Tough to leave Clark, Furyk off teams

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Tim Clark (left) and Jim Furyk have played on multiple Presidents Cup teams but they won't be at Muirfield Village.
September 04, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

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International Team captain Nick Price called Tim Clark this week to tell the South African that he wasn't going to be one of this year's Captain's Picks at The Presidents Cup.

Given that Clark offered much-needed experience -- having played in three previous Presidents Cups -- and has never lost a four-ball match in six attempts, the call was not an easy one for Price.

"Probably the hardest phone call I've ever had to make," Price said.

Price's counterpart, U.S. captain Fred Couples, also had to make a difficult phone call. So difficult, in fact, Couples actually couldn't make the call.

He had to tell Jim Furyk, who has represented the U.S. in every Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup since 1997, that his streak was over. Couples sent a text to Furyk on Tuesday night but had not spoken to him before the Captain's picks were announced Wednesday afternoon.

"I took the easy way out and sent him a text," said Couples, who was planning to call Furyk after the announcement was made. "I just felt like it was just a spot that was unfortunate for him not to be chosen."

While the focus Wednesday was on the players who did fill out the rosters for the two teams that will compete the first week of October at Muirfield Village -- Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth for the U.S.; Marc Leishman and Brendon de Jonge for the International team -- both captains also explained why they had to leave off some of the more experienced players.

Nobody on the U.S. team had more experience than Furyk. And two years ago, nobody on the U.S. team played better than Furyk, who was 5-0 in his matches at Royal Melbourne to lead the Americans to a 19-15 win.

But Couples opted for the 20-year-old Spieth instead of the 43-year-old Furyk, despite his career success at Muirfield Village. Furyk won the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance in 2002 and has five other top-10 finishes.

"Whatever you say right now, whatever I say, is not a slight on Jim Furyk," Couples said. "He just didn't make it. He's been on every team that I've ever been on, and I wanted him on the team badly.

"But in this instance, I just felt like Jordan Spieth has had an unbelievable year and he's going to be the next Jim Furyk. He's going to be on Ryder Cup teams and Presidents Cup teams forever."

Spieth ranked 22nd in Presidents Cup points to Furyk's 13th. Of course, Spieth accumulated his total points in one year to Furyk's two years. Less than two months ago, Spieth won the John Deere Classic at age 19, and he has eight top 10s in 21 starts in his rookie season on the PGA TOUR.

"It's Jordan Spieth's time," Couples said. "I feel like Jim Furyk is a man; he understands it. It's no fun for him. It certainly isn't any fun for me. But really, today is about Webb and Jordan."

Price said his decision to select de Jonge over Clark came down to which player was a better fit at Muirfield Village. De Jonge, who is from Price's home country of Zimbabwe, is longer off the tee than Clark; in fact, his average driving distance this year is 15 yards longer.

"(Clark's) lack of length off the tee at Muirfield really was probably one of the deciding factors," Price said. " ... It would have been very difficult to pair him with someone with a distinct lack of distance off the tee."

Unlike Furyk, Clark does not have much of a track record at Muirfield Village. He's played the Memorial five times, with his best finish a tie for 16th in 2002. His last start at the Memorial was 2010 when he finished tied for 68th.

"Muirfield Village is a specialist golf course, and I think both Marc and Brendon both cut the ball, both fade the ball and hit the ball pretty far," Price said. "That was sort of one of the factors. ...

"We can debate amongst the three guys from here until eternity as to what you think and who you feel would be best, but you know, I had to make the decision yesterday. I really think that out of the three guys, Brendon and Marc would probably end up playing Muirfield better than Tim does."