Couples and Norman (Officially) Make Their Captain’s Picks
By Stephanie Wei under Presidents Cup

Fred taps Tiger

I was absolutely shocked when I heard all four captain’s picks! Actually, not at all. No surprises. U.S. Captain Fred Couples selected Tiger Woods as his first pick — one that we’ve known about for roughly a month — and then he used his second on 2011 Tour Championship and FedExCup winner Bill Haas.

Greg Norman went with the local Aussie flavor and chose Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby, who apparently has the best record ever at Royal Melbourne, the site of this year’s Presidents Cup.

Here’s the e-mail blast:

Melbourne, Victoria, AUS – Less than seven weeks from the start of competition at The Presidents Cup 2011, the final four players for the event were determined today as U.S. Team Captain Fred Couples and International Team Captain Greg Norman each announced their captain’s picks via teleconference.  Couples selected Bill Haas and Tiger Woods, and Norman chose Australians Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley.  With these picks, the U.S. Team has 28 previous Presidents Cup appearances amongst its members, including three players who were at the 1998 event when it was played at Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Woods); for the International Team, those numbers are 26 and one (Ernie Els).

The Presidents Cup returns to Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, November 15-20.

U.S. Team Captain’s Picks

In the audition of a lifetime, Bill Haas won the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola on Sunday and became the 2011 FedExCup Champion after a three-hole playoff with fellow U.S. Team member Hunter Mahan, who was a Presidents Cup captain’s pick in 2007 and 2009. Haas made a miraculous up-and-down from the edge of the water on the second playoff hole, then made par on the third playoff hole to defeat Mahan and give Couples every reason to pick him for the U.S. Team, of which Haas’ father, Jay, is a captain’s assistant. Haas became the first player in his 20s to win the FedExCup and only the fifth player to win the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club with all four rounds in the 60s.  He was the only player in the field last week to shoot in the 60s every day.

Haas is the second player in Presidents Cup history to earn a captain’s pick the week after a win, joining Ryo Ishikawa, who won the Japan Golf Tour’s Fujisakei Classic the weekend before Norman selected him in 2009.

The win was Haas’ third PGA TOUR victory (2010 Bob Hope Classic, 2010 Viking Classic), but obviously the biggest of his career, considering all that was on the line. The week prior, Haas had a great chance to play his way onto the U.S Team at T3 heading into the final round of the BMW Championship.  But a 78 (+7) on Sunday left him T16 for the tournament and No. 12 in the U.S. Team standings.

Haas’ win in Atlanta was his seventh top-10 and 12th top-25 finish of the season in 26 starts.

Haas is one of six “rookies” on the U.S. Team (with Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney and Bubba Watson), matching 1996 for the most in Team history (not including 1994, the first year of the event).

Tiger Woods will be making his seventh-consecutive Presidents Cup appearance, although the first as a captain’s pick.  Previously, he had made the U.S. Team as No. 1 in the standings in all but 1998, when he was No. 2 behind David Duval.  At The Presidents Cup 2009, Woods posted a 5-0-0 record, joining only two other competitors in event history who went five-for-five at a Presidents Cup: Mark O’Meara (1996); and Shigeki Maruyama (1998). Woods holds the record for most matches won in The Presidents Cup at 18, two better Davis Love III, Vijay Singh and Els.

Woods owns 71 wins on the PGA TOUR, including 14 major championships.  His most recent PGA TOUR victory came at the September 2009 BMW Championship, and his last win, globally, was in November 2009 at the JBWere Masters in Melbourne, Australia.  Woods was sidelined from competition from May through August this season due to a knee and Achilles injury that forced him to withdraw from THE PLAYERS Championship.  In eight PGA TOUR starts, Woods’ best performance is a T4 at the Masters Tournament.  His last event was the PGA Championship, where he missed the cut.  Woods has committed to play next week’s Open in San Martin, Calif.

Woods was 29th when the U.S. Team standings closed, although Couples had said publicly as early as August 25 that he would select Woods as one of his captain’s picks.

International Team Captain’s Picks

With five previous Presidents Cup appearances, Robert Allenby brings a wealth of Presidents Cup experience to the International Team, as well as home-field advantage.  He owns 13 PGA Tour of Australasia titles, and in 2005, he became the first player to win the “Triple Crown” of the Australian Masters, Australian PGA and Australian Open in the same year.

Allenby’s five previous Presidents Cup appearances match Retief Goosen for second-most on the current International Team (Els leads the team, with six).  He holds an 8-13-3 record and scored 2-1/2 points for the International Team in 2009.  Allenby was a captain’s pick for the International Team in 1996 and 2000, making him the first player to earn three captain’s picks in The Presidents Cup history.

Allenby is a four-time PGA TOUR event winner, although it has been almost 10 years to the day since his last victory (September 23, 2001, Marconi Pennsylvania Classic).  This season, Allenby has posted three top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR: a T4 at the Northern Trust Open, an event he won in 2001; and T6 at both the Shell Houston Open and AT&T National.  Allenby finished T12 at the BMW Championship to move from No. 14 to No. 13 in the International Team standings.  He finished No. 55 in the 2011 FedExCup.

Like Haas, Australia’s Aaron Baddeley will be making his first Presidents Cup appearance, one of four rookies for Norman’s squad.  Baddeley finished No. 14 in the International Team standings, but – also like Haas – made a strong case for himself at last week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.  Baddeley led after three rounds and challenged Haas’ lead on Sunday before finishing T3, one stroke out of the Haas-Mahan playoff.  His T3 moved him from No. 27 to No. 14 in the final FedExCup standings, his best result since finishing No. 6 in 2007.

Baddeley is a three-time PGA TOUR winner, including this year’s Northern Trust Open.  His win at Riviera Country Club and T3 last week are two of his five top-10 finishes on TOUR this year.  Like Allenby, Baddeley brings an impressive Australian resume, and home-field advantage, to The Presidents Cup 2011.  He was the youngest player ever to represent Australia in the Eisenhower Trophy, won the Holden Australian Open as an amateur in 1999 and retained his title in 2000, by which time he had turned professional. In 2001, he won the Greg Norman Holden International in Australia. He won the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Order of Merit in 2000/01.

With Allenby and Baddeley as captain’s picks, the International Team will have five Australians for the fifth time in event history (1994, 1996, 2003, 2005), while four countries represented (Australia, Japan, South Africa, South Korea) by the Team is the fewest in history.  The previous low was six (1994, 1996, 2003, 2005, 2007).

And some quotes from both captains and players…

First, Fred and Tiger:

FRED COUPLES:  Thank you very much.  And my first pick is Tiger Woods, from Palm Beach, Florida.  Very excited about that.  I made that pick, I don’t know, six weeks ago.  We’ve had a few conversations since then and a lot of texts, and I’m just thrilled that Tiger is healthy and ready to play and wants to be on the team.

TIGER WOODS:  Yeah, just want to say thanks to Fred.  I’m honored to be a part of the team.  Really looking forward to representing our country and playing with my teammates.  It’s always been a special honor to play in these teams.  And to go back down to Australia again and play in The Presidents Cup is something I’m really looking forward to.  I know we haven’t done it since ’98 but really looking forward to getting down there and mixing it up with the boys.

Next, Greg and Allenby:

GREG NORMAN:  My first pick is Robert Allenby.  And the reason why I picked Robert is his performances around Royal Melbourne over the years have been extraordinary.  I do believe at one time he won by ten shots.  His love for the golf course is very, very much evident.  He’s still playing the golf course there.  He’s a great team player.  He has a lot of tenacity in these team competitions.  His spirit in the locker room or cabin with the other guys is very, very high, and so he was an automatic pick for me.

ROBERT ALLENBY:  Thanks, Greg.  It’s an absolute honor to be on the team, and also to be on the team with you as the captain, as well.  The last Presidents Cup, you did a fantastic job.  And I think out of all of The Presidents Cups for me, going down to Melbourne and playing at Royal Melbourne is probably one of the biggest highlights in my career to be on that team.

Royal Melbourne is obviously a golf course that ‑‑ it is my No. 1 golf course in the world; it’s my favorite, and I have a pretty good record around there.

I know with the team that we have, I’m just thrilled to be in it.  It’s just an absolute honor, and I really can’t wait to be part of the team again and get down there and hopefully we have a great showing.

Yes, we all know how well-liked Allenby is in the locker room…

Now, Couples and Haas:

FRED COUPLES:  My second pick is Bill Haas, last week’s double‑winner.  Bill for the last two years has played phenomenal golf, winning three times and losing a couple of times in a playoff and it was a very close race with Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley.  But Bill, knowing he had to win last week to be on the team he went out and did it and he’s my second pick.

BILL HAAS:  Yes, I’m honored to be on the team.  Thanks to Fred for picking me.  This is a very special thing.  It’s something that I’ve worked for, kind of set as a goal from the beginning of the year.  And for it to happen like this is awesome.  Fred is someone I’ve looked up to and been a good friend of my dad’s ever since I was growing up; and to play on his team makes it that much more special.

And like these other guys have said, I can’t wait to get down there and compete in an event like this, and it’s pretty special to be it a part of it.

Finally, Norman and Baddeley:

GREG NORMAN:  My last pick is Aaron Baddeley.  It actually was a very interesting way we came about it.  I actually put in a call to both Aaron Baddeley and John Senden at the start of THE TOUR Championship out of courtesy.  Also on the list was Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas, and obviously Louis Oosthuizen.

But knowing that we are playing in the backyard of Australia, I wanted to hopefully load up the team with as many Aussies as I possibly could.  And with the way Aaron performed, and John Senden performed in THE TOUR Championship, I put them both on notice that those two were under scrutiny, and whoever played the best at THE TOUR Championship would obviously get the final nod.

So Aaron put in a tremendous performance there, and had a chance of winning the golf tournament, played extremely well and has played very, very well for a few years now.  So to bring him down to one of his favorite golf courses, as well, and play in his backyard obviously was a tough decision.  But Aaron is the No. 2 pick.

AARON BADDELEY:  I’m so excited and thankful that Greg picked me to be part of my first Presidents Cup team.  It’s extremely special and it’s an honor to play for your country, and because I remember back in ’98 when The Presidents Cup was there last, I have vivid memories of watching the tournament and being there and being outside the ropes.

And so for this time to be part of the team is something that will be probably one of the most special memories of my whole year.  So I’m excited to get down there.  I’m excited to be part of the team.  Golf is such an individual sport; to be part of a team is going to be a very special week.

Other notes…

*Tiger says he’s prepared and in shape:

“Yeah, I am looking to get out there and compete, no doubt.  That’s something that I have pretty much ‑‑ and I played two events, but didn’t play very well in those few events at Akron and the PGA.

Really excited to get back out there and compete, and knowing that I’m finally healthy enough to do it now, and I’ve practiced, something I had not done in preparation for Akron and the PGA.

But now that I’ve actually practiced, I’ve gotten even stronger in my lifting sessions, so things it are definitely shaping up quickly.”

*Norman says he told Geoff Ogilvy he was an automatic pick a few weeks ago when he’d fallen out of the top ten. Turned out Ogilvy made it on points, so that was a relief. Norman had the sense to keep it on the DL!

*Fred says if Steve Stricker is hurt and cannot play, rookie and two-time winner on Tour this season, including the PGA Championship, Keegan Bradley will replace him. “I think the world of Keegan Bradley and I explained a lot of things to him,” said Couples. “He’s a great young player.  If Steve Stricker is hurt, Keegan will be the pick to take Steve’s spot.  And that’s not very easy to say or makes him feel any better.”

*Did Keegan get snubbed? Reactions?

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)