Justin Leonard is currently the man on the bubble for the United States squad. (Franklin/Getty Images)
Presidents Cup berths on the line at PGA Championship
As if the pressure at Hazeltine wasn't ratcheted up enough, the 10 automatic berths on the United States and International teams will be finalized on Sunday night and several players know their fate is in their hands.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
CHASKA, Minn. -- You can do the math. But we’ll give you the answer.
There are seven players who have a shot at playing their way onto the United States Presidents Cup Team this week at the 91st PGA Championship.
The top 10 players in the standings when the season’s final major concludes on Sunday automatically make the U.S. and International Teams for the matches that will be held Oct. 5-11 at Harding Park in San Francisco.
The U.S. Team is chosen on money accrued over the last two years with 2009 earnings doubled. The International Team standings are based on the Official World Golf Ranking and do not include players eligible for the European Ryder Cup team.
Justin Leonard is currently the man on the bubble with 8,362,967 points. The purse for the PGA hasn’t been announced yet but based on last year’s numbers, the winner would earn $1.35 million. So given that first prize, the champion – if he’s an American – would earn 2,700,000 Presidents Cup points.
Brian Gay, who is currently 11th in the standings, could potentially play his way into the top 10 with a finish of solo 15th or better on Sunday. Hunter Mahan and Lucas Glover, who rank Nos. 12 and 13, respectively, need to at least final fourth alone.
And Nick Watney, Jerry Kelly, Dustin Johnson and David Toms, who rank Nos. 14-17, would need to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday in order to automatically make the American team.
American captain Fred Couples and Greg Norman, who guides the International Team, will then complete their rosters with a pair of Captain’s Picks to be made on Sept. 8. Make no mistake, though – players want to take care of business themselves.
“I think you always want to take care of that on your own and not rely on a pick,” said Watney, who won the Buick Invitational earlier this year. “So if I can qualify that would be my way of choice to make the team.”
Watney has added motivation, too. He grew up in Dixon, Calif., which is located about an hour from San Francisco where he used to go watch the Giants and 49ers play when he was a kid.
“It’s definitely on my mind,” Watney said. “I would love to play, it’s close to home and with Fred Couples being the captain it would be quite an honor. The finish that I need to have, I can’t focus on it too much or else it can’t do me any good.”
Mahan, on the other hand, has never been to San Francisco in his life. He played on the 2008 Presidents Cup and 2009 Ryder Cup teams which has only increased his desire to make this year’s team.
“It’s very, very important to me,” Mahan said. “I’ve got business to do this week. … I can’t do much about it right now. All I can do is play well and make Fred take notice. Luckily I’ve been through it for the last two years. You’ve just got to go play golf.
“Your body of work is what it is. I feel lucky to have been on two teams already, so that kind of helps your psyche. I’ve got a little bit of experience in there. So I feel confident of what I can do right now. I just have to play this week and hopefully do something good.”
Glover, who won the U.S. Open at Bethpage, played on the 2007 Presidents Cup team. He narrowly missed making the 2006 Ryder Cup team, as well, finishing 14th and he learned the importance of not putting undue pressure on himself that year.
“Obviously, (I’m thinking about it) a lot,” Glover said. “That’s a goal every year. We’ve got a team every year now. … So obviously I’m just looking for a good week here and if not, I’ll try to play well the next few and give them something to think about.”
The Official World Golf Ranking is a complex animal so determining any potential movement in the International Team standings based on this week’s PGA is difficult, at best. Suffice it to say that players on the bubble simply know they need to perform.
Jeev Milka Singh currently stands 11th. Should he make the team, Singh would be the first player from India to play in the Presidents Cup. But he has only played three tournaments in the last three months due to a pulled intercostal muscle on his right side.
Singh returned to action last week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and finished 64th. Earlier this year at the CA Championship, the personable man from India posted his career-best on the PGA TOUR with a solo fourth.
“It means a lot to me to be a part of Presidents Cup,” said Singh, who played a practice round with Norman, one of his idols, at the Masters earlier this year. “But I’ve just come out of an injury. I’m just happy to be playing again. That’s the most important thing. …
“Obviously, it’s in my mind about the Presidents Cup. I am just going to try my luck out there and see what comes.”
That’s all any of them can do.