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Punch Shot: Picking Presidents Cup wild cards

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This week's Deutsche Bank Championship is the last event to automatically qualify for the Presidents Cup, after that it will be up to Fred Couples and Nick Price to fill out their squads via two captain's picks. So who should get the coveted spots? GolfChannel.com writers offer their selections based on the current standings. (Note: Tune into Golf Channel at 2PM ET, Wednesday Sept. 4 as the captains officially reveal their picks)


By REX HOGGARD

United States: Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson

Each year, team captains step to a microphone expected to deliver some outside-the-box pick and each year we walk away feeling underwhelmed. Expect a similar scenario next week when Presidents Cup captains Fred Couples and Nick Price make their picks for this year’s matches.

For Couples, the status quo adds up to Stricker and Johnson, Nos. 11 and 12 on the current U.S. points list, respectively. As a part-timer, Stricker remains one of the game’s most consistent players. He is 10-for-10 in cuts made this season with five top-10 finishes, and Johnson has started to show signs of life after a slow summer.

Besides, if you’re Couples why fix what isn’t broken (the U.S. leads the series 7-1-1)?

International: Tim Clark and Brendon de Jonge

As for Price, Clark at No. 11 is a bono fide no-brainer. He sat out the last match in 2011 with an injury but when he is healthy the South African is a match play machine; while No. 15 de Jonge would qualify as the only “surprise” pick.

De Jonge has quietly played his way onto the “best Tour player without a title” short list and considers Price something of a mentor, which would make his selection something similar to the leap of faith that Greg Norman took when he made Adam Scott a pick in 2009. And we all know how that turned out.


By RANDALL MELL

United States: Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth

Give me the putter and the new kid on the American side.

I’ll take Stricker and Spieth. Stricker’s highly regarded putting stroke wasn’t quite right a year ago when he headed to the Ryder Cup, but he has it back, ranking 10th in strokes gained-putting on the PGA Tour this year. He’s a no-brainer as a teammate. He hits a ton of fairways, a ton of greens and makes a lot of birdies. Spieth is an exciting fresh face, a rookie with a load of confidence and momentum. He has a victory and a second-place finish in his last five starts. He has four top-10s in his last 10 starts.

International: Tim Clark and K.J. Choi

On the International side, give me the “little golfer who could” and the South Korean “Tank.”

I’ll take Clark and his steady, gritty play. Clark will hit a load of fairways, and at his best he’ll hit a lot of greens. There’s a lack of depth on the International side among potential captain’s picks, nobody riding a hot run or momentum, so I’m going with what I know. I’m taking Choi, the 43-year-old who is a former winner at Muirfield Village. Choi won the Memorial in ’07 and missed just one cut in 14 starts there.


By JASON SOBEL

United States: Jordan Spieth and Billy Horschel

Let’s be real: Who doesn’t want to see a 20-year-old wunderkind with a PGA Tour victory and another playoff loss competing among the world’s best at Muirfield Village? Unlike some young players who have been picked in the past, though, this would be less a choice for the future and more a choice for the present. There are few players who have been better than Spieth this summer. He deserves to be on this team.

The second pick is more difficult, because you’d need to overlook Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson – all veterans who are higher on the points standings than Horschel. But I’m a big fan of enthusiasm and a bigger fan of ball-striking. Horschel would bring some much-needed passion to a team that is already filled with guys who have been there and done that. While others could be going through the motions in a non-Ryder Cup year, Horschel might provide a spark similar to the one Nicolas Colsaerts gave to the European team at Medinah.

International: Tim Clark and Brendon de Jonge

Clark isn’t going to wow anybody. He isn’t going to blast 330-yard drives or start raining in birdie putts. But he’s as steady as they come, which is much needed in both team formats. In fourballs, I’d pair him with a guy like Angel Cabrera, who prefers to take dead aim at flagsticks. Or maybe as a calming influence on Brandon Grace, who will be playing his first Presidents Cup. He has unique value in that role.

Maybe I’m thinking more with my head than my heart on this one, but I think de Jonge gets picked by captain Nick Price. Both natives of Zimbabwe, a pick from his hero could launch de Jonge’s career into the next level, much like that of Greg Norman did for Adam Scott four years ago. And let’s face it: After the top 10, the cupboard is pretty bare for the International side. When faced with a decision, expect Price to go with a known commodity whose cell phone number he’s already got programmed into his phone.


By RYAN LAVNER

United States: Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth

Can’t have enough good putters on a 12-man team, and Stricker, even in semi-retirement, hasn’t lost any of his touch on and around the greens. The limited schedule has also seemed to help his game – top-10s in half his starts, including a pair of runners-up – so every time he tees it up, he’s ready to play. As for Spieth, he’s been the year’s main revelation (seven top-10s, one victory) and deserves to be rewarded, not to mention that he’ll be a fixture on these teams for years to come. Might as well get him ready for that environment now.

International team: Tim Clark and Marc Leishman

Clark doesn’t have a top-10 in his last seven starts, but he would be a steadying presence on a roster dotted with young players. The diminutive South African has played in three Presidents Cup matches, compiling a 5-2-8 record, and is one of the straightest drivers in the game. Leishman, meanwhile, has cooled a bit after a torrid spring, but has been in the mix at two majors this season and could pair well with fellow Aussies Adam Scott and Jason Day.


By WILL GRAY

United States: Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth

Amid a season of semi-retirement, Stricker has had a remarkably consistent campaign, with eight top-25 finishes in just 10 starts. Though it’s likely he would be on the team had he played more frequently this year, he still remains a solid addition as one who can easily partner with Tiger Woods – not to mention the tips he might offer the world No. 1 on the putting greens. Spieth is arguably the easiest choice for Fred Couples, as the 20-year-old has taken the PGA Tour by storm this year and has prior match-play experience from the Junior Ryder Cup as well as the Walker Cup.

International: Tim Clark and Marc Leishman

The veteran Clark appears to be a likely choice as a player who can add to the South African contingent at Muirfield Village while mentoring younger countrymen like Branden Grace and Richard Sterne. Leishman has struggled with consistency this year but demonstrated the ability to play well against the game’s best multiple times, finishing inside the top 15 at the Masters (T-4), Players Championship (T-8) and PGA Championship (T-12). His game would likely get a boost from the camaraderie with fellow Aussies Adam Scott and Jason Day.