Shared nationality the key – Couples

USA captain Fred Couples believes his team’s greater experience and a shared nationality will see them through.

US captain Fred Couples believes his team’s greater experience and a shared nationality will be the keys to further success over the Internationals at this week’s Presidents Cup in San Francisco.
Couples will lead the United States at Harding Park having adopted a team from Jack Nicklaus which has lost only once and tied once in seven meetings in this Ryder Cup-style event with the Internationals, led this week for the first time by Greg Norman.
“Like Greg, we have great team players,” Couples said. “We have great guys, a lot of guys, probably more so on my team have played in more Presidents Cups, so they know what’s going on.
“He’s got guys from other countries, other places, so it’s a little more difficult. I think we all understand that.
“But for myself, my team is out there having a great time just like Greg had talked about his team enjoying it. The team room has been phenomenal. We have all been here only a day, but I’ve been here since Friday night with a couple of guys.
“Thursday can’t get here quick enough for me.”
Norman admitted that his team, drawn from his native Australia, South Africa, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Japan and South Korea, was lacking in a shared identity but the language problem was not a major concern.
“What’s difficult is having the idle conversation,” Norman said. “When you sit in a locker room with all one flag, you can talk about… what you think about what the President is doing, what do you think about healthcare, or what do you think about sport, and what do you think about the play-offs. You can really get a great connector going in that way.
“From our perspective, my perspective, you just have to make sure that they feel included with everything. And when you have a conversation, you have to make sure that they know exactly what you’re saying.
“You would probably be surprised, some of them, you probably think they don’t speak good English or they don’t understand what’s going on; these guys, they know what’s going on,” he said with a laugh.
“So it’s very easy. My responsibility is to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
“It’s just getting down, and it’s hard having that general conversation, but at the end of the day, including them in everything is very important.”
Norman has three rookies in his side – Camilo Villegas of Colombia, shock US PGA champion Y E Yang of Korea and Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa.
Yang, though, is brimming with confidence following his final-round heroics at Hazeltine in August when he overhauled Tiger Woods to become the first Asian-born major champion and he said he would relish a return battle with the world number one in Sunday’s singles.
“Tiger is going to probably come out with a vengeance if he is teamed up against me the final day.,” Yang said “I will try to play with a similar strategy to try and play my own game, and I won’t try to force anything.
“I will try my best definitely, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to force anything or try to put any loftier expectations on myself. It’s going to be tough, but I’ll try to keep my calm.
“Every game is probably in essence the same, whoever I’m playing against, whoever the team is. So bring anybody on.”
For his part, Woods, the newly-crowned FedEx Cup champion, was more concerned with the intricacies of the alternate-shot foursomes and better-ball fourball formats.
“Alternate-shot my record has been good,” Woods said. “It’s been fourball where it has not been as good as I would like to have it.
“It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to make birdies at the right time and make a lot of them. I’ve played matches where I’ve shot 63 in fourball and have lost.
“I’ve been involved in a couple of matches where we were at 11 under par and lost, so you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Whatever does happen, Woods said his long-held status as world number one brought an added burden during team events such as the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.
“I don’t know how the other players feel, but certainly I have a lot of responsibilities at these cups, either cup.
“I play well and it’s not enough, I play poorly and you’re not very good. So it is what it is.”