Players make final run for Presidents pick
NORTON, Mass. – As pairings go, Lucas Glover/Nick Watney/Brian Gay grouped together on a postcard New England Saturday afternoon seemed to be galloping ghosts. Playing just in front of a suddenly resurgent Tiger Woods (67), the three represented something of an undercard on this day – too far from the top of the leaderboard to be noteworthy, too far above the cutline to worry about making travel plans for the remainder of the Labor Day Weekend.
But if the trio wasn’t making serious noise for first-place money at this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, that’s not to say the players had nothing at stake. Along with Hunter Mahan, who was playing in the group just ahead, this quartet was trying to do something stellar to catch the eye of Fred Couples, the U.S. captain who will finalize his 2009 Presidents Cup team with two wild-card selections following the tournament.
An announcement is slated for mid-day Tuesday, at which time Greg Norman will finalize the International team as well.
One of Couples’ two choices for the Oct. 8-11 matches at San Francisco’s Harding Park is a sealed deal: Glover, 29, the U.S. Open champion, was informed by Couples following the PGA Championship at Hazeltine that he would be part of the U.S. side. Both parties confirmed the news at TPC Boston. It will mark Glover’s second venture into representing his country as a pro. He was on a losing U.S. Walker Cup side back in 2001.
So is it good he has had this golden little nugget of information tucked away in his hip pocket for several weeks?
“I guess it’s good,” Glover said, “because I didn’t have to think about it. I can’t put words in his (Couples’) mouth to say why he chose me, but it’s fine with me, obviously.”
When presented with a chance to make the Ryder Cup team in 2006, Glover pressed, missing five cuts from May-July. A year later, he missed out on points for the Presidents Cup but was a captain’s selection on a team that won in Montreal (he went 2-3 as a rookie). After a sub-par 2008 season, he is looking forward to the new experience ahead of him.
“I felt like I’ve had a pretty good year this year,” he said. “I just like being around the guys, and it will be a good opportunity to get to know a few guys I don’t know very well. Wearing your colors on your shirt, that’s pretty gratifying and pretty important, I think.
“It’s a goal every year.”
Mahan, 27, knows a little about the experience, too. He played on the Presidents Cup team two years ago in Canada and also a winning Ryder Cup squad last autumn in Kentucky. Mahan hasn’t won this year, but he’s been quite consistent, missing only one cut in 22 starts and posting half a dozen top 10 finishes.
If the Deutsche Bank was viewed as a last stage rehearsal to impress Couples, it certainly did not start out well. His opening round on Friday began with something of an out-of-body experience. Through seven holes he was 6 over par.
“We had a little talk,” said his caddie, John Wood, smiling. “Actually, it was freakish. He wasn’t really playing that badly.”
Mahan knew that, and give him credit, for he had the poise to get things turned around. He has played his last 29 holes in 9 under to climb back to 3 under for the tournament, and easily made the cut Saturday with his second-round 66.
The early betting line is that Mahan is the solid choice as Couples’ second Presidents Cup selection, even though the player himself says he isn’t so sure where he stands. No Glover assurances have been delivered as of yet.
“Obviously, the better I play, the better my chances,” Mahan said. “That’s all I’m really worried about right now. I’ve heard some good stuff coming stuff from Fred, so if I just keep on doing what I’m doing, I’ll be all right. My game has potential right now to be ‘sick good.’ I just want to keep swinging and keep believing.”
If Couples tabs Glover and Mahan, it leaves Gay and Watney – and a few others, such as David Toms, who’s beginning to find his old form – as odd men out. Gay had two incredible weeks this season – runaway victories at Hilton Head and Memphis – but did not play well at the bigger events. He missed the cut in each of his three major starts and withdrew after a first-round 80 at The Players.
After a second-round 67 at TPC Boston, Gay stands alongside Glover at 5-under 137.
“Personally, I don’t feel like Boston should really have anything to do with it,” he said, “although I think Freddie is looking at it differently probably, because he’s picking right after this. So he’s kind of thinking about whoever is playing good right now. He was texting me the other night after Barclays, told me to give it all I got this week and ‘good playing’ last week (T-12). I know he’s watching.”
As for Watney, he simply failed to capitalize on a hot West Coast start, saying he “hit a lull” in the middle of his season. He won the Buick Invitational, was 14th in the Presidents Cup points table and showed some form last week in New Jersey (a tie for sixth, his first top 10 since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March). But at 2 under par this week, barring a “crazy couple of days” outside Boston, Watney said he’s not expecting a call from Couples. He did say it’s disappointing, too, as the Presidents Cup will be staged just up the coast from where he played his college golf at Fresno State.
“You never want to bank on getting picked,” Watney said Saturday. “Hopefully next time, I can handle it better. But it’s very motivating for me to be up there.”
And yes, there is always next time.