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News and notes leading up to the Presidents Cup, which takes place Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J.
Phil Mickelson will no doubt one day oversee team picks for the Presidents Cup as a future captain.
It turns out he might get the chance this year – with U.S. Captain Steve Stricker revealing Mickelson may well be given the chance to pick himself, or perhaps rule himself out, for Team USA.
Mickelson has played on every Presidents Cup team since the tournaments inception in 1994 but barring a big two weeks to open the FedExCup Playoffs will likely need to receive one of Stricker’s two picks to continue the streak.
The 47-year-old veteran is sitting 18th on the U.S. standings but showed in 2015, when he was picked from 30th, that he can still add value to the team. He went 3-0-1 in Korea.
“I will probably leave it up to Phil at some point telling me if he thinks he can be ready to play, if he’s capable of helping out and then I’ll ask the rest of the team,” Stricker said.
“I know how important he is to the team. I have been on quite a few teams with Phil and I’ve seen what he brings to the team. I’ve seen how he helps these rookies who he continually plays with as partners and how he is in the team room after we’re done playing. He’s a vital guy for our team room. But ultimately you need to have him playing well.”
Stricker is hopeful Mickelson can fire in the FedExCup Playoffs, starting this week at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
The 42-time PGA TOUR winner’s last top 10 result was a ninth-place finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June and he hasn’t won since the 2013 Open Championship.
“I had a talk with him a couple of weeks ago at the WGC event in Akron and he very much wants to be a part of this team,” Striker added.
“I would love for him to be a part of this team but I don’t know if his game is in shape at this present time. He’s had a week off and hopefully he’s figured a few things out and can show some good form over these next couple of weeks.”
One player who would be in his corner is Jordan Spieth.
“He's very good at kind of figuring out, if players are up in the air about who they should play with, he's very good about feeling that out,” Spieth said.
“In the team room, he's as good as everybody. Just keeping it light, understanding kind of the mentality what to say, when to say it, to get everybody ready to go.”
Two-time PGA TOUR winner and 2015 International Team member Sang-moon Bae might be a late edition to the 2017 unit.
Having not played competitive golf since his home town effort in South Korea – right before he began mandatory military service – Bae may be called upon by International Captain Nick Price in a motivational role.
Now finished with his two-year stint as a rifleman in an Army infantry unit Bae could be the perfect man to pass on the emotion and passion of the Cup as he looks to return to the game.
Bae is slated to compete in the Shinhan Donghae Open on Sept. 14-17, a tournament co-sanctioned by the Korean PGA Tour and the Asian Tour.
“I wish he'd come over and spend the week here. I really do. I think if Si Woo Kim makes the team, it might be a great thing for him to be here just to help him a little bit with some of the emotion that he may go through,” Price said of Bae.
Bae would know better than most the pressure team golf can provide. In the final singles match against Bill Haas in Korea, Bae needed to win the hole to force a tie in the Cup. Faced with a chip just short of the green the local hero chunked the shot, allowing Haas to close out the match and the title.
“You want people who have that emotional response,” Price said of trying to motivate his team.
With a team based around multiple continents motivational speakers from other sports becomes difficult as while some nations in the International team worship rugby heroes, others prefer baseball, others ice hockey.
You just can’t bring in a Michael Jordan equivalent easily.
“You can't BS with emotion. I don't care how hard you try,” Price said.
“Some people are like, we've got to get this guy in here, that guy. It doesn't do anything like Adam Scott or Jason Day talking to the youngsters. That's the big thing.
“They're sitting there like this listening to a guy who they idolized for the last 10 years, and he's spreading his guts on the table and all his emotions on the table, saying, hey, this is an important thing. So that's the thing that gets the attention.”
Liberty National has been used on the PGA TOUR before but when the Presidents Cup comes to town there will be a noticeable difference.
The usual par-4 fifth hole will instead be the opening hole, allowing for the picturesque holes on the course to be utilized more efficiently.
With the New York skyline and Statue of Liberty a major factor in course views, particularly on the usual par 4-18th, moving the routing virtually ensures it is in play in all matches.
It will now play as the 14th hole with the original opening four holes now playing as the last four in the routing.
The result – a very tough opening tee shot to all matches.
The new first hole has water down the left side and out of bounds to the right with the tee box of course enveloped by what will be a raucous grandstand.
“It’s probably the toughest opening tee shot we’ve faced in any Presidents Cup probably,” Stricker said.
“It’s the most demanding at this course for sure.”
Rookie Justin Thomas spent time playing the course last weekend to get a feel for it.
“I kind of hope I'm not teeing off on it,” he joked.
“The first couple holes, I'm going to be so nervous, it's going to be hard to play. “We're going to be excited and ready to go. But I don't think any of us can really describe what we're going to feel on that first tee.”
Nick Price will lean heavily on his team when it comes to making his two captains picks in two weeks’ time and he’s not afraid to look way down the list of eligible players.
With the International Team picked based on world rankings, it can be hard to make significant moves without notching up a win. So, Price will play extra close attention to the opening two FedExCup Playoffs to find a player in form.
“I start looking at form now a little more carefully. The next couple of weeks is important because you want to have some kind of momentum going in to the event,” Price confirmed.
“A lot of pressure on the guys around the bubble but I’ll still look outside that number if he plays well the next couple of weeks he can certainly play his way into the team.”
Currently Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, Korean Ben An, China’s Hao Tong Li and Japan’s Yuta Ikeda are the first five names outside automatic selection.
But Anirban Lahiri (16th) and Danny Lee (19th) are under scrutiny given they were part of the 2015 squad.
Australian Cameron Smith (41st) is seen as the ultimate wild card but the young Aussie was part of the winning team with Jonas Blixt at the Zurich Classic, which played a foursomes and fourball format.
His win failed to officially help his chances of making the team as it didn’t carry world ranking points – had it done so he’d be sitting in the teens and more on the radar.
“If he plays well the next couple of weeks, we've got to look strongly at him,” Price confirmed.
“We are looking for team members. Guys who can be out there who can motivate the other players. Get them fired up. It is very hard to have guys that are quiet. It is great to have guys who are not scared to say how they feel.
“Practical jokers are also great moral for the team. But when push comes to shove we are looking at form. That’s the criteria. You have to have guys that are playing well.”
New York fans are known as some of the most vocal in the world but the International Team expects their fair share of love when competition gets underway.
While the cauldron will almost certainly favor the locals the multicultural nature of the area, plus the draw to visit New York, has Team International excited.
“All of us that have placed in front of the New York fans and New Jersey fans we know how vocal they can be but I think this area is also very cosmopolitan so I think we will have a lot of support out here,” captain Nick Price said.
“I think we will have more vocal support then we had in Korea. I think the guys will warm to it and accept the challenge.”
Assistant captain Geoff Ogilvy was hoping for plenty of tourists to also be ready to flood in and support the side.
“A lot of people that maybe have had the Presidents Cup on their bucket list for the last 10 or 15 years… New York, that's the one you go to,” he said.
“Especially at Liberty. I think we've got a chance that the crowd will be as balanced as we could have it in the U.S. So that will help. And it will just be great fun.”
The U.S. Team is set for at least a handful of Presidents Cup rookies with Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner and Brooks Koepka virtual locks and Charley Hoffman, Kevin Chappell and Brian Harman among those on or around the bubble.
But Jordan Spieth, who will be playing his third Presidents Cup, is far from concerned.
“Those guys in particular, aren't afraid of the big moments, and you've got an opportunity to play for your country, which creates a lot of big moments,” Spieth said.
“You feel kind of the pressure closer to a major championship than anywhere else. I think it's been extremely beneficial in how I've been able to play majors, is the way that just having the experience of the team events.”
Thomas, a recent major winner himself, can’t wait to join his first team. He sees the rookie roll call as an advantage – once they get past any first day nerves.
“We're hungry. We're excited to get out there. I know Berger is just so pumped up to go and play in a Presidents Cup,” Thomas said.
“At the same time, the experience, it probably speaks more, I would think, just the first couple holes, I'm sure we're going to be so nervous.
“But at the end of the day, we've had a lot of things happen to hopefully help us like the PGA for me and other guys winning other tournaments or majors.
“I'm so stoked. I'm beyond excited. Just the event that I've watched on TV for so many years, and watching the guys on the team get pumped up, just to be able not only to do that but to do it near New York and New Jersey, it's going to be nuts.”
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