Monday Backspin: Spieth makes Presidents Cup picks tough for Couples

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September 03, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

NORTON, Mass. -- Has anyone in golf played better over the last two months than Henrik Stenson?

The answer is no -- but Jordan Spieth hasn’t been too far behind.

The 20-year-old Texan has had a meteoric rise this year, becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to go from no status on any tour all the way to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in the same season.

At No. 10 in the FedExCup standings, he has almost as good a chance as anyone to win the FedExCup, but the more pressing topic is whether Spieth will be a Captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup team. We’ll find out on Wednesday when Fred Couples makes his announcement.

There’s a lot to take into consideration and Couples isn’t exactly known for coloring outside the lines on these things. But Spieth, 22nd in the standings and with a number of veterans ahead of him, has certainly performed well enough to garner serious consideration.

In 21 starts this season, Spieth has won once, finished second twice and racked up five other top 10s, including one on Monday after a final-round 62 at the Deutsche Bank Championship to tie for fourth.

Over his last six starts, Spieth has finished in the top four three times.

He also has plenty of experience in match-play having twice won the U.S. Junior Amateur, a national championship in college and played on the Walker Cup team.

Spieth isn’t one to lobby for a spot, but he’s certainly pleased with the way he is playing at the moment.

“It would be the greatest honor I've ever had as a golfer,” he told me. “I think that I've played really good golf compared to what -- really playing good enough golf is kind of a relative term. I'm doing the right things. I'm accomplishing what I want to accomplish at the start of each round.

“Whether that's as good or good enough for (Couples’) choice is just his decision. It's not my call. I love the format and I've always loved watching all Presidents Cups and Ryder Cup teams. It's my favorite event to watch; that and the Masters.”

What did Couples have to say when asked about Spieth on Monday night?

“I’m going to sleep on it,” he said. “The last time this happened was at the TOUR Championship and Bill Haas won, he won the FedExCup, and Keegan (Bradley) played very well in that, also. I chose Bill and left Keegan (who had won the PGA Champonship) off the team.

“Jordan, knowing what he had to do, really played very solid, birdieing the last three holes on Saturday to turn a bad round into an OK round and going out (Monday) and shooting the low score by three or four strokes was a remarkable score.”

Was it remarkable enough? We’ll see.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“I could describe it, but nobody is going to understand that.” -- Phil Mickelson describing his incredibly good flop shot to inside 3 feet from a patch of clumpy rough during Saturday’s second round at TPC Boston.

"My brother is very good at math and he said you have to finish top 24 ... I trust him ..." -- Martin Kaymer on what he needed to advance to the BMW Championship. He tied for 47th and fell to 90th in the FedExCup standings and out of the Playoffs.

"He’s hoping to come. He’s kind of a fish out of water in the cold weather. It’s going to be really cute!” -- Lindsey Vonn on whether boyfriend Tiger Woods will attend the Winter Olympics in Russia. Vonn skied over the weekend for the first time since tearing her ACL in a crash in February.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@GrahamDeLaet: Presidents Cup, Tour Championship, the beard is coming in fairly hot!! #fearthebeard -- Just a hunch, but I don’t think DeLaet is shaving that beard anytime soon.

@ArronOberholser: Are you kidding me?! The Pittsburgh kickers last name is Blewitt! That's just cruel. … @jjhenrygolf: Jack Nicklaus grandson just scored another TD! Only 16 more to tie grandad's major record! #collegefootball -- This is what happens when golf season meets the start of football season.

@kateupton: Had an amazing golf lesson today #arnoldpalmer @golfdgestmag -- Supermodel Kate Upton after spending the day with Arnold Palmer. Earlier this year she visited him during his tournament at Bay Hill.

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Here’s one more argument for Spieth to be on the Presidents Cup team: He has been clutch when he has had to be. In his win at the John Deere Classic, he started the final round six shots off the lead but birdied five of his last six holes to force a playoff. That of course included holing out a bunker shot for birdie on the 72nd hole. In his playoff loss at the Wyndham Championship, Spieth sank a 26-foot putt on the first extra hole to extend it another hole before Patrick Reed won with a birdie. Then came his performance at TPC Boston.

2. The tournament that Stenson took the most out of and really got confidence from was The Open Championship. Though he finished second, three shots back of Phil Mickelson, Stenson played well enough to win. Mickelson just happened to play what he would later call the round of his life. Still, Stenson didn’t rest on the results. He felt like there was still room for improvement, specifically in his short game. “When you're that close to winning a major championship and still feeling like you've got a spare gear when everything is working, then that's exciting,” he said. Enter the 17th hole Sunday. Nursing a two-shot lead and with Steve Stricker looking at an eagle putt a hole ahead of him, all Stenson did was pitch-in for birdie from a greenside bunker.

3. At 41st in the FedExCup standings, Rory McIlroy has some work to do if he’s going to make it back to East Lake. Going into the Deutsche Bank Championship, he figured he needed a pair of top-17 finishes, or a top 4. After a tie for 47th, though, the hill is steep now and time short. McIlroy’s biggest problem these days? He’s getting way too sloppy and making what he has called “stupid little mental errors.” Those little errors have added up to some big numbers with McIlroy making 16 double bogeys (or worse) over his last 18 rounds, including four of them over four days at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

4. The only rookies who remain in the FedExCup Playoffs: Spieth and Russell Henley, who are eighth and 24th, respectively, in the standings. One rookie has made it to East Lake each of the last five years of the Playoffs, but never two in the same season.

5. Can you recall the last time Tiger Woods played in a tournament and was a complete non-factor or story on the weekend? I can’t. “It wasn't my week,” he said after failing to break par in three of his four rounds at a place he previously had just once finished outside the top 11 at. “I didn't play well and didn't make anything.”

6. Who is Nick Price leaning toward for his Presidents Cup Captain’s picks? “I think I’m down to five, maybe six guys at the most,” he said Monday night. “There’s a lot of variables.” Mostly that he has four rookies among those who have already qualified. In other words, Price could be looking to add some experience. That said, he was also impressed with Marc Leishman and added that Tim Clark, who is 11th in the standings and missed the cut at TPC Boston, “probably lost a couple positions, or at least a position.” Added price: “To be honest, I'm going to be looking at the guys who are in form harder than the other guys.”

7. Stat of the Week I: .467 points. That was the difference between Ernie Els and Ryan Palmer in the FedExCup standings after the dust settled at TPC Boston. Els nabbed the 70th spot to advance to the BMW Championship, while Palmer is going home.

8. Stat of the Week II: Seven players who started the week outside the top 70 in the FedExCup standings moved inside the number by Monday night, led by Kevin Stadler. His tie for fourth moved him from 75th to 32nd. Others who advanced included Brian Davs, Ian Poulter, Marc Leishman, Nicholas Thompson, Brendan Steele and of course Els.

9. Stat of the Week III: Stenson’s 22-under 262 total tied the tournament scoring record for the Deutsche Bank Championship -- though we should remember that lift, clean and place was also in effect for the last two rounds at TPC Boston.

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
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Who gets the last two spots today for the U.S. Presidents Cup team? -- Dennis Kiley

Can Jordan Spieth make the Presidents Cup team? -- Tim Bowers

As I said earlier, Spieth’s play has certainly been good enough to warrant a spot. Whether he gets one or not, we’ll see. The decision won’t be easy for Couples, though, with Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk, who has been on every U.S. team since 1997, all ranked ahead of Spieth in the standings. If you include Spieth in that equation, that’s four players for two spots, and as Couples sad Sunday night, Spieth has a 50-50 chance. I don’t really like those odds.

Who has the better short game, Tiger or Phil? -- Drew Baker

Both can be great, though neither was this past week at TPC Boston save for a round or so. As a whole, though, they are pretty similar, at least statistically with Mickelson ranking second in putting and 83rd in scrambling and Woods 11th and 73rd, respectively.

In my opinion they should have threesomes and split tees every day and every week on TOUR, except Sundays of majors. -- John Chota

Not to speak for anyone, but you’d probably be in the minority with that one, John. Officials had to do it at TPC Boston because of the weather. It also wouldn’t make for a very good television product with everyone done so early.

Have a question for the mailbag? Email it brianwacker@pgatourhq.com, or tweet it to @pgatour_brianw

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE NEXT WEEK

There’s a break in the FedExCup Playoffs with no event this week before the remaining 70 head to the BMW Championship at Conway Farms just north of Chicago. It’s the first time the event is being played there, so some players will be arriving a little earlier than normal. One player who won’t need to: Luke Donald. Conway Farms is his home club and he was part of the push to bring the event to the course. Though he has only four top 10s this season, and none since mid-June, I think Donald finds his way into contention there

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