Earlier in Decemeber, 2016, Thomas Bjorn was appointed as the European team captain for the 2018 Ryder Cup. With this pre-mature appointment, the ball is back in the Americans’ court as they look to name a captain who can lead them to back-to-back wins at the Ryder Cup for the first time since the early 1990’s.
The names in the reckoning are Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Fred Couples. Furyk is currently the odds-on-favourite with the bookmakers but it seems too early for him to be named as s Ryder Cup captain. He commands a lot of respect on the PGA Tour and also possesses the experience of being a vice-captain on the winning 2016 Ryder Cup team.
Jim finished 15th on the Ryder Cup points list in 2016 even after missing four moths due to injury. At just the age of 46, he has an excellent opportunity of making the US team in a playing capacity in 2018.
Becoming the first player to shoot 58 in PGA Tour history in August and finishing T-2nd at the US Open at Oakmont this year proves that Jim can still compete with the big boys and has the hunger to win. He is definitely captain material and his time will come but 2016 seems too soon especially with other viable candidates available.
With Steve Stricker already assigned the role of 2017 US Presidents Cup captain, it would be logical to wait and watch how the US team performs under his guidance before making any decisions to hand him the US Ryder Cup captain role.
At 49, Steve Stricker has a lot of years ahead of him to take control of a Ryder Cup team so there is no need to entrust Steve with two massive roles of responsibility at the same time.
Fred Couples ticks both the boxes of credibility and experience for the role in 2018 and is hands down, the best equipped candidate to land the role. It was a massive surprise when Couples was overlooked for the role in 2016 in favour of Davis Love III. It was a decision that was fruitful for them with Love III delivering a convincing 17-11 win over the Europeans.
It’s been a long-standing mystery as to why Couples has never been offered a US Ryder Cup captain role in the past. He is the most successful Presidents Cup captain of all time as he has overseen strong US victories in 2009, 2011 and 2013. What makes his case all the more compelling is the fact that in the following years, the Europeans have continually inflicted Ryder Cup defeats on the US team.
Let’s keep in mind that the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are different beasts to tame with the standard of oppostion differing both in strength and intensity. Those three victories, however, surely make him a right and deserving fit for the step up to the Ryder Cup captaincy.
At 57 years old, time is slowly running out for Couples, who has been pretty vocal about his desire to captain a US Ryder Cup team. By 2018, he would be one of the oldest Ryder Cup captains in the tournament’s history.
Tom Watson was the oldest captain at 65 years old in 2014 with some questioning whether his age would come in the way or not. His calamitous performance as captain that year put all doubts to bed over age being a factor in determining a captain in the future.
2018 presents itself as a golden and perhaps the last opportunity for Fred Couples with sub-50 year old's, Furyk and Stricker waiting in the wings to take over the mantle for the future.
The major drawback of Couples seems to be his too laid-back attiude to be a Ryder Cup captain. Yet his calm mannerisms have had an advantageous effect on his players in the Presidents Cup over the years. There is not a better example than Tiger Woods to illustrate this notion: Tiger Woods boasts an incredible 11-4 Presidents Cup record under Couples in comparison to a 13-11-1 record without him. Couples has truly managed to extract the best out of Tiger, who has rarely excelled in team competition.
It is a mountainous task for the Americans at the 2018 Ryder Cup which is being held in France. The US team has not won a Ryder Cup across the pond since 1993, and Couples was a part of the winning roster that year. His experience could be invaluable and puts him in a strong position to land the job he craves.
However, the biggest pointer that Couples may once again be overlooked is that he had no involvement at all in 2016's US Ryder Cup winning performance. It must have not gone down well with Couples after he had been previously appointed as a vice-captain by Davis Love III on the 2012 US Ryder Cup team.
It remains to be seen if his non-involvement in the Ryder Cup proves to be his nemesis as far as his chances are concerned for the 2018 US Rydder Cup team captaincy. All things considered, Fred Couples has earned the right to lead a US Ryder Cup team.
He has gained the necessary amount of experience through the Presidents Cup and having been a vice captain at the Ryder Cup further enhances his portfolio for the captaincy.
This is definitely a situation tailor-made for Fred Couples to be appointed as a Ryder Cup captain and it is tough to envision another chance beyond 2018.
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