2005: Newsmakers - Presidents Cup captains’ choices based on varying style, criteria

Springfield, N.J.

Jack Nicklaus went with experience and Gary Player relied on his “gut feelings” to determine their captain’s picks for this year’s Presidents Cup.

Nicklaus choose Justin Leonard Aug. 15, who was 11th on the U.S. points list, and Fred Couples (17th). Like he did in 2003 when he picked Tim Clark, Player waded down the list to select Trevor Immelman, who will be a Presidents Cup rookie and was 22nd on the International team list.

“Last time I chose Tim Clark and was criticized, yet he went on and was the man of the match,” said Player, who will serve as the International captain for the second time when the matches are played Sept. 22-25 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va. “Trevor is an extremely focused young man and good team member and has played exceptionally well in the majors.”

Joining Immelman as a captain’s pick will be Peter Lonard, who began the PGA Championship 12th on the list and maintained his position. No. 11 Mark Hensby moved into an automatic spot when Ernie Els was sidelined earlier this month by a knee injury.

“I didn’t play like I would have liked at the last one so I definitely wanted another shot at it,” said Lonard, who went 0-2 in foursomes at the 2003 Presidents Cup while paired with K.J. Choi and Clark.

Nicklaus’ picks marked the second time he has gone with a veteran over a higher-ranked newcomer.

“The points system does not always reflect the accurate results of who you think are the best players,” said Nicklaus, who selected Jay Haas at 16th in the standings for the 2003 matches. Zach Johnson finished 12th in the U.S. standings and Nicklaus said he called him Monday to explain why he picked Couples.

“I told him if we have an injury, I wanted him to be a first alternate,” Nicklaus said.

Steve Elkington, runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship, also was a strong contender for a captain’s pick who was passed over.

“I’ve given Gary Player a reason to think about taking me,” Elkington said after finishing his round Monday.

The U.S. team seems to have an experience edge over the International squad with a combined 28 Presidents Cup appearances and just one rookie (Scott Verplank). The International squad has a combined 16 starts and four rookies (Immelman, Angel Cabrera, Nick O’Hern, Hensby).

The International team also suffered a setback when Nick Price turned down Player’s offer to be a vice captain. Player was expected to announce his second choice for vice captain this week.

“I was sorry he declined but that was his choice,” Player said.

Jeff Sluman will again be a Nicklaus’ assistant.

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