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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Presidents Cup - Reaction to the picks

It's an impossible task. Nick Price and Jay Haas had to select two players out of a pool of highly qualified candidates to round out their respective Presidents Cup teams. No matter the selections, fans and media alike would scrutinize and criticize.

Let's join that parade and take a hard look at the decisions, both on the surface and a little below the crust.

Starting with Price, the man who announced first, I think he nailed it.

Steven Bowditch was so close to earning his spot that it would have been heartbreaking to see him miss out on his first Presidents Cup by such a narrow margin. He was a winner on the PGA TOUR in 2015 and is playing his best golf ever. He's also battled the demons of depression and been a success story for others that do. I'm not sure how that pick could be argued.

Sang-moon Bae, 20th on the points list, was also the right call. This reminds me of Mike Weir when he represented the Internationals when Canada hosted the event. And how did that turn out? Didn't Weir beat Tiger in Singles? Bae's pending military service in a couple of months adds to the story line.

The task Jay Haas faced was a bit taller and more complex.

Before we get into the picks of Bill Haas and Phil Mickelson, let's take a deeper look at Jay Haas.

Several things stand out about Jay.

  • He was and is extremely popular among his peers. Finding a player that has a bad thing to say about Jay is pretty much impossible. It's always been that way. He even had a groundswell of support for being a Ryder Cup captain despite never winning a major. 
  • This is his shot as a captain. Probably his only shot. While this isn't necessarily his legacy, it's part of it. Some of Davis Love III's legacy might be the 2016 Ryder cup, but that's not Jay's problem. That said, picking a young guy would probably benefit DL3 than Haas. 
Now for the picks.

When Haas said the words "Phil Mickelson", I was shocked. I thought Brooks Koepka and Bill Haas should have been the picks. Mickelson was 30th on the points list and hasn't done anything this year. But Jay's decision started to make sense as he explained it. 

It became clear that Haas not only talked to his vice captains, but also most (if not all) the members of the team for input. If the overwhelming answer was "we want Phil", as it seems to have been, then this decision starts to make some sense. If the 10 players already on the team wanted to go to battle with Phil by their side, then what message would the captain have sent to the troops to go against the team's wishes?

Now for Bill.

Ask yourself this. If Fred Couples was the captain this year and Jay Haas wasn't in the mix, would anyone really argue with Couples taking Bill Haas as the 11th man on the points list and with a win this season? A veteran of two Presidents Cups with performances a little better than his record would indicate? Of course not.

Many captains, including Jack Nicklaus on multiple occasions, have made it the standard to take the first man out in the Presidents Cup. It's actually an exception when it doesn't happen for the Yanks. 

That should be enough to close the case. If Bill sat 14th on the list and was selected, then there would be more to this. As it played out, this was not a controversial pick. 

I think Bill made a great point in the 24 hours leading up to the picks. I'm summarizing, but he said it wouldn't be fair to him to be overlooked by his father specifically because his father is the captain. 

I actually found myself in a similar situation once. 

I grew up loving baseball. I would play all day every day if I could. When I got to high school, my father happened to be my high school principal. It also just so happened that the head varsity and J.V. baseball coaches used to coach football with my father before he went into administration. They both had known me since birth. 

Wonder how long vice captains DL3 and Freddie Couples have known Billy Haas?

Back to the story.

One day at lunch, just before tryouts started, the head J.V. coach came and got me and took me outside and we sat down on some stairs. He informed me that my dad just had a meeting with both of the coaches and told them that, if it was close, they were to cut me to avoid the look of impropriety. 

I was immediately crushed, because I knew I would be on the bubble in a best-case scenario. I felt I could hold my own, but at a big school it would be hard for me to stand out. 

To my relief, the coach then told me that the two of them had talked after the meeting with my father and basically said "screw him." 

I was very proud to wear the uniform I'd dreamed of wearing a few weeks later. 

Just like Bill Haas has played golf for years with the guys on this years Presidents Cup roster and has played with many of those that were just left off, I had played with most of the guys I was trying out against and that ended up being my teammates for years as well. I've heard nothing but support for the Bill pick from players that didn't make the team, and I never caught any grief from anyone at my high school either. 

Do some members of the media or some fans not like that the father picked his son? Probably, but who cares. Last time I checked, none of them are hitting any shots in Korea, and those that are are on board with it. Did a parent somewhere feel like I shouldn't have worn a high school baseball uniform and that their son should have? Probably, but I never sensed it from any of the other kids that weren't on the team or those that were. I don't think it cost us any games. 

While my father and I are now fine, I'd be willing to bet that the Haas family vacation is going a little smoother than the remainder of my freshman year of high school went back home. 

Haters will hate and debaters will debate. From my seat, I agree completely with what Nick Price did and can't take issue with the calls of Jay Haas. 

See you next week with a BMW Championship preview!

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