by Jeff Skinner
The US team delivered as expected at The Presidents Cup on Sunday and closed out The International team with a convincing victory. With its six singles wins and two halves the US Team lived up to the expectations it carried with them as they entered the competition. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker played excellent, almost flawless golf to anchor the US team but this was not a week without controversy.
When Captain Fred Couples named Michael Jordan as a quasi-member of the team it was bound to raise some eyebrows. Couples and Jordan are friends and Jordan plays golf with Tiger and some of the team members, but for Couples to try and make him a member of the team was excessive. Or was he an official member of the team? Originally it was said he was an assistant captain and then he was just an advisor. The PGA Tour which owns The Presidents Cup must have had some concern with Jordan’s presence because they banned him from the opening ceremonies, a move that prompted all the US caddies to wear number “23” on their caps to show support for their teammate (or asst. captain or advisor, take your pick). All week we saw shots of Jordan racing around the course on a cart, dressed in team uniforms, monitoring match after match. He certainly looked like a member of the team and he even participated in the closing ceremonies after the victory.
I think Captain Couples may have set a dangerous precedent here in having Jordan play such a visible role with the team. Jordan has been seen at many majors and team competitions over the years. He always seems to show up and because he is, well, Michael Jordan, he attracts attention and gets special treatment. Couples could have had Jordan there as a spectator with credentials that got him inside the ropes and he could have done all the things he had all week, sans golf cart, and not been a “team member.” The trouble here arises when another captain wants to do the same and have one of his buddies join the team and maybe this time the “Captains Pick” is a more controversial character. Maybe the next presidents Cup Captain wants to have Barry Bonds as a sidekick. Bonds was there and Jordan and he spent some time together. Maybe Roger Clemens is on someone’s list. How about Pete Rose, Kayne West or O.J. Simpson? I hear Kim Jong Il likes to golf. Maybe Osama Bin Laden would like an all expense paid trip to Australia in 2011.
My point is, if the captain has free reign to add anyone he wishes as an official, or unofficial, team member they are quickly approaching a downhill ride on a slippery slope. One man’s golf buddy could be America’s pariah. One guy’s fun loving playing partner could be hated by the public.
Having fun and keeping the team loose is an important aspect of the captain’s job. Keeping experienced, positive people around the team is a wise move and an accepted practice. The captains should just be a little careful and use some restraint when they decide who they are handing uniforms to and who they let ride around on a golf cart.