It’s official: Tour Championship and FedEx Cup winner Bill Haas is the final member of Fred Couples’ 2011 U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Couples, who has taken heat for announcing weeks ago that he would use his first wild-card pick on 50th-ranked Tiger Woods, said Tuesday that Haas deserved to wear the red, white, and blue when the Americans take on the Internationals at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in November.
Close call. “Bill has played phenomenal golf,” Couples told reporters on a conference call. “It was a very close race with Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley…but Bill knowing he had to win last week to be on the team, he went out and did it.”
Couples’ choice left Bradley a disappointed cheerleader, although the U.S. captain said he would name the PGA champ to the team if Steve Stricker’s weak left arm prevented the 44-year-old from playing. The PGA Tour rookie had only one year to earn points toward the Presidents Cup, which awards automatic spots on the squad to the tour’s top 10 money-winners over the past 24 months. So, despite collecting two wins, including the major, the 25-year-old New Englander was unable to qualify for the team on his own merits.
The St. John’s University grad had been the first choice of team members Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan.
“Last year, he was not on the PGA Tour; this is his first year,” Mickelson told reporters prior to the first of four FedEx Cup events, The Barclays. “He’s had arguably the best year for any U.S. player. I think he needs to be a pick if he doesn’t get on it on his own.”
Mahan was even more adamant in his appraisal of Bradley as a potential teammate.
“I don’t think anyone else is really an option,” Mahan told the Associated Press. “Not over a guy who won twice, including a major. I think he’s earned that right. What else do you want him to do? It’s a money list over two years, and he only had one year. He won a major. I know what I would do. Everyone is talking about young guys, and he’s done a pretty good job. I don’t understand what the problem would be.”
Missed cuts. The problem may have been Bradley’s lackluster play after winning the PGA Championship in mid-August. Since then he missed the cut at the first two FedEx Cup events, including the Deutsche Bank Championship on his hometown TPC Boston course, and finished T16 at the BMW Championship and T11 at Sunday’s Tour Championship.
Perhaps the pressure of contending for the lone spot got to Bradley, who let Couples know at every opportunity how much he wanted to make the team. He went so far as to say on Sunday, as Haas was staging a dramatic playoff win over Mahan, that he would be “devastated” if Couples overlooked him.
Haas, for his part, is the son of Couples’ assistant captain Jay Haas and was on Freddie’s radar screen even before picking up his first win of the season Sunday and cashing the $10 million FedEx Cup paycheck. For sure, the 29-year-old Haas rose to the challenge that Couples laid out when he made it clear that Sunday’s outcome would go a long way toward determining his final selection.
“Bill Haas knew he had to win and he did it,” Couples said.
On Sunday, Haas made an unlikely up-and-down from the lake on the second playoff hole and saved par from a green-side bunker in the third extra frame to beat Mahan and make Couples’ choice easy.
“I’m honored to be on the team,” said Haas, who, with Woods and the two International team picks, was on the phone line. “It’s something that I’ve worked for, set as a goal at the beginning of this year. For this to happen like this is awesome.”
As for choosing Woods despite the injury-plagued former ace’s winless two years, Couples made it clear that Eldrick was his guy. “I’m just thrilled that Tiger is ready to play and wants to be on the team,” he said.
Woods, who noted he had been “practicing very hard [and] playing as much as I can,” said he was keen to compete Down Under.
Mixing it up. “I’m really looking forward to representing my country and playing with my teammates,” said Woods, who reported he was fully healthy and hoping to team with Stricker as he did in the 2009 Presidents Cup when he compiled a 5-0 record. “I’m really looking forward to mixing it up with the boys.”
International team captain Greg Norman named Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley as his wild-card selections.
So, golf fans, your 2011 U.S. Presidents Cup team: Matt Kuchar, Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Mickelson, Bubba Watson, David Toms, Mahan, Jim Furyk, Woods, and Haas.