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Phil Mickelson, a veteran of all 11 Presidents Cups since the event’s inception in 1994, highlighted the four Captains' Picks announced Wednesday. Charley Hoffman, who missed qualifying on points by .173 of a point, was U.S. Captain Steve Stricker’s other pick.
International Team Captain Nick Price chose Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who also just missed qualifying for the team on points, and India’s Anirban Lahiri, who played for Price at the 2015 Cup in Korea but was 16th in points on the International table.
The Presidents Cup will be held at Liberty National in Jersey City, New Jersey, Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
“I played with Phil in a U.S. Open at Bethpage, and it’s incredible how much support he gets from those people,” Stricker said of New York area sports fans. “So hopefully he’ll use that to his advantage. He’ll be ready. He’s shown that over the years.”
Price said Grillo was a unanimous choice amongst the International team’s players, vice-captains and captain. Lahiri, meanwhile, got the nod partly because he’s a good influence in the team room and partly because he plays against the best in the world on a regular basis. He went 0-3-0 at the 2015 Presidents Cup, and has said he aims to redeem himself at Liberty National after missing a crucial putt on the last hole of his singles match in South Korea.
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“We looked at the guys, really, who are full-time on the U.S. [PGA] TOUR because there’s a certain comfort having played here,” Price said.
The U.S. Team won the 2015 Presidents Cup by a single point, 15 ½-14 ½, the closest result since the two teams tied in 2003.
No one’s comfort level matches that of Mickelson, 47, who is 23-16-12 in his Presidents Cup career. He has had 14 different partners for the Four-Ball and Foursomes matches, and most recently went 3-0-1 in Korea after getting a pick from then-U.S. captain Jay Haas.
Hoffman, 40, is a four-time TOUR winner but will be a Presidents Cup rookie. He has seven top-10s and is 12th in the FedExCup standings this season. “He’s got a lot of confidence,” Stricker said. “He’s knocked on the door a lot this year, he just hasn’t punched through it.”
Stricker and Price each went with one obvious pick and one not-so-obvious pick, but while Price’s easier pick was No. 11 Grillo, Stricker’s was No. 15 Mickelson.
A five-time major winner and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Mickelson was way down the list at 30th in the standings when Haas picked him in 2015. This time he was much closer to making the team on points. With Stricker having told him to “show me something,” Mickelson went into last week’s Dell Technologies Championship at 18th on the points list but tied for sixth at TPC Boston. It was his best result in 17 stroke-play starts in 2017, and also his fifth top-10 finish, bumping him up to 15th in the standings.
“I got reports from other players that it was the Phil of old,” Stricker said.
Hoffman was a mainstay on leaderboards all year, most prominently at the Masters.
Grillo birdied two of his last three holes to finish 22nd at TPC Boston, moving from 77th to 62nd in the FedExCup standings to book his trip to next week’s BMW Championship. Like U.S. Team members Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, Grillo is part of golf’s vaunted high school Class of 2011. He was also the 2016 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year.
Lahiri was the surprise of the four. Some expected Price to go with Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, who dispatched Jordan Spieth and others on his way to the semifinals of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play earlier this season. But Lahiri, too, is a global talent. He has 18 international victories, tied for second at the 2017 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, and finished T5 at the 2015 PGA Championship.
Captains’ Picks have historically played a key role in the outcome. Bill Haas, who was 11th on the points list when selected by his dad, Jay, scored the decisive point with his singles victory of Korea’s Sangmoon Bae two years ago. Mickelson ended that week with 3.5 points.
David Duval had the best performance by a U.S. captain’s pick, racking up four points for U.S. Captain Arnold Palmer in 1996. Mike Weir won 3.5 points for International Captain Gary Player at the 2007 Presidents Cup at The Royal Montreal in Quebec. U.S. Presidents Cup Captain Picks have an overall record of 40-40-14, while the International Team's selections have gone 35-55-5.
The U.S. has dominated the Presidents Cup, going 9-1-1.
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