Notes: Aussies in the middle of Prez Cup talks

Aaron Baddeley

Aaron Baddeley

Hanging around to congratulate Justin Rose at the conclusion of the BMW Championship, Aaron Baddeley was holding on to his daughter, Jolee.

First, Baddeley was asked how old.

“Fifteen months,” he said.

OK, that being tabled, we put Baddeley on the spot. If he were the American Presidents Cup captain, whom would he pick to round out his team?

Baddeley smiled, shook his head, and said, “Yes, she’s 15 months old.”

There were laughs all around, and the point was clear: Baddeley will let Fred Couples decide who will be the 12th member of Team USA and gladly stay out of the process. Part of that is the fact Baddeley himself is in the middle of things on the International Team, a strong candidate to be one of captain Greg Norman’s two picks. To that point, Baddeley agreed that it was important to qualify for this week’s Tour Championship, because he readily accepts that “if I play well, I can impress Greg.”

Baddeley and Robert Allenby would seem to be the logical picks, given that they’re Aussies who have played well on home soil and would seem to be in position to get the home folks even more fired up for the competition at Royal Melbourne. But Couples already has made one pick (Tiger Woods) that has ignited debate. With Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley having strong cases for inclusion, it doesn’t figure to be a decision that will meet with unanimous public approval.

Which is not to say that’s a bad thing. If it gets people talking about the Presidents Cup, consider it a positive thing.

• • •

Whether it’s the two-year window (Presidents Cup) or one-year process (Ryder Cup), Jim Furyk has to be commended for having lasting consistency. He has qualified for 14 consecutive teams (seven Ryder, seven Presidents) and won’t come out and lobby for one system over the other.

“They’re both better than the old (Ryder Cup) system,” said Furyk, alluding to yesteryear when you only got points for finishing top 10.

But it is interesting to note that had the PGA Tour adopted the Ryder Cup format and given players points for just last year’s major championships and 2011 tournaments, there’d be a different look to the 10 qualifiers on Couples’ team.

Here’s how the top 10 looked when the qualifying process came to an end Sunday night: Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, David Toms, Hunter Mahan and Furyk were Nos. 1-10.

But that was based on points going back to the Wyndham Championship at the end of 2009. Had the window only been the majors of 2010 and all of 2011, Mahan and Furyk would not have finished within the top 10, but Keegan Bradley (fifth) and Jason Dufner (10th) would have.

• • •

With Furyk left outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, one streak is assured of being extended. For a fifth straight time we won’t have a successful defense of the FedEx Cup title.

Tiger Woods won in 2007, Vijay Singh the next year, then Woods again, before Furyk captured it in 2010.

Asked if he has ever not gone back to defend a title, Furyk thought for a moment and said it would have to be the PGA of America’s Grand Slam of Golf. Then again, “that’s a hard one to qualify for,” Furyk noted.

He gave it some further thought and volunteered a funny observation. He qualified for the 2003 Grand Slam of Golf by virtue of his only major title, the U.S. Open that summer, but on three occasions since, Furyk has been put into the field to replace major winners who opted not to play.

“I’m probably the only one who has more Grand Slam of Golf wins than majors,” said Furyk who has won the tournament twice.

Pretty funny, but guess what? On closer examination, Furyk has to share that distinction with Norman, a two-time major winner who captured the Grand Slam of Golf three times.

• • •

Camilo Villegas had a scintillating back nine going on in Sunday’s final round of the BMW Championship. Five birdies not only had him roaring up the leaderboard, but threatening also to complete a massive leap to qualify for the Tour Championship.

Having started the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 109, Villegas had played well at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship to get to No. 47. But his spirited run hit a wall at the 72nd hole and when Villegas made bogey he raced up a short hill and straight for a scoring terminal.

He didn’t like what he saw – on the projection, Villegas was 32nd. He banged the table, signed his card, and hastily made one comment to reporters before rushing away.

The only thing is, Villegas is incorrect if he thinks that the closing bogey cost him. Had he made par, he still wouldn’t have cracked the top 30.

No, what cost him was a regular season in which even he concedes, “I played crappy.”

• • •

At the BMW Championship, the top three players on the leaderboard (Justin Rose, John Senden, Geoff Ogilvy) were the only ones to jump from outside the top 30 to earn spots into the Tour Championship.

Rose went from 34th to third, Senden 55th to ninth, Ogilvy 69th to 24th.

The three who moved out to make room? Rory Sabbatini (who dropped from 26th to 35th), Charl Schwartzel (27-32) and Kyle Stanley (30-34).

While Schwartzel appeared exasperated after signing his card, knowing three bogeys over his final four holes cost him dearly, it’s hard to set aside any sympathy. The Masters champ did, after all, choose to skip the first playoff tournament, The Barclays.

• • •

Extending things back to the beginning of the playoffs, seven players started outside the top 30 but eventually worked their way in. Rose (44th at the start), Senden (50th), and Ogilvy (79th) are obviously three of them, but the others are Vijay Singh (36th), Bo Van Pelt (39th), Y.E. Yang (43rd) and Chez Reavie (76th).

The seven who began inside the top 30, only to miss qualifying for the Tour Championship (with starting position in parentheses): Martin Laird (17th), Schwartzel (21st), Sabbatini (23rd), D.A. Points (27th), Spencer Levin (29th), Rickie Fowler (28th), and Tommy Gainey (30th).

• • •

You could say that Bo Van Pelt is in familiar territory. He finished 30th in the final FedEx Cup standings a year ago and he enters this year’s Tour Championship again in 30th.

• • •

Ah, Couples certainly is in great form two months out. In a conference call following Sunday’s conclusion of the BMW Championship, the American captain talked up the Presidents Cup given that his 10 automatic picks were official.

First, in explaining that it will be intriguing to see who wins the upcoming Tour Championship, Couples said, “I think it would be even a surprise if a Zach Johnson won . . . (but) I want these guys to know that the Tour Championship is still deciding my 12th spot on the team.”

Of course, Couples is spot on. It would be a total shock if Johnson were to win. That’s because he didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship.

Next, Couples was praising the International Team’s mixture of youth and experience. “It’s a lot like our team,” he said. “They may be a little younger, just because some of their top players are not very old.”

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