Once upon a time there was a truly great golfer of such talent and accomplishment, he blinded everyone who saw him play to everyone but him.
But as the arc of most stories unfold, there is always a point where the hero falls on hard times, his mettle is tested, his punishment meted out.
In the Hollywood script, salvation eventually shows up in the form of lessons learned from the hardship endured. That salvation can come from redemptive belief in the hero by a friend or acquaintance or because of some deed by the hero that proves that his rehabilitation is complete.
But behold! A new, fresh-faced character appears on the scene of such innocence, humility and charm, we are immediately drawn to him. And when he dismays us with accomplishment not seen in ordinary times, we are drawn still closer to him like a moth to a flame. Where has this guy been? How did he get here? What could be possible for him? We cannot wait to see what becomes of his life.
In the meantime, our hero’s station just can’t quite recover to old levels. “Where’s the new guy? We want the new guy!”
But the new guy will have to wait his turn. He’s young, right?
The plot point turns on the decision of a powerful ally of our hero: “He chooses him! He chooses him!”
The new guy stoically and, in his own way, heroically accepts that his time has yet to come. But he is certain that it will and of his own patience. It only adds to his charm.
And that’s where we stand folks. Fred Couples picked Tiger and not Keegan for the Presidents Cup. The Tiger haters are furious, “What was Couples thinking?” And worse, he didn’t wait until the deadline for his choice, he picked him when he knew that it was going to be Tiger. Why drag it out?
So it was down to Bill Haas and Keegan Bradley for the last of two spots and Haas won the Tour Championship to earn his way into the heart of Couples. “How could you leave Bradley off of this team?” they screamed. “He won a major! And what if he wins the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai? Then he has a major and a WGC! Plus the Byron Nelson!”
It was a dilemma of tragic proportions. The hero’s redemption has yet to be proved, “He hasn’t hardly been playing!” they wailed.
But Couples had his reason for picking Tiger, “He’s the best player ever.” And he knew that he would be again in time. Hopefully, with his recuperative layoff, it would become obvious at the Presidents Cup that Tiger was once again on schedule for his coronation.
But wait! Now we have a new plot twist. One of the stalwarts of the Ryder and Presidents Cups, Steve Stricker, has a problem with his neck. His neck of all things. “Well, he should step aside for the good of the team so that Keegan can take his place!”
But Couples doesn’t want that to happen because, it turns out, Stricker is one player who can play with Tiger and get the best out of him solely because of that pairing. It’s as if he can sooth the savage beast simply by his presence.
Couples has been speaking frequently to Stricker who is rehabbing and recuperating at home. He claims that his left hand is weaker than his right, but that he’ll be okay. “Well, Keegan should fly to Australia so that he can be ready to step in if Stricker gets there and then can’t go. Has Freddie called Keegan?”
And Couples, in a rare glimpse behind his laconic, lackadaisical, indifferent persona, assertively put a lid on the whole imbroglio in his post-round interview at the Schwab Cup in San Francisco on Thursday. “I have no reason to call him. We have our twelve guys we’re going with. Now, if he calls me and tells me he wants to come over and be with the team, I will do everything I can to get him over there. But I don’t know why he would do that. We have our twelve guys.” He laid it out in such a matter-of-fact way and without any prejudice or malice towards Keegan. It was just the unvarnished, logical recitation of reality and so unlike Couples.
And so for us, it’s time to examine why this little melodrama means so much to us. It’s no different than the nightly arguments in bars across the county. And to what end? And why are we so attached to Couples’ decision and to the Cup results?
Because, of course, of the vicarious thrills we get from our heroes as they fight the battles we’d like to be in. And because we think our opinions are right and righteous. So when they are ignored despite all of our well-formed logic, it’s infuriating that nobody sees the truth that we have discovered. “Can’t Couples see? What will become of us?”
Perhaps that’s the best time to remind ourselves again that it’s only a game.