Price opts for rookies at Presidents Cup
Nick Price rounded out his Internationals team for the Presidents Cup last week by making two fundamentally sound captain’s picks given the Cup will be played on US soil at a regular tour venue in Muirfield Village.
Australia’s Marc Leishman and Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge are in-form PGA Tour regulars and Price’s thought processes included a look to the golf course and the strengths of the candidates at his disposal that best suited the conditions.
That both Leishman and de Jonge are Presidents Cup rookies should be meaningless as both bring recent and season-long good form to the table, but the fact that Price did plumb for more Cup rookies illustrates the changing of the guard that has occurred in the Internationals team from 2011.
Three quarters of the team from Royal Melbourne are gone including Cup stalwarts Retief Goosen, Robert Allenby, K.J. Choi and Geoff Ogilvy, along with Aaron Baddeley, Ryo Ishikawa, K.T. Kim and Y.E Yang.
Returning in 2013 are Masters champion Adam Scott, seven-time Cup veteran Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Day but the remaining eight players are rookies, bar returning veteran Angel Cabrera.
Price told me earlier in the year he was keen to avoid ‘too many rookies’ but through the circumstances of form and injury, he will now be looking to embrace the prospect of so many fresh faces on the team.
In his favour are that his ‘rookies’ include proven international performer and major champion Louis Oosthuizen, although he has struggled with injury this year and is currently off the tour in a bid to recover in time for the Cup.
The others however, have been in form over the past year and a half, winners around the world with many contending prominently in the majors and on the PGA Tour.
Canada’s Graham DeLaet forced his way onto the team with his fine performances in the first two FedEx Cup events and is one of the form players for either side heading to the Presidents Cup.
21-year old Hideki Matsuyama will fly the Asian flag for the Internationals and appears unflappable despite his age and with a game to match, as Top 10s at the US Open and Open Championship on debut would testify.
Cabrera so nearly won The Masters in spring and did enough throughout the season to qualify automatically which will bring some stability and leadership to the team. If he can bring the passion he displayed at Augusta to Muirfield Village, it could help his team grow an extra leg.
South Africans Richard Sterne and Branden Grace are much like countryman Schwartzel was a few seasons back before his Masters triumph, proven performers on the European Tour and a good week away from making the breakthrough to become major players on the world stage.
The key to the Internationals’ chances of bringing home just a 2nd Presidents Cup will be making a fast start and trying to break the horrendous record the team have in foursomes matches over the years. Staying in touch with the Americans over the first two days will inject confidence and have the opposition thinking twice about the challenge ahead.
The US have the distinct advantage of a stable core group that get to compete annually in team events at the Ryder and Presidents Cup so Price’s ability to have his team gelling and getting his pairings right will be crucial.
The plus for this group is that they should not be overawed by the golf course or the ‘American’ conditions so while they will go into the matches from October 3-6 as underdogs, they could give this a real shake if they can play to their ability and a few breaks go their way.