Another Cup Team Passes Without Bob Estes


Failing to be chosen for the Presidents Cup team was hard enough on Bob Estes.
What really stung was how he found out.
'My parents listened to the announcement on their computer at home, and they put the phone next to the computer so I could hear,' said Estes, who was traveling to the NEC Invitational that day.
'It was kind of weird to sit there and listen, and find out just like everyone else.'
The news was all too familiar.
Estes was 11th in points for the U.S. team until Fred Funk moved ahead of him by the narrowest of margins, the difference of one stroke at the PGA Championship. During the three-year qualifying process, Estes won three times and was among the top 10 players in the standings until the final few weeks.
Jack Nicklaus had said he might not take the 11th and 12th players for his two captain's picks, as he had done before. Still, Estes thought his chances were better than ever.
The first time he heard from Nicklaus was the day after the PGA Championship, during a teleconference to announce the picks. The news originated with Nicklaus in Wisconsin, was patched through the PGA Tour Web site, picked up by Estes' parents in Abilene, Texas, and relayed to their son in Ohio.
The first pick was Funk. The second was Jay Haas.
What about Bob?
'Obviously, Bob Estes was a big consideration,' Nicklaus said.
Those were hollow words for Estes.
The 37-year-old Texan doesn't begrudge either pick, nor is he bitter toward Nicklaus.
Estes knew the criteria for finishing in the top 10 and he came up short, in large part because of changes to his swing and his equipment at the start of the year.
Still, few players are more snake-bit when it comes to the cup.
Four years ago, Estes came one shot short of making the Ryder Cup team. A bogey on the 17th hole in the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship dropped him into sixth place; a two-way tie for fifth was all he needed to make the team.
U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw called Estes that night and told him he lacked Ryder Cup experience.
That might have cost Estes this time, too.
Nicklaus already had three guys - Chris DiMarco, Charles Howell III and Jerry Kelly - who never played in the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. He felt he could take one more rookie (Funk), but not two.
Even so, Estes can't help but wonder if he got a fair shake, from the process that determines the Presidents Cup team and from the captain.
The U.S. team is based on PGA Tour money - one point for every dollar earned, with points doubled the year of the matches.
Just his luck, the points were cut in half in 2001 - Estes' best year on tour - when the matches were postponed because of the Sept. 11 attacks. That extended the qualifying an extra year.
'Had the Presidents Cup been played last year, I would have easily qualified,' Estes said.
The International team - players from everywhere but Europe - is determined by the world ranking because not everyone plays on the PGA Tour. If it applied to the U.S. team, Estes would have been 10th.
'If the world ranking is good enough to determine who gets in the majors and who qualifies for the World Golf Championships, and if it's good enough for the International team, why don't we use it?' Estes said. 'The world ranking is all about quality. The points system is about quantity.'
Estes won nearly $1 million more than Funk during the three-year qualifying. Because of the gradual increase in points, Funk finished slightly ahead - the difference of $27,589 at the PGA Championship.
Funk, however, played 17 more tournaments than Estes since 2001.
Nicklaus, meanwhile, studied PGA Tour data an inch thick during the weekend of the PGA Championship, trying to figure out which two guys gave him the best chance to win the Presidents Cup on Nov. 20-23 in South Africa.
Funk brings energy. Haas brings experience and stability.
Both were deserving picks.
Still, Estes wonders how much consideration Nicklaus gave him.
'I don't even think Jack knew I went to South Africa to play last year (in the Nedbank Challenge) in anticipation of making the Presidents Cup team,' Estes said. 'I haven't seen Jack all year.'
The only time Nicklaus met with potential Presidents Cup players was at the Memorial, his own tournament. That was the only tournament Estes missed during a five-week stretch.
'I was not there, which had nothing to do with my lack of desire,' Estes said. 'I desperately wanted to make that team, and I was in great position all three years.'
Nicklaus told those assembled at Muirfield Village that he only wanted guys willing to travel to South Africa the week before Thanksgiving. He was satisfied everyone had their oars in the water, and said Funk told him he would row a boat to South Africa for a chance to play.
'I wasn't there to tell him,' Funk said, 'that my boat would have gotten there quicker.'
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