Presidents Cup Captain’s Picks A Mixed Bag

U.S President’s Cup captain, the affable Fred Couples, made two predictable selections as his captains’ picks for the up coming teams event to be held at San Francisco’s Harding Park Golf Course Oct 8-11. Couples went with reigning U.S Open Champion Lucas Glover and Ryder Cup hero Hunter Mahan. Both players barely missed out on the team based on the points qualifying system- Glover was No. 11 and Mahan No. 13.  Both have shown solid form over the summer and were justifiably picked for the side.

Although Couples did create some controversy with his naming of former NBA superstar and gambling hound Michael Jordan as one of his assistant captains, it was nothing compared with the response directed toward his counterpart, Greg Norman. Norman, with his selections, went with 17 year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa and fellow Aussie Adam Scott.

Norman was struck smitten with Ishikawa earlier in the year at a meet and greet for potential Presidents Cup players. The “shy prince” cast cliches aside and handled the room like a seasoned pro.

“He was engaged, he walked around the entire room, introduced himself to everybody, made sure everybody understood that he wanted to be on the team,” Norman said.

“There are so many great players on both teams, and I’m humbled by my selection to be with them,” Ishikawa said. “Although I’ll be a bit nervous surrounded by a such a great captain and so many great players in the world, I will do my best during the week and hopefully contribute to the victory over the American team.”

Ishikawa first came to the attention of the golfing world when, as a 15 year-old amateur, he captured an event on the Japanese Tour. Since then he has gone on to win four more times in Japan, including three times in the past 10 months, punctuated by a five shot victory in the last event before the selection process ended. For many, the future superstar was an obvious pick. Scott, on the other hand, was not.

It’s no secret the former world No. 3 has fallen on hard times of late. Since July 2008 Scott has fallen from that lofty perch in the world rankings to No. 53. He has earned a career-low $754, 810 this year on the PGA Tour and despite one 2nd place finish in Januaryat the Sony, 2009 has been nothing short of a nightmare for Scott. He has not made a cut since March where his last paycheck came when he was eliminated in the first round of the WGC-Accenture matchplay. The slide in form meant that Scott even scheduled surgery on his knee when he figured he wouldn’t be playing on Norman’s side at Harding Park next month.

“At the end of the day, he’s got the playing skills … what he can bring to the locker room, the support he gives to other players, the connection and the experience that he’s had playing on the Presidents Cup team,” Norman said in support of Scott. “He was really a logical choice.”

Norman bumped Rory Sabbatini, Jeev Milka Singh, Shingo Katayama and Stephen Ames among others for his former protege Scott.

“Maybe, somewhat unexpected,” Scott said in response to his selection. “It’s been a tough year. I really feel like it will be great for my game and I feel like I can contribute points and contribute in the team room, as well.”

His captain coupldn’t agree more.

“What he can bring to the locker room, the support he gives to the other players, the connection and the experience that he’s had playing on the Presidents Cup team. He was really a logical choice,” Norman said. “It’s a tough decision, but at the end of the day, we’ve got a commitment out of a player. He has rededicated himself to a higher degree, so he’s going to be ready come four weeks from now.”

While there were few obvious picks for Norman to consider, his counterpart Couples was flooded of choices, several of which would have made as much sense as Glover and Mahan.

Brain Gay, No. 12 on the points list, has had a breakout season in 2009, winning twice, both times by large margins against quality fields. Possessing one of the best short games on Tour, Gay also, unfortunately, is one of the shortest hitters at the top of the game. The fact that Harding Park is expected to be set up extremely long meant that Gay was eventually overlooked by Couples.

Dustin Johnson also threw his name into consideration with a strong season. The long-hitting Johnson did not finish worse than 22nd in the four events leading up to the final day of selections, and posted a 4th place at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Presidents and Ryder Cup vets David Toms and Scott Verplank were also on Couples’ radar, as was young gun Nick Watney.

“The hardest thing?… Dustin Johnson and Brian Gay,” Couples said. “Brian Gay has won twice. He’s taking it pretty hard, which he should. I was overlooked one time, but I got picked a few times. For Hunter Mahan and Lucas, I think it’s a no-brainer, I really do.”

The U.S team consists of Glover and Mahan as well as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Sean O’Hair, Anthony Kim and Junstin Leonard.

The Internationals are Geoff Ogilvy, Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera, Mike Wier, Robert Allenby, Y.E Yang and Tim Clark as well as Ishikawa and Scott.



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