Couples concerned with Woods’ health, not game

Fred Couples says the only thing that will keep Tiger Woods’

from dominating again and breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record in the

major is his knee.

”At Tiger’s age, I’m more concerned about his body than his

game,” Couples said Wednesday at the Memorial. ”His game will

come back. But it’s hard to come back when you’ve got knee problems

and hip problems and Achilles problems and all that stuff.”

Couples knows what it’s like to play injured.

The former Masters champion and No. 1 player in golf first began

suffering from back pain in 1994, and it has bothered him ever

since. Even now, Couples is aching so much that after the Memorial,

he might not play again until the U.S. Senior Open at the end of

July.

But he says a left knee, especially one that’s been through four

surgeries, is much different.

”I couldn’t imagine not being able to use my left knee to play

golf,” Couples said. ”I think it’s basically impossible to do

what you used to do. And in golf, that’s the toughest thing.”

Couples said it can be tough to try to reclaim the No. 1

position – in golf or any other sport – because it can be a mental

drain. He figures Woods is the only player who is strong enough

between the ears to handle that.

”For him, that won’t be the problem. It’ll be this knee

issue,” Couples said. ”I don’t think he swings violent at it. I

don’t think he does anything different than Charl Schwartzel when

they swing. I just think his knee is a little tender and he’s got

to get it right so he can come out and start to play every day

feeling good.”

PRESIDENTS CUP PLANS: When he agreed to be Presidents Cup

captain again, Fred Couples jokingly sent Tiger Woods a text

telling him to play his way onto the team so he won’t have to be a

pick.

Given the fact Woods has missed two tournaments already with

left leg issues, and had to withdraw from another after nine holes,

it might not be a joke. Couples isn’t worried, though. He figures

if Woods isn’t good enough to make the team in September, or

doesn’t feel healthy enough to play the matches in Australia in

November, he’ll let Couples know.

”If he’s not ready to play, he’ll be the one to tell me, ‘Don’t

waste your pick on me,”’ Couples said. ”I don’t even know how

much he’ll play, but he doesn’t have to prove a lot to any

captain.”

Couples will be playing the week before the Presidents Cup at

the Australian Open, and he said his two captain’s picks also will

be in Sydney with him. Doesn’t that mean Woods will have to play

the Australian Open if he’s a pick?

”Well, if he wants to play, yeah,” Couples said. ”If I pick

two people and the other guy is there, he should be there.”

There’s some wiggle room there, however.

Woods’ camp was irritated when the Australian Masters, where he

played the last two years, had its date on the schedule taken away

and given to the Australian Open. The Aussie Masters is run by IMG,

however. Woods’ agent is no longer with IMG, and odds are Woods

won’t be with the agency much longer.

Couples said all he wants is for his players to be competing

somewhere before the Presidents Cup. That could be the Singapore

Open (where Phil Mickelson will play) or another event in the

region.

A GREEN JACKET AND BLACK TIE: Masters champions are allowed to

take their green jacket home with them while they hold the title,

and Charl Schwartzel is taking it with him wherever he goes.

”If you get to keep it only for a year and then leave it,

you’ve got to pretty much enjoy it,” Schwartzel said. ”No point

leaving it if you’re only going to see it every two months.”

He brought it with him to the Memorial, even if just to look at

it in the closet.

The last time he wore it in public was at Wentworth last week at

the BMW PGA Championship, when the European Tour had an awards

dinner and asked him to wear his prize.

One problem: It was a black-tie dinner.

”And I’m dressed up in a green jacket,” Schwartzel said.

”Most people thought I was a waiter.”

MICKELSON’S NEW WEAPON: Phil Mickelson is working on a new

2-iron to take to the U.S. Open at Congressional in two weeks.

It’s really not new – he’s had it for about six years. But he

thinks he has it just about right.

”It hadn’t quite worked right until I bent it, tweaked it a

little bit. Now it feels pretty dialed in,” Mickelson said. ”I’ve

been experimenting the last few weeks trying to get the right

2-iron that flies about 255 or so off the tee, which is kind of

what I’m gunning for. I think this one is dialed in just

right.”

In a slight change, Mickelson has decided not to play the St.

Jude Classic the week before the U.S. Open. Instead, he will go to

Congressional next week to get in his practice.

CADDIE CHANGE: In what appears to be a game of musical chairs

with caddies and players, the biggest change is Joe LaCava no

longer on the bag for Fred Couples. Instead, LaCava is working for

Dustin Johnson.

Couples had encouraged him to find another bag, mainly because

Couples was on the less lucrative Champions Tour and not playing

much this year because of a bad back. So when Johnson’s bag became

open, LaCava took it.

”He’s been a great caddie. He’s caddied for a lot of great

players,” Couples said.

Couples said it might be difficult early on for LaCava to get

the right club for Johnson, mostly because Johnson is one of the

longest hitters in golf. He also thinks LaCava will be good at

knowing when to tell Johnson to scale back, and not hit driver.

”Other than that, I have a lot of respect for Joe,” Couples

said. ”I think he’s done a phenomenal job, and I hope he stays

with him a while, because I’m not taking him back.”

They won’t be separated very long. Couples and Johnson are

playing together the first two rounds, along with Nick Watney.