Keegan Bradley wins the Byron Nelson Championship in May in a playoff with a gutsy finish, and then wins the PGA Championship in August in a playoff with an even gutsier finish … and he’s not on the United States team for the Presidents Cup?
Two wins, including a major, and he’s on the outside looking in. What’s wrong with this picture?
The PGA Tour needs to take another look at its selection process for the Presidents Cup squad. It doesn’t need to be a very hard look, either. The perfect blueprint is already out there. Paul Azinger designed it when he served as America’s Ryder Cup captain in 2008.
One reason the Americans were getting whipped in the Ryder Cup was that the lineup featured players who weren’t playing well by the time the team was chosen. That was because the selection process was based on a two-year points system.
Meanwhile, the Europeans used a system that was much more current, based only on that year’s money list. (Although it was ultimately amended to include selections based on world rankings, since a number of European players were competing on the U.S. tour instead of in Europe.)
In short, Europe was picking hotter players. Let’s face it: what you did at the end of 2009 has almost no bearing on how you’re playing in September of 2011, but those 2009 events are factored into the American Presidents Cup points system. That’s how Bradley, with two wins in 2011, didn’t make this team while Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan, who didn’t win in 2011, did. (As for Tiger Woods being a wild-card pick by captain Fred Couples, well, that’s an entirely different controversy.)
U.S. players began earning points for the Presidents Cup team with the start of the 2009 Wyndham Championship. Events at the end of ’09 and all through 2010 were worth one point for each $1 earned, while the 2011 earnings were doubled.
Furyk actually had one of his worst seasons by his lofty standards. No wins, no top-five finishes. He was sixth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied for ninth three times. But he had three wins in 2010, including the Tour Championship. Anybody remember his wins last year at Innisbrook in March or Harbour Town in April? Didn’t think so. Based on the points system, those two wins 18 months ago are equal to one win in 2011. Those ancient wins enabled Furyk to finish 10th in President Cup points despite finishing 52nd on this year’s money list.
Tiger Woods ranked 29th on the two-year points system but was 115th on this year’s money list. That’s a big disparity.
The Presidents Cup points system needs to get more current. Azinger changed the Ryder Cup points from two years to one, although he did count the previous year’s majors for points, and the current year’s majors counted double. The Presidents Cup simply uses the money list, giving no extra weight to the majors.
Why not use the 2011 money list alone? Azinger changed the Ryder Cup format so he got four captain’s picks instead of two, but with a more current format, two picks would still be good enough for the less-prestigious Presidents Cup.
What difference would this year’s money list make in the team lineup? Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas would’ve made the team on points instead of Mahan, Furyk and Bubba Watson. Couples then would’ve had to choose between Mahan and Watson for his second wild-card pick to go with Tiger.
Not a huge difference, but at least the team chosen by this method has the PGA Championship winner on it. It makes more sense and it makes for a better, more competitive team. Azinger proved it.
Here’s what the U.S. team would look like under my proposed system. The first number is the player’s rank on the PGA Tour money list. (Actual Presidents Cup points rank in parentheses.)
10 American qualifiers based on 2011 PGA Tour money list
2 Webb Simpson (4)
3 Nick Watney (5)
5 Dustin Johnson (3)
6 Matt Kuchar (1)
7 Bill Haas (12)
8 Steve Stricker (2)
10 David Toms (8)
12 Phil Mickelson (6)
13 Keegan Bradley (20)
14 Brandt Snedeker (11)
15 Hunter Mahan (9)
16 Bubba Watson (7)
33 Rickie Fowler (15)
52 Jim Furyk (10)
115 Tiger Woods (29)