Nick Price blog: Making picks was difficult task

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Editor's note: U.S. Captain Fred Couples and his International counterpart Nick Price will be writing blogs periodically during 2013. You can read Price's blog below.

September 16, 2013

I’m in Hawaii for the Champions Tour’s Pacific Links Hawaii Championship and it feels like the hardest part of The Presidents Cup International Team captaincy is over! Making my two picks was a difficult task. I looked at a lot of statistics leading up to the announcement on Sept. 4, and I ended up choosing Marc Leishman from Australia and my fellow Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge.

Marc is a guy on the rise who has played really well this year. He’s performed well in the majors this year with a top-10 finish at Augusta as well as a T8 at THE PLAYERS Championship. I think he’s going to feel very much a part of the team with fellow Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day there to support him. I’ve watched Brendon closely over the past four or five years. He’s 33 and just getting ready to break through. Being a part of the International Team may be a terrific moment for him during his career. He’s a wonderful guy and will be great in the team room. Both Marc and Brendon fade the ball and they both hit it pretty far, and those are two key factors to playing well at Muirfield Village. Brendon’s form, particularly over the last five or six months, has been really consistent.

I spoke to a lot of the International Team members leading up to my announcement of Marc and Brendon as my picks and just about every single one of them felt that Brendon deserved a pick. After that, we had to figure out who the other pick was going to be.

Leaving Tim Clark off the team was extremely difficult for me. I had confided a lot in Tim over the last year or so and I honestly felt he was going to make the team, however he hadn’t played at Muirfield Village much over the last seven or eight years and his lack of length off the tee was a negative against him. It was probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make in my life to tell Tim he wasn’t on the team. Experience-wise, he was the one guy who I knew would bring a lot to the team, but to be honest, both Marc and Brendon have played better golf over the last two months.  

Muirfield Village is a great fit for The Presidents Cup and Jack (Nicklaus) I know will do a phenomenal job setting up the course. The Ohio and Columbus golf fans have always welcomed the PGA TOUR with open arms, and they will be treated to some wonderful golf at The Presidents Cup. I’m sure the Americans will have a lot of support from the fans but seeing that most of the International Team members play in the United States full-time, we will have plenty of supporters too. For most of us international players, 95 percent of our golf is played outside our homelands and we are used to fans rooting for the home players.

Everything is falling into place, and the International Team is ready to get to Columbus. As many of us know, 18-hole match play is very unpredictable and anything can happen. It’s all about momentum and team spirit. It’s about the competition and winning the Cup.

Thanks so much for reading my blogs, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the updates. Your support is really appreciated, and like you, we can’t wait to get the competition underway.

August 30, 2013

I’m playing this week in Calgary at the Shaw Charity Classic, along with U.S. Team Captain Fred Couples, and while our focus this week is on the new Champions Tour event, I am sure Fred, like me, is thinking ahead to Wednesday when we have to make our two picks for our respective teams. That comes after the 10 players from each side automatically make the teams at the completion of the Deutsche Bank Championship, which ends on Monday.

The International guys have been putting in some solid performances over the last month and seeing Adam [Scott] win at The Barclays last week was a great motivational boost for the Internationals. Graham [DeLaet] also had a fantastic week at The Barclays, putting in his best finish on the PGA TOUR so far, and he may well have played his way onto the Team with just one week to go.

Richard [Sterne] was consistent earlier in the month at the Bridgestone Invitational to finish in the top 10 and Charl [Schwartzel] had a great weekend at Firestone shooting 64-69 to move up the leaderboard. Adam and Jason Day once again featured prominently in a major championship this year, both earning top 10 finishes at the PGA Championship. It was also inspiring to see Mark Leishman get around Oak Hill without shooting an over-par round, a very solid, consistent performance. Hideki Matsuyama continues to play well and Kiradech Aphibarnrat has made quite an improvement in the rankings with some good play recently.

On the other side of the Atlantic last week, Brett Rumford posted another top-10 finish and Thongchai Jaidee put in a good performance at Gleneagles in the Johnnie Walker Classic.

Tim Clark has also put in some solid finishes, and making an ace during the PGA Championship was another highlight. Tim’s a player with past Presidents Cup experience, both as a player and co-captain two years ago in Australia. He would bring a lot of valuable experience to the team, which is probably the only thing the International Team is lacking right now. However, it’s interesting to note that the winning European Team at the recent Solheim Cup included half-a-dozen rookies and not many people thought they had much of a chance to win before the event began.

With all of these guys playing very solid golf at the moment, it’s going to make the two picks we are given quite difficult for all of us.

I’ve been in touch with Louis [Oosthuizen] ,and he is progressing well with his injury and I’m confident he’ll be healthy and ready to represent the International Team at Muirfield Village in a month’s time.

I’m heading to Boston after the Shaw Charity Classic to spend 10 minutes with each of the International players who are playing in the Deutsche Bank Championship. I really want their input as to who they feel would add to the strength of our team. This is a team event and I want everyone to contribute and feel a part of this selection process.

Just a few months ago, it looked like the International Team would be comprised of mainly South Africans and Australians, but now, not unexpectedly, it’s shaping up to be truly representative of an International Team with Argentina, Japan, Canada and Thailand all having a chance to be on the roster.

Not long to go now. Roll on October……

August 2, 2013

Just after my previous blog it was coincidental that I played with Fred (Couples) and Jay (Haas) at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship in Pittsburgh at the end of June. The three of us have been competitive throughout our careers and we have remained good friends. Being out on the Champions Tour for the past six years, I had lost touch with the younger players on the PGA TOUR, but fortunately being named captain has allowed me to spend more time out there getting to know the younger guys. I got to spend about 15 minutes with Hideki (Matsuyama) at Firestone during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational recently. I hadn’t met him but I’ve watched him the last few months with great interest. He’s had a meteoric rise up the Official World Golf Rankings and has probably secured his berth on the International Team.

Returning to Firestone, where I did a press conference, was quite a treat. The place has such wonderful memories for me and it launched my career here in the United States. Someone reminded me when I got there that it was 30 years ago when I won there. I had to do a double-take when I walked through the locker room and saw a couple of pictures of a younger me.

The Open Championship at Muirfield was a pleasure to watch. It was satisfying to see Adam (Scott) in the mix again and I’m very pleased with the progress being made by Hideki, who is going to be a star of the future in my opinion. Angel (Cabrera) was in contention again at a major championship and those are the performances I’m looking for. As I’ve said before, I’m always looking for guys who perform their best at the highest level. I’m a little concerned about Louis (Oosthuizen), who withdrew from The Open because of an injury. I spoke with him the week after The Open and his plan is to not play again until the week before The Presidents Cup. I will know that week if he is fit enough to play. .

It’s an interesting time coming up for the players because the point values increase significantly. We’ve got so many points available with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs happening in the next few weeks. The players ranked 8th through to about 15th on my team standings are going to be doing a lot of jockeying for position over the next four or five weeks.

The International Team is shaping up well but the biggest concern amongst the co-captains and our more experienced players is creating some team spirit and getting the guys together before the event starts. As a result, the more established players will play more frequent practice rounds with some of the younger players and spend a little more time with them, maybe have dinner or lunch with them, so when we get to Muirfield Village everyone will feel more comfortable with each other. Camaraderie and the spirit of a team can always overcome a lot of things. I wish I could show the guys the feeling I had of being on a winning team. When we won in Australia (in 1998), the 11 teammates I had, they were like my brothers. We had a phenomenal week of emotional ups and downs. If I could put that feeling in a bottle and show the guys what that is like, we would have their attention.

As far as my picks go, there are so many things to think about, but my co-captains Tony (Johnstone), Mark (McNulty) and Shigeki (Maruyama) and I will weigh up how much experience we have on the team when the points are finalized and if we are short on experience, we might include a player with more experience. We will look at who the ‘hot’ players are and may look at players who have had success at Muirfield Village in the past.

Until next time……

June 26, 2013

I’m happy to report that I finally returned to competition on the Champions Tour after elbow surgery in January and teed it up at the Encompass Championship in Chicago. The last time I played a tournament was in August last year. I've never had that length of time off from the game at any time in my career, so I'm happy to be back out playing.

Fortunately, I’ve had The Presidents Cup to keep me occupied and I've been trying to figure out how I can perhaps turn things around with the International Team being 1-7-1. I’ve read a lot of stats and crunched a lot of numbers with comparisons between the Ryder Cup and The Presidents Cup to give me an idea of what's going on. I've communicated with potential team members at a few tournaments. Obviously Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Ernie Els and now George Coetzee are five South Africans who are potential team members that live near me in Jupiter. I've spent a bit of time with Ernie chatting about things.  

Following the Masters, I’ve been paying close attention to the “tail enders” on the points standings and seeing how they're moving. Hideki Matsuyama's played fantastically. He's only been a pro since April and he's won twice, finished second twice and played really well at the U.S. Open, where he tied for tenth.  I was looking for his performance at the U.S. Open because it's one thing to play well in Japan, but to come over to the United States and play like that was huge. So he's not scared of the big arena. Obviously he enjoys it, so I'll keep a really close eye on him. 

All in all, the team's shaping up pretty well.  With the remaining majors and the Playoffs coming up and big points being available at those events the whole complexion of the team could possibly change. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

We had a really good team meeting at the Memorial Tournament. Adam Scott spoke beautifully and put forth some ideas that he and I had discussed previously. K.J. Choi spoke through his interpreter. The younger players listened to what these two had to say and they could see how passionate they both were about competing in this Presidents Cup, so it was really good in that respect.

The recent trip Fred and I made to the White House was an honor. Very few people get to do that. It was extremely special being in the Oval Office speaking with the President. Seeing all these wonderful paintings and experiencing the history, and thinking of all the famous, incredibly powerful people that have been through that office.  It's very humbling. The President was kind and courteous to both of us and he also is a very keen golfer, so we spoke a lot about golf.  

I have been in touch with my assistant captains about how we're going to structure the week, the practice rounds and making sure that everyone's comfortable, the players' lounge area, the players' hotel, how are we going to do our dinners. We're just trying to keep it as low key as possible.

The uniforms are all done and the rain gear is completed. Now it's just choosing all of the gifts for the players and the wives. It's been a great experience for me so far and because of my injury, I'm happy that I've had all the time to make the decisions without having to make them quickly.

As far as my playing schedule goes, I’m taking it on a week-to-week basis, but I intend to play most tournaments on the Champions Tour, including this week’s Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.  Fred and Jay Haas and I are paired together, so that should be a lot of fun.

Until next time……

April 24, 2013

Greetings again from sunny Florida. With the first major championship of the year in the books, we can now look forward to THE PLAYERS Championship.

Obviously, the Masters was such a great week for the prospective members of the International Team with all the good performances, particularly with Adam winning, but also Jason Day playing really well, and it was nice to also see Angel Cabrera play so well. Angel is an explosive player, to say the least, although he hasn't recently featured on the Presidents Cup International standings. He's always a player you pay attention to, but his Masters performance certainly helped his chances of making the team. Angel is one of those guys who can bring a lot to the team room. Any player who can fire like he can, and play like he did down the stretch at Augusta National on a Sunday... like Adam and Jason also... well, there were very few mistakes and amongst the three of them. You could see they all really wanted to win. It wasn't a question of who was going to lose it or not, it was who was going to win... and that's the kind of attitude I look for as captain.

I've also been paying attention to Marc Leishman. He's been around that mid-teen number on the International Team standings for the whole of this year, and I've watched him play a little bit on television, but I haven't watched him in person. He's got a wonderful attitude. I really like how calm and relaxed he is. There's not very much at fault with his game. With a little more experience, he would have had a really good shot at the title on Sunday at the Masters.

Tim Clark has started to play so much better after his injury, and we saw him in the mix at Augusta National. He's a little bulldog. He's a tough competitor, and I'd love for him to be on the Team. Major championships are where the true form of players always comes out. The fact that we had several international players perform so well at the year's first major shows me that there is a lot of determination in the potential members of the Team.

My last meeting with prospective team members was at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral during the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, but since then I've been spending quite a bit of time down here in the West Palm Beach area with Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen. I've also spent some time with Branden Grace. We've been chatting a lot about Presidents Cup plans and sharing ideas.

My next trip is a visit to Muirfield Village Golf Club at the end of May for the Memorial Tournament. In the meantime, I'm starting to pay more attention to the Official World Golf Ranking and starting to look for players who make moves up the rankings week to week. This is the time when a guy who may not have been on my radar early in the year begins to play well. The next four or five months are going to be critical for who my picks are going to be.

I'm watching a little more television and checking the scores a bit more than usual. At the beginning of each week on PGATOUR.COM, I pull up all the potential team members and put them in my favorites, so as soon as I switch on the computer I can see how they are doing.

I was pleased to see Brendon de Jonge play well at the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters. I've known his dad since before Brendon was born, and I would be so happy for him to make the team. It would be a very proud moment for all of us Zimbabweans.

Until next time...

March 019, 2013

Hello from the International Team and from my home in Florida. I hope the weather is beginning to warm up wherever you are, and you are dusting off your clubs getting ready for summer. I've been in full-planning mode for The Presidents Cup since being named captain back in May, but we're definitely getting busier and busier as the months fly by. I'm pleased to take some time and give you an update on how things are coming together.

The biggest development is that we had our first official International Team meeting a few weeks ago at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. Doral is just a short drive from home for me, and it was a great opportunity to get together with the guys and spend some time talking about tactics and the competition itself. A total of 13 potential team members attended, and two of my captain's assistants were able to join me - Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone - so it was wonderful for them to be there and to spend time with a few of the guys they had never met before. Our week together in October is going to be intense to say the least, so I think it's important that we get to know each as much as possible before we get there.

You might be surprised to hear this, but Doral was my first opportunity to meet Jason Day and Marcus Fraser. I was very impressed with both young men. They're talented young players, of course, but will have a lot to offer in the team room as well. Both are within the top 15 of the standings and have a great chance of making the team.

Speaking of standings, I'm really starting to track the points more closely now - checking the world rankings and performances of potential team members on a weekly basis. It's interesting to note that Australians and South Africans are dominating the top 10. With two big tournaments on the horizon - the Masters and THE PLAYERS Championship - I expect to see a lot of movement over the next few months. This is always a fun time of year to watch golf, and that's even more true for me now as a captain.

As always, thanks for your support of The Presidents Cup. I look forward to sharing another update after THE PLAYERS, when I hope to be celebrating a few big wins by my soon-to-be International Team members.

Until next time....

January 30, 2013

Since being named captain of the International Team in May 2012, I’ve had a wonderful time orientating myself with all the duties that lie ahead. There is a substantial amount of work and preparation to be done, and I am very happy to get the chance to update you all and to let you know how plans are coming along for the International Team. Just remember when comparing my blogs to Fred’s – he’s had a few more years of practice than me, but never underestimate a rookie.

It’s been an exciting time since May and even though I’ve played in five Presidents Cups, I am, for the first time really enjoying being “behind” the scenes and seeing how much work is going on in order to get things ready. And time is flying! We will be at Opening Ceremony before you know it and there is a lot to be done.

There is a lot of work that goes into choosing the clothes for the event, with seven outfits for each day of the week and formal wear for the two ceremonies. Couple that with rain gear, hats, caps and other outer wear, it adds up to quite a few decisions. I took my first look at options before the holidays with the design team and am actually hoping to finalize things this week. Being more of a traditionalist, I’m sticking to classic styles and colours.

Of course, there’s more to being captain than shopping. The real heart of the matter is getting to know the guys and gathering their feedback on the competition and the team makeup. That gets more important as the summer goes on, of course, but I’m not wasting any time. In fact, I have my first “team-related” trip of the year in March; I’ll be spending a few days at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such an international field, so I have a great opportunity to see and chat with guys that I might not come across at a regular PGA TOUR event. I’ll have some good updates for you after that tournament, I’m sure.

In the meantime, thanks for your support of The Presidents Cup (and the International Team, of course!). It is such an honor serve as captain, and now that I have the opportunity, I am relishing each and every day. I look forward to sharing the journey with you over the next 10 months.

Until next time...

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