Punch Shot: Who's under most pressure at D. Bank?

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There's a lot on the line at this week's Deutsche Bank Championship: A chance at advancing toward a $10 million bonus, a berth on the U.S. or International Presidents Cup team, a chance to impress a captain for a wild-card pick. Who is under the most pressure at TPC Boston? Our writers weigh in.

By RYAN LAVNER

Phil Mickelson.

It’s been another forgettable year for Lefty, but there’s still plenty to play for – and no, it has nothing to do with the FedEx Cup, where he sits in 52nd place, in need of a decent showing in Boston just to ensure that he moves on to the third stop.

Why is this week important? Because Mickelson’s streak of 20 consecutive international team competitions played is in jeopardy.

He’s played each of the past 10 Ryder Cups. He’s played each and every Presidents Cup – the only man who can claim that distinction. He’s valuable in the team room. He’s an important member of the Ryder Cup task force. But Mickelson said last month that he doesn’t want to be a captain’s pick for this year’s event in South Korea.

“I haven’t been a pick in 20 years,” he said. “I don’t want to be a pick now.”

Well, at No. 29, he doesn’t have a choice – he can’t play his way onto the team. Not even a win this week in Beantown will be enough to automatically qualify.

But he needs to play well, if only so captain Jay Haas can avoid the potential backlash of picking Mickelson over players who have had better seasons, including Brandt Snedeker (14th), Robert Streb (18th) and Brooks Koepka (19th).


By RANDALL MELL

Nobody has more to gain winning this week than Sangmoon Bae. As a South Korean, Bae may never get another chance to play the Presidents Cup in his homeland, if he’s allowed to do so in his current predicament. The biennial international competition will be played in Incheon Oct. 8-11. In that golf loving nation, a South Korean making the International team would be a tremendous source of nationalistic pride. It would be a festive occasion where Bae’s honor would be shared by fellow citizens.

With Bae’s military obligation looming, we’re not even sure if he would be allowed to play. But if he wins this week, there would be a compelling reason for South Korean officials to delay his reporting for compulsory military service, if that’s required. If he wins, he still might make the team on points. Even if he doesn’t qualify for the team, Bae’s a captain’s pick possibility with a strong FedEx Cup finish. If he wins this week, all of South Korea should be rooting to see him play for the Internationals.


By REX HOGGARD

Just one player in the FedEx Cup era has never missed a playoff start, a perfect 33 for 33 since the circuit introduced the postseason in 2007.

It’s a distinction unmatched by Tiger or Phil or Ernie and something Hunter Mahan ranks right alongside his six PGA Tour victories and his combined six Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup starts.

“I'm proud of that fact. I think everybody wants to get to the Tour Championship because you were [among] the 30 best players that year,” Mahan said last week at The Barclays, where he was the defending champion. “It's a combo of playing good all year and then playing good kind of at the right time.”

That streak is in jeopardy after what has been the most lackluster season of Mahan’s career. He begins this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship 91st on the FedEx Cup point list, 128 points outside of the top 70 and a spot in the third playoff stop.

Mahan will also need a good week at TPC Boston if he’s going to have any chance of making this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup team, another streak that dates back to the 2007 matches.

There are plenty of players on various bubbles this week, but few with as much at stake as Mahan.


By WILL GRAY

The guy facing the most pressure this week is the player with one final shot to join his father in Korea. Bill Haas enters this week in the precarious No. 11 spot in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings, with the top 10 all clinching spots when the final putt drops. In most years his resume would probably earn him one of two captain’s picks – except for the fact that the man making those picks this time is his father, Jay.

Haas won earlier this year in California and challenged at TPC Sawgrass, but his last brush with contention ended poorly down the stretch at the Quicken Loans National. While his merit as a pick would help to temper any thoughts of nepotism, it seems likely that the former FedEx Cup champ will need to earn his spot on the team rather than relying on an invite from dad.

The field of potential picks also has strength, namely Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, the latter of whom has never missed a Presidents Cup. So needing at least a top-5 finish to pass Chris Kirk in the standings, Haas faces an uphill battle in the final event of qualification – and all of the pressure that comes with it.