By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- How close was the race for the final spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team? Well, it came down to a putt on Zach Johnson's final hole of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday.
When No. 11 Steve Stricker finished second at TPC Boston, he moved into the seventh spot and qualified for his fifth Presidents Cup team. That left Webb Simpson, who ranked ninth at the start of the week, and Zach Johnson, who was No. 10, to battle it out for the final spot.
Johnson needed to earn $29,437 more than Simpson to earn the final spot. He had a a little more than $5,000 to spare when that closing birdie moved Johnson into an eight-way tie for 27th while Simpson, who had bogeyed two of his last four holes, finished in a four-way tie for 53rd.
When told that final birdie landed him in the top 10, Johnson was was surprised.
"If that's the case, I wish there were a way we could somehow be tied for 10th," he said. "Just because I want Webb on the team. I know how he plays."
As it happened, Johnson and Simpson started the final round tied for 56th and were playing together during the final round. Johnson said he thought about the irony of the situation at the start of the round but soon found himself concentrating on his own game.
"And then I made that putt on 9," Johnson said. "I didn't know what the point situation was, between he and I. Actually I thought he was at 8. I thought he jumped to eighth last week. But I guess you've got to go into it and just play.
"And I stayed in my process. I stayed just playing and hitting shots. I had a good day today. I missed some short putts, but I made some long putts. It was an odd day."
Simpson said he knew the two were extremely close in the Presidents Cup standings and that "every shot counted."
"It was hard not to think about it," Simpson said. "But, you know, with all the (weather) delays we've had, my mind's just kind of gone. But he played great. ... He's a great competitor."
Simpson, who played on the last Presidents Cup team in Australia, now must wait until Wednesday to see whether U.S. Captain Fred Couples makes him one of his two picks. He plans to go home to Charlotte, "shut the house down" and wait, adding that he knew Couples has a difficult choice.
"I'd love to make the team," Simpson said. "I'd love to be a pick. I thought about it the last two years, ever since we won in Australia. I'm trusting in the Lord and know that it's going to be a good off season, no matter what."
Both players advanced to the BMW Championship. And Johnson, who said he was "absolutely honored" to make the team, felt good about what he's accomplished in his last six starts that included a string of five straight top-eight finishes.
"And I don't like to be a proud-filled man, the last two and a half, three months I've turned my game around," Johnson said. "I've played consistent golf. I had a hiccup on Friday, bogeyed my last three out of four holes. And outside of that I don't even know. I don't know what I've done.
"Just a lot of solid, solid golf. And I think it just reaffirms what I'm doing. It reaffirms that I have a great team. Great leadership. Trust. I trust in the Lord in everything I do."