September 28, 2011
The beautiful thing about being a captain of a golf team playing in an international affair is that at the end of your day, it's your decision. You could pick your brother to represent your country if you really wanted, and being friends with certain guys in charge of teams is a good thing (just ask Tiger).
But on Tuesday, when Fred Couples made his Presidents Cup captain's picks, a little part of the competition lost. Why? Because there was a man, a kid, left off the team that played his way from unknown rookie to major champion in eight short months, and added another PGA Tour title to boot, but wasn't selected because Freddy has a good buddy that used to be the best player in the world.
Yes, Keegan Bradley should have got an invite to Australia. Not because he won a major, or because he has had one of the best years of anyone on the tour, but because he simply earned it himself. No help from anyone else. No prior resume. Just one of those great golf stories that made 2011 so interesting, and made the final major of the year so worthwhile.
Keegan was left off because of a few things, one being that he was a rookie, and wasn't able to earn Presidents Cup points a season ago because he wasn't playing on the PGA Tour then. The other was because in his last few starts since his major win, Keegan hasn't played the kind of golf you might expect from the PGA Championship winner. That criticism might be true, but it's far from fair. Just look at Haas if you need a refresher on how golf goes up and down for everyone. A month ago, he was missing the cut at the Wyndham before he went on a great run during the FedEx Cup playoffs, and a post-major hangover isn't exactly something we just made up (see Clarke, Darren).
The idea behind the Haas pick was fine. He earned his way onto the team by playing well at the end of the season, but I don't buy the momentum thing. If the Presidents Cup started tomorrow, I'd agree with it, but the thing isn't until the middle of November, or to put it in these terms, more time than that's passed since Keegan won his major. Also, let us not forget that both of Bradley's wins came in playoffs. Yes, the kid can handle the pressure.
The obvious elephant in the Presidential Cup room is Tiger and Fred. Both friends, Couples added Tiger weeks back by saying he'd go with Woods as one of his picks, logic be damned. Maybe Tiger will light it up in November, but what is telling us that's the case? He honestly hasn't had a good showing at any tournament since the last Presidents Cup, and you know how long ago that was.
Haas and Bradley both seem like stand-up guys. They both seem humbled by all the success, and are the type of Americans we should be rooting for as we search for LAT (life after Tiger). The problem is, Couples made it perfectly clear that he was sitting in the past while the golf world moved to the future.
It's just going to be a shame that the 2011 Rookie of the Year and potential (and likely) Player of the Year won't be making the trip with his American brethren. Maybe Couples really was just tossing darts at a random board.