By RUSTY MILLER
Courtesy of AP Sports
U.S. team captain Fred Couples asked the iconic 18-time major championship winner to be an assistant captain on the American side for the Presidents Cup on Oct. 4-6, 2013. But Nicklaus turned him down.
Nicklaus plans to be a cordial, uninvolved and unhurried host for the event at the course he designed.
"Freddie paid me a nice compliment by his suggestion," Nicklaus said Tuesday. "It was very thoughtful of him. I would love to, but I simply can’t. I have duties as host, so that would not be the right thing to do."
Couples said he also asked Michael Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls star, to serve as one of his three assistants but rated the possibility of him accepting as remote.
Veteran tour player Jay Haas did accept an offer to be an assistant.
Nicklaus, a four-time U.S. captain in the Presidents Cup, didn’t take Couples seriously when he first broached the idea. But Couples was serious.
"I wasn’t joking about it," Couples said. "When we were here (at Muirfield Village) last night, I said ‘Could I pick him?’. A couple of guys from the Tour said, ‘Yeah, he would love that.’ And then a couple other guys – maybe one pretty high up there – said, ‘He’s hosting the thing, he can’t do that.’
"Then Jack winked at me and said, ‘But I can be in your team room all you want.’"
Couples was at Muirfield to promote the event a year early. He spent last week as an assistant captain to Davis Love III on the U.S. team at the Ryder Cup at Medinah. The European team came back from a four-point deficit to retain possession of the Cup, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
International captain Nick Price announced all three of his Presidents Cup assistants: Shigeki Maruyama, Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone.
Price and Couples are friends, which led to some good-natured kidding.
"One thing you’ve got to be careful with Fred with his laid-backness, he wants to win as much as anybody," Price said. "Even though he looks like he’s about to fall asleep on the golf course."
Couples also said he would consider having U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III as an assistant but didn’t want to bother the disappointed Love after the dramatic comeback by the European team.
Love has said he would prefer to play his way onto the U.S. team.
"I just didn’t want to make him think about anything," Couples said. "I tried to get him and he’s either sleeping or out practicing. He’ll get back to me in the next few days."
Couples said he would welcome pairing veterans such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker with younger players like Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson or Keegan Bradley.
Of the Ryder Cup collapse, Couples said, "I knew it was going to be close. But I didn’t think we wouldn’t get one point from someone we needed."
He added many of the Ryder Cup players – after what he termed a "horrific Sunday" – are not making any plans for the near future.