Good news for the Haas family: This week’s vacation won’t be the least bit awkward.
On Tuesday, U.S. Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas named his son, Bill, as one of his two captain’s picks for the Oct. 8-11 matches in South Korea. Phil Mickelson was the other selection for the Americans, keeping alive his streak of 21 consecutive teams made.
International captain Nick Price picked Steven Bowditch, a winner this season at the Byron Nelson, and hometown favorite Sangmoon Bae to fill out the 12-man roster.
The first 10 players on each team were finalized Monday, following the completion of play at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
The U.S. holds an 8-1-1 record in the biennial event, but recent changes to the points system – most significantly, reducing the number of team matches from 22 to 18 – should make the exhibition more competitive.
Mickelson hasn’t needed a captain’s pick for two decades, but Lefty is winless in two years and recorded only three top 10s this season. The 45-year-old is still viewed as a valuable asset in the team room, a mentor to the younger players, and an important member of the Ryder Cup task force. He was 30th in the standings, but Jay Haas said that Mickelson was an “overwhelming choice to be a pick” among the players and assistant captains.
“If anyone deserves a pick, it’s Phil Mickelson,” Haas said. “He is without question the leader of our team in the team room, on the golf course. The guys on the team trust him 100 percent.”
Bill Haas, meanwhile, will be making his third Presidents Cup appearance, but this was the most hotly debated. To avoid any hint of nepotism – and to make the decision easier for his father – Haas hoped to leapfrog Chris Kirk (who missed two months with a broken hand) and make the team on points. After tying for 60th at TPC Boston, Haas landed one spot out of the automatic qualifiers.
“I really wanted to be on this team, but to be in the team room with my dad as a captain, I don’t think it’s something that we or I will ever forget,” he said.
With Haas' selection, the U.S. player who finished 11th in the standings has now been added to the team in 10 of the 11 Presidents Cups.
“I’ll be honest: I probably would have picked the 11th person regardless of what their name was,” Jay Haas said. “I feel like Bill deserves this as much as anybody.”
Perfect timing too, because Bill Haas said Monday that he planned to take his wife and two children on a vacation to Primland in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his parents. “Whether or not I’m picked, we’re all going to have a good time,” he said.
The most notable omission on the American side was Brooks Koepka, who won the Phoenix Open, made the cut in all four majors (including top-10s at the last two) and finished 20th on the points list despite becoming a full-time member in October. Also left off the team were J.B. Holmes, who at No. 20 is the second-highest ranked U.S. player not on the team; Brandt Snedeker, one of the world’s best putters who has posted six top 10s this season, including a victory; and Robert Streb, who is inside the top 15 in the FedEx Cup standings on the strength of nine top 10s this season.
Danny Lee earned the 10th and final automatic spot for the International team and edged out Bowditch by .0098 points – or the equivalent of one shot. Bowditch, who is 55th in the world rankings, has finished in the top 15 in two of his past four events.
“He has played exceptionally well this summer,” Price said. “He has shown consistency, and I think he’s just hitting his stride as a player.”
Price said the final spot came down to Bae and Matt Jones, and that the final decision wasn't made until lunchtime Tuesday.
Bae got the nod, Price said, in large part because he has won an Korean event in back-to-back years at the event's host site, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.
“It’s very important for us to have someone on the team that the Korean fans and media could pull for,” Price said.
Bae’s Presidents Cup status was unclear because of his mandatory 21 months of military service in South Korea that will begin as soon as his season is over. This will be the two-time PGA Tour winner’s final event before he can resume his playing career in 2017.