This epic Fred Couples prank left Tiger Woods in disbelief — for two years!

Tiger Woods fred couples

Tiger Woods and Fred Couples during the 2019 Presidents Cup, a decade after a memorable prank by Couples.

Getty Images

There’s an old, rarely needed rule in Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups that always brims with curiosity. Before the 12-man teams kick off the competition, each captain puts the name of one of their players in an envelope.

It’s a secretive process that has fairness in mind. If in the first few days of competition a player is injured, there would be an imbalance on the rosters. If, say, Max Homa were to get hurt next week at the Presidents Cup, the Americans would not be able to field a full roster for the 12 singles matches that take place on the final day. 

So each captain, aware they could be on the unfortunate end of a random injury, writes the name of one of their players and sticks it in an envelope. In the event of an injury to one of their opponents, that player would sit out the singles matches. The rule is so rarely required that the secret of the submitted names is almost never made public, even years after the fact.

But if you’re Fred Couples and your 2009 U.S. team just won the Presidents Cup for a third straight time, perhaps you can lighten the mood even more by revealing the secret. At the end of that week at Harding Park, Couples told his team that he had put Tiger Woods’ name into the envelope.

Woods was the No. 1 player in the world at the time and still at the peak of his powers. Under no circumstances would Couples voluntarily sit Woods, especially during a singles match, just because an opponent was hurt. Unless, of course, he was performing an elite prank. 

Couples retold the story in detail recently, in a video posted by the PGA Tour Champions.

“I’m the captain, first-time captain. We’ve got Tiger Woods on the team,” Couples began.

“At the beginning of the week, in case of injury, you put a name in an envelope. I’m the only guy in the room with Norman. He puts a name in, I put a name in and we give them to the head official Steve Carman. So anyway, as the story goes, we go on and we go on and we win Sunday night. 

“Steve Carman comes in and he has to give the envelope back to the captain. We’re in the room hootin’ and hollerin’. He pulls me aside and I know what he’s gonna say: ‘Here’s you’re envelope.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you open it up in front of everyone and read the name in there?’

“So he tears it open and he reads it and it’s Tiger Woods. The whole room went silent. They thought I was such a clown that I put Tiger Woods in there as the guy who wouldn’t play on Sunday in case of an injury.”

But wait, there’s more. 

“So I didn’t tell the story for two full years,” Couples continued. “So we somehow unhooked the envelope and I took the name out of the there. It was someone who was a [captain’s] pick, and I put Tiger’s name in there. He texted me for weeks: ‘Dude, you’ve got the biggest balls of anyone I’ve ever seen.’

“I went, ‘You know what? Why not put your name in. I thought I’d stir things up.’ So that went for years. I finally told the story. I took a lot of heck for it but for two years I had everyone thinking I put Tiger Woods’ name in the envelope.”

Fred Couples, the prank-master! We seriously applaud anyone who can pull the wool over Tiger Woods’ eyes, and especially for multiple years. In the case of Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson, usually it’s Woods who gets the last word, the last needle, the last laugh. Not this time.

As for Couples’ actual selection to sit out in case of injury, that was was either Lucas Glover or Hunter Mahan, the two Americans who made the team as captain’s picks. That is if Couples is indeed telling the truth this time. 

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine, currently working on a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews. You can read about those travels here and catch his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

Apple | Spotify | Stitcher | iHeart | PodBean