Presidents Cup captains Steve Stricker of the United States and Nick Price of the International Team pose with the trophy prior to the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. (Photo by Stan Badz/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker
Kevin Chappell was out, then he was in, qualifying for his first Presidents Cup by a slim margin after Monday’s final round of the Dell Technologies Championship. He didn’t realize just how much it meant to him until he had trouble sleeping the night before. But Chappell was probably going to be on the team anyway even if he didn’t nab the final spot in the top 10.
On Wednesday at 5 p.m. Steve Stricker will announce his two captain’s picks for the United States team, and Nick Price will do the same for the International squad that will be playing at Liberty National Golf Club outside New York City at the end of the month.
With Chappell in, it means Charley Hoffman is out … for now. He didn’t look too stressed about the whole thing as he enjoyed a beer and a cigar on the terrace of the TPC Boston clubhouse late Monday afternoon, having finished up T-47 in the tournament. Nor should he be.
Though Hoffman doesn’t have a win this season, he does have a half-dozen top-10s and has been in contention a number of times. Yes, he didn’t close out any of those opportunities, but at No. 11 on the points list, No. 22 in the World Rankings and a birdie machine who is also in the top 25 in total strokes gained, it’s hard to imagine Stricker passing on him.
As for the other captain’s pick? This is where things get more interesting.
Of the next nine names down the list none carries as much star power as Phil Mickelson, who has played on every Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team since 1994, boasts a 17-4-7 record in the last seven Presidents Cups and who last fall went 2-1-1 in helping the U.S. reclaim the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National. He also appears suddenly re-energized and re-focused, posting a a T-6 finish at TPC Boston that moved him up three spots to No. 15 in the standings.
Asked if he felt like he has done enough to get the nod from Stricker, Mickelson said, “We’ll see. I hope so.”
Which brings up the next point. Who else is Stricker going to pick?
Jason Dufner has just one top-10 this year (a win at the Memorial). Gary Woodland has only one top-10 since March. Brendan Steele has missed the cut in four of his last six starts. Brandt Snedeker is out with an injury. Bill Haas and Kevin Na have two top-10s apiece since March.
The only other player in the top 20 on the points list who could seemingly knock Mickelson off would be Brian Harman, who finished 12th with seven top-10s, including an impressive win at the Wells Fargo Championship and a runner-up at the U.S. Open. He’s also a deadly putter and his personality would fit well in the laid back team room (so, of course, would the elder statesman Mickelson).
More complicated is whom Price picks for the International team, which has lost the last six Presidents Cups and hasn’t won it since 1998 with the two teams tying in 2003. Adam Hadwin secured the final spot in the top 10 with his tie for 13th at TPC Boston. Where Price goes from there is less certain.
Emiliano Grillo finished 12th in the standings and had a 22nd-place showing at the Dell, but he also has five missed cuts in his last nine starts.
But like Stricker, who else is Price going to pick? No one around Grillo has exactly stood out. Hideto Tanihara is No. 11 and Yuta Ikeda 13 and both have missed a handful of cuts of late.
Li Haotang, 14th on the list, has missed his last two cuts but did finish third at the British Open, while Byeong Hun An at 15 hasn’t had a top-10 since May.
Going any deeper reveals even fewer options. Outside the box thinking is never a bad thing when it comes to the selection process—particularly when on a losing streak—but this is one year when taking a chalk approach would be difficult to criticize.