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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Post in Which I Play Presidents Cup Captain

Of course, later today both American captain Fred Couples and International captain Nick Price will name their two captain's choices... but that doesn't mean we can't have some fun with it before then. Therefore I am going to choose for both captains (I was born under the sign of Gemini, so I should be able to justify holding both positions at once) and see how well I do.

Let's start with the American team. Captain Couples has chosen Jay Haas and Davis Love III as his assistants. The 10 players who qualified on points are:
  1. Tiger Woods
  2. Brandt Snedeker
  3. Phil Mickelson
  4. Matt Kucher
  5. Jason Dufner
  6. Keegan Bradley
  7. Steve Stricker
  8. Bill Haas
  9. Hunter Mahan
  10. Zach Johnson
When Steve Stricker played his way into the Top10 at Deutsche Bank, he made life much simpler for Freddie. And Freddie in turn has made my job much easier as he has already narrowed the field. According to GC, Freddie has already reduced his list to 4 players (listed in no particular order here):
  • Webb Simpson
  • Jim Furyk
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Jordan Spieth
But it sounds to me like he's already made his picks. Webb Simpson got knocked out of the Top10 by Stricks and Zach, but Freddie said he doesn't see how you can skip a guy who was on the list for two solid years and got knocked off at the last moment. That sounds to me as if he's already decided on Webb.

But Freddie would have to be brain-dead to leave Spieth off the team. If Henrik Stenson is the hottest player on the planet, Jordan Spieth is the hottest American player. He has already done things no other rookie in history has accomplished. How do you leave HIM off?

Furthermore, the other two players on Freddie's short list come up short -- at least in my opinion. DJ simply doesn't play all that well in team play -- he was 1-3-1 in 2011 and, other than his win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to start the year, has only 4 Top10s. And Furyk isn't much better, having no wins and 6 Top10s this year. Furyk did go 5-0-0 in the last Presidents Cup but, given the amount of experience already on the team, I feel he'd be a bit of a gamble. As investment funds are wont to say, "past performance is no guarantee of future performance."

If I'm Freddie, I take Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth... and try not to smile too much.

Now we move to the International team. Captain Price has chosen Shigeki Maruyama, Mark McNulty, and Tony Johnstone as his assistants. The 10 players who qualified on points for them are:
  1. Adam Scott
  2. Jason Day
  3. Charl Schwartzel
  4. Ernie Els
  5. Louis Oosthuizen
  6. Hideki Matsuyama
  7. Branden Grace
  8. Graham DeLaet
  9. Richard Sterne
  10. Angel Cabrera
For Nick the picks aren't nearly as easy. Unlike Freddie, who has "rookies" who can claim Ryder Cup experience, Nick's rookies are just that, and most of the players who stand 11-22 on the points list are rookies as well:
  • 11. Thongchai Jaidee
  • 12. Marc Leishman
  • 13. Tim Clark
  • 14. Brendon de Jonge
  • 15. George Coetzee
  • 16. Brett Rumford
  • 17. Kiradech Aphibarnrat
  • 18. Geoff Ogilvy
  • 19. Marcus Fraser
  • 20. Hiroyuki Fujita
  • 21. John Senden
  • 22. K.J. Choi
But beyond that, Nick has two other problems that he must consider as well. First, the Presidents Cup goes to Asia in 2015, and Nick has only one Asian player on his team at this point. Picking Maruyama as an assistant helps, but if he wants to build excitement for the next event he probably needs to pick another Asian.

And then there's the obvious problem that his experienced players simply haven't gotten the job done in the past. The International team needs a win, pure and simple, and it's hard to believe the vets will step up and get the job done THIS time. (That's a greater problem than the Asian one, I think; win this Cup and the Asian players will probably be plenty anxious to get on the team.)

However -- and Tripp Isenhour rightly pointed this out on Golf Central -- K.J. Choi is a past winner at Muirfield Village and had a 3-2-0 record last time. Likewise, although Tim Clark didn't play last time due to injury, his record at the Presidents Cup is really good.

For his own part, Nick says he has narrowed his choices to 5 or 6 players and has singled out Marc Leishman and Brendon de Jonge as players that he's looking at... and looking hard.

Let me add Brett Rumford, who's 7th in the Race for Dubai, and Thongchai Jaidee, who's 18th. Since they play primarily on the ET, they wouldn't rank as high despite their good play. And Jaidee is still #11 on the points list!

So what should Nick do? I think you "split the difference," so to speak. Forget the veterans -- you need new blood. I'd take Thongchai Jaidee and Marc Leishman as my International captain's picks. That way I get 2 rookies who are playing well (#11 and #12 on the points list) and also add a second Asian player to the team.

We'll see how well I've done at 2pm ET today.

And in case you don't know, the official page for the Presidents Cup is right here at this link. Feel free to check it anytime you want -- I give you permission. I AM the team captains, after all.

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