NORTON, Mass. – Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson delivered vital performances in different ways Monday to earn their spots on the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup.
Jordan Spieth, a 20-year-old rookie, might have done the same.
Fred Couples will make his two captain's picks on Wednesday, and it was clear that Spieth got his attention with a 9-under 62 in the Deutsche Bank Championship. It was by four shots the best score of the final round on the TPC Boston.
"Jordan, knowing what he had to do, really played very solid," Couples said Monday. "He's got a 50-50 chance. He showed a lot of character."
Stricker wasn't sure he deserved a captain's pick because of his limited playing schedule, so he came to the Deutsche Bank Championship wanting to make the team on his own. He nearly wound up winning, closing with a 67 to finish two shots behind Henrik Stenson. The runner-up finish moved him from No. 11 to No. 7 in the final standings.
That left Johnson and Webb Simpson battling for the 10th and final spot, and it took on even greater drama when they were in the same group. Johnson needed to earn about $29,000 more than Simpson to move ahead of him, and it didn't look promising when they were tied with four holes to play.
Simpson made bogey on No. 6. Johnson made birdie on No. 7. Simpson made bogey on No. 8.
That still wasn't enough. Johnson needed one more birdie to get the money he needed, and the former Masters champion poured in a 25-footer on the final hole to do it.
Even though he didn't know what was at stake.
"I guess you've got to go into it and just play," Johnson said. "And I stayed in the process."
The American team consists of Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Stricker, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan and Johnson. Couples said his two picks would come from four players: Simpson, Spieth, Dustin Johnson or Jim Furyk, who has been on every U.S. team since 1997.
He did not include former Masters champion Bubba Watson.
The International team had no movement, although Marc Leishman of Australia made his case as a captain's pick for Nick Price.
The 10 who qualified based on their world ranking were Adam Scott and Jason Day of Australia; Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Richard Sterne of South Africa; Hideki Matsuyama of Japan; Graham DeLaet of Canada; and Angel Cabrera of Argentina.
The Presidents Cup is Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield Village in Ohio.
Price will have four players who have never competed in a Presidents Cup.
"What they lack in experience, I think they'll make up for in energy," Price said.
The International team has only won this event one time since it began in 1994 – in 1998 at Royal Melbourne. The Americans lead the series, 7-1-1.
Spieth felt like the Deutsche Bank was one final chance to audition for Couples. He finished 22nd in the standings, but unlike the other players, he only had a chance to earn points in one year.
"In my mind, the only way to make a statement was play great golf the last few weeks," Spieth said. "And I feel really solid about today's round, going forward into the next event. And whatever happens on Wednesday happens on Wednesday. I'm very, very happy with today and that's kind of what's on my mind right now."
Couples sounded as though he were leaning toward Simpson as one of his picks.
Simpson played for him at Royal Melbourne two years ago, and he played in the Ryder Cup a year ago at Medinah. Couples said Simpson was in the top 10 in the Presidents Cup standings for all but the final putt of the final tournament.
"A guy birdies the last two holes to push him out. How do you not pick him?" Couples said. "It will be a tough decision."