FUNNY CADDIE STORY – COUPLES AND PRICE SWITCH
Oct. 3, 2012 By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
DUBLIN, Ohio — The subject was assistant captains when Fred Couples turned to his counterpart, Nick Price, and said, “Sounds like the Champions Tour is going to be well represented in this Presidents Cup.”
Couples is 2-0 as Captain of the United States team and he’ll go for a third straight win next year at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Price, like Couples a major champion, will lead the International team.
Jay Haas and Mark McNulty, Champions Tour mainstays, have been recruited by the Captains to serve as assistants.
“Jay is my wingman,” said Couples, who then tossed out a tasty morsel for consumption.
Couples wondered aloud what it might take to add Jack Nicklaus, founder of Muirfield Village and already a four-time past Presidents Cup Captain, to his staff. “If Jack Nicklaus wasn’t the host of this event — we were talking about this — I would have him,” Couples said. “Sounds pretty odd to have Jack Nicklaus be your assistant, but that can never happen.”
Or can it?
“We can discuss that,” said Couples, refusing to put an end to the matter. “That would be fun for all of us … That would be remarkable. He knows every turf of grass here. Host and assistant captain — what a great thing.”
Michael Jordan, who has served in the capacity of a special assistant on various U.S. squads, “can’t make a decision at this time,” Couples said.
Price, who is getting his first shot at the Captain’s role, named McNulty, Tony Johnstone and Shigeki Maruyama as his assistants Tuesday when Presidents Cup officials and dignitaries gathered at Muirfield Village to kick off the festivities exactly one year before the event.
Couples and Price are good friends, and they have history.
“Fred and I go back a long way, 30-odd years, and one thing you’ve got to be careful with Fred, don’t let his laid-back approach fool you into thinking there’s not a fierce competitor under there,” Price said. “He wants to win as bad as anyone I ever played against. When you play with Fred, he looks like he’s about to fall asleep on the golf course.”
Couples interjected, “And way too many times, I didn’t wake up soon enough.”
Cue the laugh track. This is going to be fun.
Couples and Price provided a glimpse this week of just how much fun the Presidents Cup might be. Price told the story.
“Probably the funniest thing that ever happened between Fred and I was down at the World Series in Akron about 12 years ago,” Price said. “I got on the practice tee and Joe LaCava, who was caddying for Fred at the time, they were having a go at each other about something. I don’t know what it was.
So I picked up my balls and started moving away. Jimmy Johnson, who now caddies for Steve Stricker, was caddying for me at the time. And Freddie looked over to me, looked me in the eye and said, ‘I don’t want Joe today, will you take Joe?'”
Negotiations began. Both players were in the middle of the pack, and figured no harm would come of it. In fact, it might be a good thing to change things up a bit. They agreed to the swap. Johnson, who had overheard the conversation between Couples and LaCava, knew what kind of mood Fred was in, and it was not good.
“Jimmy looked at me with daggers in his eyes like he was going to kill me,” Price said.
The trade worked nicely. Couples shot 66, Price shot 67.
“It was a little bit refreshing,” Price said. “They are both excellent caddies and they can adjust to whatever. We both moved up into the top 10. It was a tonic.”
When Johnson and Price reunited after lunch to go to the range to hit some balls, the caddie was still irritated. Johnson, his head down, walked behind Price.
Price: “I said, ‘Well, how was it?'”
Johnson: “It was OK.”
Price: “What was the difference caddying for Fred?”
Johnson: “Well, he’s about half-club longer than you. Took me a little time to adjust. Doesn’t hit as many shots. (Ouch!) He likes to cut the ball.”
Price: “What was the biggest difference caddying for Fred and me?”
“Jimmy looked me straight in the eye and he said, ‘The quality of the women in the gallery,'” Price said.
Yes, Couples confirmed, that story is absolutely true.
“Jimmy should have been mad,” Couples said. “Joe was as happy as could be because there was a time I was struggling a little bit with a lot of things and I was wearing Joe out. He would have run to anybody. And that’s what Nick is all about. To say, sure (to the swap), is like, ‘Wow.’ It was a lot of fun.”
The 2013 Presidents Cup is off to a flier of a start and there is this to consider: Are Captains Couples and Price poised to pull off the first player trade in Presidents Cup history?