Johnson among Couples’ final Presidents Cup considerations

ablondin@thesunnews.comSeptember 3, 2013 

Will Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson make the U.S. Presidents Cup Team?

Team captain Fred Couples announces his two captain’s picks at 2 p.m. Wednesday, and Couples said Monday that Johnson is one of four players that are in the running.

The others being considered to face an International squad are 20-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth, 2011 U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson and Jim Furyk, who has been on every U.S. Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team since 1997.

The top 10 players in points at the conclusion Monday of the Deutsche Bank Championship automatically qualified for the team. Simpson is 11th in points, Johnson 12th, Furyk 13th and Spieth 22nd, though unlike the other players he had only one year to earn points rather than two.

Since late July, when he began working with his former college coach and instructor Allen Terrell, Johnson has played in five events with a tie for second in the Canadian Open, a tie for eighth in the PGA Championship and a tie for 27th this past week.

Johnson is vying to play in his second Presidents Cup. He went 1-3-1 in the 2011 competition at Royal Melbourne in Australia to tie for the worst record on the team. But he went 3-0 in last fall’s Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club in Chicago to improve his record in that competition to 4-3-0.

Furyk has four top 10s in his last five events including a runner-up in the PGA Championship, Simpson has made nine consecutive cuts but has just one top 10 in those events, and Spieth has a win, two runner-up finishes and eight top 10s in 21 events this year – which began with no status on either the PGA or Web.com tours – and is coming off a tie for fourth and final-round 62 Monday.

The American team currently consists of Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson.

A 26-foot birdie putt on his final hole of the Deutsche Bank Championship secured a place on the team for Zach Johnson and bumped Simpson from the top 10.

Stricker’s runner-up finish moved him from 11th to seventh in the U.S. standings. He was the only player on either team to move into the top 10 in points in the final week of qualification.

Couples did not include 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson in his list of possibilities. Watson, who is 14th in U.S. Presidents Cup points, has a pair of fourth-place finishes as his best performances of 2013 and isn’t particularly hot, with a missed cut and tie for 67th among his last three results.

The 10 who qualified for the International team based on their world ranking were Adam Scott and Jason Day of Australia; Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Richard Sterne of South Africa; Hideki Matsuyama of Japan; Graham DeLaet of Canada; and Angel Cabrera of Argentina. The team is captained by Nick Price.

The Presidents Cup is Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield Village in Ohio. The International team has only won the event one time since it began in 1994 — in 1998 at Royal Melbourne. The Americans lead the series, 7-1-1.

Couples sounded as though he were leaning toward Simpson as one of his picks when speaking to the Associated Press on Monday, citing that Simpson was in the top 10 in the standings for all but the final putt of the final tournament.

“A guy birdies the last two holes to push him out. How do you not pick him?" Couples said. "It will be a tough decision.”

Simpson played for Couples at Royal Melbourne two years ago and went 3-2-0, and he went 2-2-0 in last year’s Ryder Cup.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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