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Couples is aching to be a captain in near future

He has plans to shake things up. Furyk leads Woods, three others, by one at Sherwood.

December 14, 2007|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Fred Couples' chronic bad back limited him to six rounds on the PGA Tour, and at 48, it only hurts when he moves.

"When I get out of the car, when I get out of a chair, when I change my pants," Couples said.

"I get sick and tired of talking about the back, but I'm going to play."

Through 14 holes in Thursday's opening round of the Target World Challenge, Couples was two under. But he played the last four holes in four over and shot a 74 at Sherwood Country Club, where Jim Furyk shot a four-under 68 to take the lead.

Couples expects to play in 2008 as much as his back allows and will begin the season at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. His primary goal, besides staying as healthy as possible, is to play at the Masters for the 24th time.

And after that, well, Couples said his time might be up.

"If I hurt myself," he said, "I'm going to pack it in."

For Couples, this is traditionally the most wonderful time of the year. Starting with the off-season events of 2002, he has played 16 times and made $3.7 million, including $325,000 from the Skins Game and $75,000 from the Merrill Lynch Shootout, both since the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Even if he is last at Sherwood, Couples will still earn $170,000.

But money isn't all that motivates Couples. He said he would love being captain of a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team.

Naturally, a Couples captaincy would reflect the philosophy of the head man himself.

Couples has some strong and slightly off-beat opinions. Most of his ideas are involved with cutting out some of the players' time commitments that he believes are unnecessary. The scheduling is too demanding, he said.

"They tell you when to do everything and that's a tough thing," he said.

For instance, there's what to do after playing all day.

"Once that 18 holes are done, don't put on a coat and tie and take team photos.

"If a captain really wants not to do a couple of things, the players shouldn't have to do a couple of things.

"I can promise you there are 12 guys who don't want to do 75% of the stuff. My goal would be to slough some of the stuff off."

Couples said his first move would be to appoint Michael Jordan and Robin Williams as assistant captains.

"I would have Michael Jordan tell stories every single night and I would have Robin Williams tell jokes for 30 minutes. That's what I want," he said. "I don't want a rah-rah speech. My God. If you need a rah-rah speech to play the Ryder Cup, you've got some serious issues.

"If we lose, we lose because we lose, but I can promise you we'd have a good time."

Furyk raised an eyebrow when he heard Couples' choices as assistants. But he had no problem with the potential candidacy of Couples, who has played on five Ryder Cup teams and four Presidents Cup teams.

"Anyone with that kind of passion, I think Freddie would do a good job," he said.

Couples lists La Quinta as his hometown and the Madison Club and the Palms Golf Club as his home courses. After working out and hitting some balls in the desert and then practicing with Butch Harmon in Las Vegas, Couples figured he was ready for the Skins Game.

"Nine holes [a day], I figure 'I can do that.' "

Furyk is playing for the first time in seven weeks and was hardly rusty. He birdied the closing hole to take the lead, while Tiger Woods dropped out of the top spot with a double bogey at the 18th, knocking his second shot into the water.

With a 69, Woods is in a four-way tie for second with Rory Sabbatini, Zach Johnson and Henrik Stenson.

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thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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