"Norman picks Ishikawa, Scott; Glover, Mahan get nod from Couples"

The most exciting thing about the press conference? Counting the empty seats.

Sheesh, how about some seat fillers next time, Ty? Or maybe having this at a location where the golf media might actually be present, like the third largest market in the country, Chicago?

Either way, you have to love Captain Norman picking Adam Scott.

Norman, Couples announce captains’ picks for The Presidents Cup 2009

Norman picks Ishikawa, Scott; Glover, Mahan get nod from Couples


WASHINGTON, D.C.        September 8, 2009

Exactly one month from the start of competition at The Presidents Cup 2009, the final four players for the event were determined as International Team Captain Greg Norman and U.S. Team Captain Fred Couples each announced their captains’ picks. At a press conference today at the National Press Club, prior to a personal visit with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Norman chose Australia’s Adam Scott and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, and Couples selected Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan.  With these picks, each team has exactly 32 previous Presidents Cup appearances amongst its members.

        The Presidents Cup returns to U.S. soil and will be contested on the West Coast for the first time, October 6-11 at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco, Calif.

International Team Captain’s Picks

The top-10 international players (excluding those eligible for the European Ryder Cup Team) from the Official World Golf Ranking after the conclusion of the PGA Championship (Aug. 17) automatically qualified for the International Team.  Scott was 14th in the International Team standings and Ishikawa was 20th when the PGA Championship ended. Ishikawa won two days ago on the Japan PGA Tour when he captured the Fujisankei Classic.    Using the current Official World Golf Ranking, Ishikawa would be ranked No. 13 for the International Team and Scott would be No. 16.  

        At the age of 17 years, 11 months and 20 days, Ishikawa’s win on Sunday was his third on the Japan Golf Tour this season, vaulting him to No. 47 in the Official World Golf Ranking and making him the youngest player ever to reach the top 50 in the World Ranking (a record previously held by Rory McIlroy).  Ishikawa is also now top of the Japan Golf Tour Money List and is the leading Japan golfer in the World Ranking, having overtaken Shingo Katayama.

        Ishikawa’s other wins on the Japan Golf Tour in 2009 came at the Gateway to the Open Mizuno Open Yomiuri Classic in June and the Sun Chlorella Classic in August.  Now a five-time winner, the Saitama-born teenager won his Japan Golf Tour debut as an amateur in May 2007, when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup at the age of 15 years, 8 months. Ishikawa turned professional in 2008 and captured his second Japan Golf Tour title at the Mmynavi ABC Championship.

        Ishikawa, who turns 18 on Sept. 17, joins five past President Cup participants who were named captain’s selections after finishing 20th or lower in the standings, although this is the first time in The Presidents Cup history that there has been a break between the top-10 players making the team and the captains’ picks: Tsukasa Watanabe (20th, 1994 International Team); Fulton Allem (22nd, 1994 International Team); Paul Azinger (24th, 2000 U.S. Team); Trevor Immelman (22nd, 2005 International Team); and Mike Weir (20th, 2007 International Team). 
 
          While Ishikawa will be making his Presidents Cup debut along with “rookies” Camilo Villegas and Y.E. Yang, Scott heads to Harding Park Golf Course with three past International Team appearances under his belt (2003, 2005, 2007).  Scott, a six-time PGA TOUR winner with eight more wins worldwide, has scored eight points for the International Team in his career (7-6-2) and joins Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby as the three Australian representatives on Norman’s squad.  

        Scott’s last victory was the 2008 EDS Byron Nelson Championship, and he has posted two top-25 finishes on the PGA TOUR this season, including a T2 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.  He was T4 at the Barclays Scottish Open in July on the European Tour.

U.S. Team Captain’s Picks

The top-10 U.S. players who earned the most official PGA TOUR money from the 2007 Wyndham Championship through the 2009 PGA Championship (with money earned in 2009 counting as double) automatically made the U.S. Team.  Glover and Mahan are captain’s picks for the second consecutive Presidents Cup.  In 2007, Glover was  10th going into the PGA Championship, but was knocked down to 11th after Woody Austin’s second-place finish at the season’s final major vaulted him from 18th to 10th in the standings for the U.S. Team.  Mahan finished 14th in the standings in 2007.  

        This year, Glover, the U.S. Open champion, finished No. 11 in the U.S. Team standings after the PGA Championship, and Mahan occupied position No. 13

        In addition to his breakthrough major championship victory at Bethpage State Park in June, Glover has four other top-five finishes on his 2009 resume, including a solo fifth at the PGA Championship. Glover is currently ranked No. 14 in the FedExCup standings and leads the TOUR in total driving and total birdies (341).  The U.S. Open was Glover’s second PGA TOUR win, following his victory at the 2005 FUNAI Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort.

        A model of consistency throughout the 2009 season, Mahan is making his second consecutive appearance in The Presidents Cup.  He has made 21-of-22 cuts on the year and notched six top 10s, highlighted by a solo second at the AT&T National in July and a T4 at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational last month.  Mahan is ranked No. 21 in the FedExCup standings.  He’s T4 in PGA TOUR scoring average (69.56) and T4 in total birdies (330).  Mahan’s lone PGA TOUR victory came at the 2007 Travelers Championship.

Obama Accepts President's Cup Honorary Chairmanship

This is going to really make some of golf's hecklers squirm, as Ron Sirak notes. The question is, will he make an appearance?

Don't take this news lightly. The decision by the Obama Administration to have the President serve as honorary chair was not a cavalier conclusion. The consequences were considered, and the consensus clearly was that it is fine for Obama to be associated with golf.

"I wouldn't say there were lengthy discussions, but it took a little while because he has never done anything like this since he's been elected," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem told GolfDigest.com. "It had to go through a lot of reviews." What it means is that the myth of the elitist boondoggle label has been exposed as exactly that -- a myth.

"This is very positive for the game of golf, not just for the Presidents Cup," Finchem said. "What this says for him to give the Presidents Cup this kind of recognition is that he has a positive attitude about the game, is a supporter of golf and understands the charitable and other contributions it makes. We could have seven-and-a-half more years of a fan of golf in the White House."

The full release:

President Barack Obama to be Honorary Chairman of The Presidents Cup 2009
President Obama is eighth world leader to serve as honorary chairman in event’s history

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL June 1, 2009

President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, has accepted an invitation to be Honorary Chairman of The Presidents Cup when the competition is played for the first time on the West Coast, at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco, Calif., Oct. 6-11, 2009.

“We are honored that President Obama has accepted our invitation to be Honorary Chairman of The Presidents Cup in October,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “As the eighth head of state to serve in this role, President Obama continues a long-tradition of support and leadership dating back to the first Presidents Cup in 1994. His involvement will not only further enhance the stature of The Presidents Cup, but also that of golf on a global basis.”

President Obama joins a distinguished group of seven world leaders who have held the position of Honorary Chairman at The Presidents Cup. He is preceded by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was Honorary Chairman of the 2007 event in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

President Gerald Ford was the Honorary Chairman at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994 and was followed by President George H.W. Bush in 1996. Australian Prime Minister John Howard was Honorary Chairman in 1998 when the event was held in Melbourne, Australia, and was followed by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa, was Honorary Chairman in 2003 when The Presidents Cup was staged in Western Cape Province, South Africa. President George W. Bush was the most recent U.S. President to serve as Honorary Chairman, holding that position the last time the event was staged on U.S. soil, in 2005.

The Presidents Cup, a team match play competition featuring 24 of the world’s top golfers – 12 from the United States and 12 from around the world, excluding Europe – is held every two years, and since 1996 has alternated between United States and international venues. The Presidents Cup was developed to give the world’s best non-European players an opportunity to compete in international team match-play competition. The U.S. Team has won five of the seven previous Presidents Cups, and the only outright win by the International Team came at the 1998 event in Melbourne. The 2003 Presidents Cup ended in a tie.

More than $4.2 million was distributed to charitable causes from the 2007 Presidents Cup, a record for this prestigious competition and part of the nearly $18 million raised since the inception of the event. Players are not personally paid for their participation in the event; there is no purse or prize money. Each competitor, instead, designates charities or golf-related projects of his choice to receive a portion of the funds raised through the staging of each Presidents Cup.

Meanwhile, back down the 17th, the tortoise backed off a chip so often you felt your life flashing before you, before eventually knocking it close.

"I throw this stuff out there to get Tim Finchem a little bit worried."

Mark Soltau chats with Fred Couples about the President's Cup and other matters. Here's something you don't hear everyday:

Golf Digest: You won a million dollars this year and cracked the Top 125 on the money list, all before your recent 49th birthday. You have to feel pretty good about that?

Couples: I do. I have one goal for next year -- I've got to get into the Top 50 in the world rankings. That's the only way I can get into the Chevron World Challenge. It would take an unbelievable year.

And...

GD: Do you have a backup for Robin Williams?

Couples: Apparently, he lives five minutes from Harding Park, which I had no idea. What we're hoping he will do is come into the player's lounge one night. I didn't know he does a golf skit, which I hear is unbelievable. He's my favorite comedian. I throw this stuff out there to get Tim Finchem a little bit worried. I like to keep the PGA Tour on their toes. Hopefully, Robin will come and give us a little skit one night.

Re-routing Harding?!

The PGA Tour re-routed Robert Trent Jones Golf Club to accomodate luxury boxes but I don't recall it really helping, yet they've done the same with Harding Park for the President's Cup as Ron Kroichick reports:

PGA Tour officials plan only one physical change to the course for next year's event: They will build a new tee on what the public knows as No. 9 (it will be No. 18 for the Presidents Cup), stretching it to 535 yards. That hole will play as a par-5 next October; it played as a par-4 (at less than 500 yards) for the American Express Championship in 2005.

Tour officials also will "re-route" the course, so the customary closing holes - Nos. 16, 17 and 18 - will become Nos. 13, 14 and 15. (This makes it more likely matches will reach those holes.) The holes that are normally Nos. 1, 7 and 9 will become Nos. 16, 17 and 18, respectively.

Those new finishers may be the least interesting holes on the course. Something to not look forward to.

Atonement 2: Greg and Tim

img10669693.jpgWhen they say these international golf team competitions bring the world together, they aren't kidding. Just look what happened Tuesday in Palm Beach. Steve Elling analyzes the Finchem-Norman fence mending...

For the first time in years, their situation was mutually beneficial. Norman, who rarely plays in tournaments anymore, has transitioned nicely into the corporate game. He's the head of equipment maker MacGregor, has established a reputation as a course architect and forged his own line of clothing and table wine. By merely writing the aforementioned sentence, we have helped ensure that Norman will profit by virtue of the exposure the cup captaincy will serve to increase.

As a captain of industry already, he said he has come to appreciate the dissenting viewpoint.

"I think it's healthy in a lot of ways," the Shark said. "I don't want everybody to be a yes man or a bobblehead. You've got to be able to sit there and express your differences."
Ah, Jack Welch would be proud of that answer. 
Well, they got the "sitting there" part accomplished Tuesday, though neither looked particularly comfy. You can bet the world tour was not broached.
Finchem insisted that the tour has dealt with Norman for years on a variety of issues, always on a professional basis. If there's a rift, it's nothing that has permanently stained the relationship.

"Here's the reality," Finchem said. "They don't see that Greg designed three different golf courses we're playing tournaments on, he chairs the environmental institute that we're very supportive of, that he's one of our host (staging) organizations on the tour -- people don't see all that.

No, not when you two get in yelling matches and Greg seems to keep missing Champions Tour events. 
"The fact that, as he said, he's been critical a few times in the past, and I don't have a problem with that. Some of the criticism is justified. I think it's all overblown."

Perhaps so, but partly because whenever the world tour issue is broached, Norman radiates heat like Skylab, right before it crashed into Australia.

"I have also complimented Tim over the years for what he has done for the game of golf, the stimulus he has done with prize money," Norman said. "It's not like I am anti-everything he has done. It's just that there have been things I have been very vocal about."

Not anti-everything! Just some of his most important initiatives.

Freddie Serves Up Jordan As Possible Assistant; Norman Returns With Chrissy?

Gosh this is going to be so much more fun that Jack and Gary. From the 2009 Presidents Cup introductory news conference:

Q. For both captains, have you given any thought to who your assistants will be, and what would you be looking for from those guys?

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: I'll answer --

CAPTAIN FRED COUPLES: I'll --

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: Go ahead, Freddie.

CAPTAIN FRED COUPLES: No, Greg, you first. (Laughter)

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: I have put a lot of thought to it and I haven't come up with a decision yet. It's a lot more of an interesting task for me because of the base that I've got to go through, whether it's Australia or whether it's South Africa or whether it's from Japan and other countries that have participated to some degree in The Presidents Cup. So my task is going to be a tough one. I've got a lot of friends out there on an international basis who have played the game of golf, and spend a lot of time with me personally. So it's an interesting choice for me. I haven't made mine yet.

CAPTAIN FRED COUPLES: Well, for me, I'm sure I've talked to a few writers and given them some names before, and I do have a player in mind, a great, great friend, and I just haven't talked to him about it much.

But you know, I've mentioned Michael Jordan as an assistant, assistant, assistant. Lately I've mentioned Robin Williams and the reason I say that is as Greg mentioned earlier, we're not on any teams when you're in the locker room. And you have people come in when you're in the team room, I think, first of all, I love Michael Jordan, I've been around him. He does some things in Santa Barbara. A lot of our players know him. He's at these events. So that's why I bring his name up because as a team player, there's no one any better. And I think that's what's the fun part.

Now the challenging part is when you're sitting around and you've got nothing but time, I would like a guy like Robin Williams there to keep us loose, and that's why I say that. Whether they are there or not, I don't know, but I do have a great friend in mine mind to play as my teammate and hopefully pick some good guys and get some good pairings. (Laughter).

CAPTAIN GREG NORMAN: Boy, Freddie, you just threw it wide open for me right there. I've got the whole world to go to. You've just got the United States.
I listened to the exchange and it was at that point that Norman mentioned his bride, Chrissy. Or am I hearing things?