Sep
19
2011
Presidents Cup Standings Set, Couples Speaks
By Stephanie Wei under Presidents Cup

MJ will assist Freddie at the Presidents Cup for the second straight time

Some players gained and lost more than others at the BMW Championship — there was more on the line than a paycheck and finishing in the top 30 in FedExCup points to advance to the Tour Championship, not to mention for many players, the advantage of planning their schedule since they earn berths in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and all the Tour’s Invitationals (i.e,. Bay Hill, Memorial, etc.).

With the BMW as the last event for players to qualify for this November’s Presidents Cup, the U.S. team is set, except for the final captain’s pick since Captain Fred Couples prematurely announced Tiger Woods as his first.

Here’s your U.S. team: Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, David Toms, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk. There was some movement within the top ten, but no one played their way in.

Furyk had a rough day at Cog Hill, shooting a 76 to miss making it in the top 30 in FEC points. Last year’s Tour Championship and FEC winner, he won’t be defending his title, but there’s a silver lining — he made the Presidents Cup, which he emphasized was really important to him.

“Everyone knows I value Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams a lot,” said Furyk. “I take a lot of pride in making those teams, and I really want to be on the team.”

Added Furyk: “I’d really like to see Billy Haas make the team.  I hope it’s not at my expense, but it would really be a neat story, and they’re a wonderful family, so I really do wish him the best.”

Poor Bill Haas. With his dad Jay as the assistant captain, Bill really, really wanted to make the team. He needed to shoot a 75 or better in the final round and he would have qualified on points. Bill shot 42 on the back nine to shoot 78. I’m guessing he had the Presidents Cup on his mind.

“I was on the phone with Jay Haas a lot today and hoping for the best for Billy,” said Couples in a teleconference on Sunday night. “It’s a struggle.  I’ve been on these places where you want to make these teams so bad that you actually forget you’re trying to win a golf tournament and I think that’s what Bill was foremost trying to do today and let everything take care of itself.”

Later in the teleconference, Freddie acknowledged that making the team was probably on Bill’s mind on the back nine.

“Jay Haas is my assistant captain,” said Couples. “His son is killing himself to get on this team, and I’m sure the last nine holes, not only did he feel like the pressure of trying to win, but he knew that if he just hung in there and finished strong, he would have made the team and pushed out Jim Furyk and that’s added pressure.  So I feel for all these guys.”

Freddie announced that former NBA star Michael Jordan will serve as team mascot for the second time.

“Obviously I picked Michael Jordan as a special assistant to really get everyone fired up and someone who has been in the crunches winning NBA championships and playoff games,” said Couples.

Inevitably, Couples was asked to defend his early announcement of Tiger as a captain’s pick. And naturally, Freddie hasn’t been bothered by any criticisms.

“If Tiger Woods was our main guy, and got injured and didn’t play and didn’t get any points ‑‑ at the end of the year, if he’s the No. 1 quarterback for your team, and some other quarterback comes in there and leads you in the Playoffs and you’re healthy, Tom Brady is the guy that is going to then take over after he’s been out six weeks with an injury,” said Couples. “That’s the way I looked at it with Tiger.

“Tiger was in the heat of the battle at Augusta. He almost won there. He’s been injured. We have talked at times about this. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do and I told him the reason I was picking him early was I needed him to do a few things, and that’s basically why. I’m picking him September 27th, for sure, so I just decided to let everyone know that they were really playing for one spot. I felt it was justified to my team, also, that anyone outside of the Top‑10, they were fighting for one spot.”

Now, there’s only one spot left. Who are the frontrunners? Couples narrowed it down.

“I will spit this out once, and I won’t go too much into it but it’s pretty obvious,” he said. “I think Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas and probably Keegan Bradley are the three leaders in this three‑ring circus right now to be the 12th guy.  Brandt Snedeker has been playing incredible golf and Bill Haas has, too.  And of course, Keegan Bradley has won twice this year, including a major.  He fought hard playing Saturday and Sunday here, and his name is right there.

“As far as anyone else, I think it wouldn’t be even a surprise if a Zach Johnson won next week, we still have another week, but that could easily change anyone’s mind. I want these guys to know that the Tour Championship is still deciding my second pick for the 12th spot on the team.”

Unless Bill wins at East Lake, it’ll be tough for Couples to pick him because he’ll be accused of nepotism. Choosing the “best player in the world forever” is one thing, but as long as Keegan has a decent showing, I’d think he’s a lock at this point.

Many people have favored Rickie Fowler, but he didn’t finish in the top 30 in points, so he won’t get another shot to prove his worth with a fine showing at the Tour Championship. It’d be tough to make an argument for Fowler based on merit since he hasn’t won and had two years to qualify for the team on points. His Sunday scoring average isn’t anything to brag about, either. However, he is a big draw as a fan favorite with a good matchplay record.

If you’re Fred, who would you pick?

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On the International side, the following players are locked in: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi, K.T. Kim, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, Y.E. Yang, Geoff Ogilvy and Ryo Ishikawa.

Captain Greg Norman still has two wildcard picks, but the Australians are heavily favored. Let’s turn to Ben Everill of the AAP’s report:

“Greg would probably have been hoping that every Australian that he wanted on the team would qualify automatically so he didn’t have to pick them,” Ogilvy said.

“There’s Robert, who’s won multiple golf tournaments at Royal Melbourne, Aaron, who’s played pretty well this year and Vijay is not far away. I wouldn’t want to be in Greg’s shoes.

“He’s got some great players to pick from, and I don’t think any players he picks are going to be wrong.”

Ogilvy did show some favouritism for his countrymen, claiming local knowledge could be crucial.

“If everything else is equal you’d probably pick the home country guy,” he said.

“The hometown advantage or the home country advantage is quite a big thing.

“But someone like Vijay has played every single Presidents Cup, so he brings a lot of experience. That all has to be weighed up.”

I’m betting Norman goes with Baddeley and Allenby.