sounds like I am because I’m picking on a few spots, but there’s nothing else to pick on because I have so much respect for Dustin Johnson,” Couples said. “I have a ton of respect.
“What I don’t have respect for is I’ve texted Pat Perez for 20 years on his golf game. I don’t know Pat that well, but I’ve always tried to help him, and I in a comment said Pat shouldn’t be one of the guys, he’s like a grain of sand on that tour, and the text he wrote me back, you would think I had put him in jail.
“So it’s offensive, that’s offensive. Doesn’t bother me. I still like Pat Perez a lot. I’m glad he’s winning money out there because that’s what he chose to do and that makes him happy.
But for me personally, I appreciate the guys more that stand up for the PGA Tour because I’ve got 42 years invested. … I will say this, that there’s no Saudi money on the Champions Tour. We won’t take it; we won’t accept it.”