Making the case for Presidents Cup captains' picks

Phil Mickelson has played on every Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team since 1994. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The race for spots on the 2017 Presidents Cup teams began so long ago that the 2015 Presidents Cup still had yet to be played. In reality, it has been going on in earnest since March, when increases in FedEx Cup points -- for the U.S. team -- and world ranking points -- for the International squad -- kicked in at the World Golf Championship events and major championships.

Now that the 10 automatic spots are settled for the United States and International teams with the conclusion of the Dell Technologies Championship, the difficult task of naming the two at-large picks for respective captains Steve Stricker and Nick Price awaits Wednesday.

Then again, it might not be so difficult at all.

Both captains have some clear-cut choices in front of them, somewhat thanks to the fact that those vying for the last spots or looking to impress at the last minute did little to cause pause for either man.

Here is a rundown of what each captain has to consider.

United States

Stricker's task becomes much more difficult if for some reason he wants to be the captain who breaks Phil Mickelson's streak of playing on every U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team going back to 1994.

During all of that time, Mickelson needed a captain's pick only twice -- at the first President's Cup in 1994 and two years ago when the United States won in South Korea. And in 2015, Mickelson was further back in the points race than he is now and went 3-0-1.

With a tie for sixth at the Dell Technologies, Mickelson finally showed some form and is 15th in the standings. He is all but certain to be picked.

You can argue that the four players ahead of Mickelson -- Charley Hoffman, Brian Harman, Jason Dufner and Gary Woodland -- are more deserving based on performance.

Then again, these picks are not always about that. Mickelson, 47, is a big part of the behind-the-scenes Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup dynamic that he helped change in 2014.

And he will be part of it next year, too, in some form. Given the overlap now -- 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk is a Presidents Cup assistant this year; Tiger Woods, also part of the Ryder Cup Committee along with Mickelson, is also an assistant, as he was at the Ryder Cup -- you can see how Stricker might make room for the five-time major winner whose Presidents Cup record is 23-16-12 overall.

And don't forget the commercial aspect. The Presidents Cup is not the Ryder Cup, and a pick based on popularity can't be dismissed. Neither can the fact that Mickelson is hugely popular in New York -- the Sept. 28-Oct. 1 matches are being played at Liberty National in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The other contenders (based on where they finished on the official points list)

11. Hoffman. Seeing as he was edged out for an automatic spot by percentage points on Sunday by Kevin Chappell, Hoffman is a logical choice for one of the two picks. He's had six top-10s this season.

12. Harman. With no Mickelson in the mix, Harman would also be a good choice but he could be a hard-luck outsider this time. The runner-up at the U.S. Open and winner of the Wells Fargo, Harman has grit the U.S. team could use, but he has never played in a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup. He is ranked 28th in the world.

13. Dufner. The 2013 PGA Championship winner had a bit of a resurgence this year, winning at Memorial. He also has played on a Ryder Cup and a Presidents Cup team, going 3-1 at Medinah in 2012 and 3-1 at Muirfield Village in 2013.

14. Woodland. His only top-10 finish since March is a fourth at the Canadian Open.


Price's decision is not a simple one because none of the players outside the top 10 has done much to impress. And with an International team that typically lacks depth and experience, the decision is not any easier. Argentina's Emiliano Grillo did well enough at the Dell Technologies Championship to move into the 12th spot, and that might be enough to get a pick. Because Japan's Hideto Tanihara was 11th on the world ranking list, it might be a matter of going off the points for Price.

The contenders (based on where they finished on the official points list)

11. Grillo had two decent results in the playoffs to move into the 11th position and having some form is what Price might be looking for now. Another factor that could help: He is well acquainted with Americans Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger from their amateur days, and Price might want to put him against one of those players.

12. Tanihara. Ranked 55th in the world, Tanihara missed the cut in three major championships this year, but had top-5s at two key European Tour events and made it to the semifinals of the WGC-Match Play. Perhaps more important to Price? Having another Japanese player on the team for the comfort level of star Hideki Matsuyama.

13. Yuta Ikeda. Ranked 63rd in the world, Ikeda has spent most of his time on the Japan Tour, where he won a few weeks ago. But he missed the cut at the PGA Championship, The Open and the U.S. Open and it's hard to see him getting a pick over countryman Tanihara.

14. Haotong Li. The Chinese golfer finished third at The Open after spending most of his time this year on the European Tour. But he has played just twice since that finish, missing the cut at the PGA Championship and the Wyndham Championship.

15. Ben An. The 2009 U.S. Amateur champion, who played on the European Tour and the PGA Tour, did not help himself with missed cuts at the Wyndham Championship and Northern Trust in his past two starts.

16. Anirban Lahiri. The Indian golfer brings something the other competitors do not -- recent experience at the Presidents Cup. Lahiri played two years ago, although he went 0-3 in a close defeat. And he hasn't had a top-10 finish since tying for second at the Memorial.