Should Tiger add Phil to the US Presidents Cup team?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Tiger Woods has to select four players to add to the US Presidents Cup team by November 4th. Phil Mickelson has played in 24 straight Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups but his play of late has been less than inspiring. Should Woods add Lefty to the team anyway for his acknowledged leadership and chemistry in the team room?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): At what point does a Captain say, “hey, you’re an all-time great for sure, but you haven’t qualified on recent merit, and it’s my job to put forward the best team I can.”   And, it goes without saying, “to spare you the possible embarrassment of getting your butt whipped, old man.”  I’m not saying that’s what Tiger should do, but it’s what he could do. Unfortunately, given the checkered history of Tiger-Phil relations, any omission of Phil by Tiger will be whipped up by the golf media as proof that Tiger hates the guy.   So, there’s more than “normal” pressure for Tiger to pick him.  I don’t know if he does hate Phil or not, but it would actually be prudent to give him a spot on the team, for the sake of harmony and all that.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I think Woods could add Mickelson but use him properly and limit his exposure to play, meaning sparing play for teams and just the one match in singles. Give the Internationals a chance already, and at the same time throw a bone to Mr. Calves Mickelson. This exhibition has been too lopsided, and you need some controversy to keep the interest. If not Mickelson, then I hope woods picks himself or Reed to spice things up! Mickelson would be good in the room though, on the course, well that’s a mixed bag of who knows what, which is what we’ve always liked from Mickelson anyway.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I wish these teams were either 100% selected by the Captain or 0%. Mickelson has not earned his way onto the team with his current level of play. Some believe in patronage appointments. I don’t! Why not appoint Fred Couples for ‘locker room’ camaraderie? Everyone likes him. Remember, whenever you appoint a player outside of the top 12 points earners who deprive a person who has played the best and has EARNED their way onto the team.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): He absolutely should not select Lefty. With the exception of a few creative rescue shots, Mickelson has been atrocious so far in the 2019/20 season. He missed the cut at the Safeway Open and then finished 61st overall at the Shriners the week after. Not so good. Tiger can choose from a considerable amount of young American talent help bolster his squad. At this point, Phil would best serve the US squad as a vice captain.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Eldrick will probably pull an Inkster and not pick Phil to deny him his 25th, just as she left Cristie Kerr off the Solheim team. Anyway, there are so many American players more deserving based on their play over the past two years, and they are so good, they don’t need counsel from The Thrill. But an assistant captain nod would work.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): No. Phil isn’t on form right now and Tiger has a better option for veteran leadership – himself, if he so chooses. Let Phil’s streak end now.

Eight players automatically qualified for the US team (Koepka, D. Johnson, Kuchar, Thomas, Cantlay, Schauffele, Simpson and DeChambeau), leaving Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed as the next four. Woods himself is #13 with Mickelson at 16, Kevin Na at 22 and Jordan Spieth at 27.  Who does Woods add to the team?

Deeks: I’m a believer that the next four on the list should be pretty automatic choices, too.  If I was Tiger, though, and I wanted to do a favour to the world of golf, I’d tell Patrick Reed that his past antics as a team player have been less than exemplary, and therefore, Patsy boy, you’re not being invited to play on MY squad.  Then I’d pick Phil, and all would be well with the world.  (BTW, too bad Spieth’s not a lock… I’ll miss him in the competition.)

Loughry: If its not clear yet, Reed is a distraction (so is his wife) to the team as a whole, so I’d drop him like a bad habit if I was truly the captain. And for interest sake, I’d like to see Tiger bet on and award himself that final spot IF he’s healthy. And, if not Woods, then I’d take Mickelson over those left. All I know is that for the first time in a long time, I’m REALLY interested to see how this plays out and who woods selects.

Schurman: Finau, Fowler, Reed and Woodland. They EARNED it! They deserve it! As much respect as I have Wood’s game and accomplishments, I’m not a fan. If he appoints himself as a Playing Captain, he makes a mockery out of the entire Points System. He isn’t 12th! He is 13th!

Kaplan: I’d take each of Finau, Woodland, and Fowler, and leave Reed off of the roster in favour of Jordan Spieth. Despite his past heroics at the Ryder Cup, Captain America has shown that his presence can have just as negative an effect on team morale and chemistry as a positive one. After the drubbing the Americans took last year at the Ryder Cup, Woods would be foolish to leave that to chance.

Quinn: As long as he’s not one of them, any other picks are fine. Difficult to care less about this faux Cup, but once it gets underway, I’ll probably manage to.

Mumford: Generally speaking, I like the idea of adding the next four players on the Presidents Cup points list. They’ve earned it. However, a captain also has to consider what each of the four add to the team and if those selections fill any glaring voids or add some lustre to potential pairings. Woodland has no international team experience. He won the US Open, then disappeared. Reed is a bulldog, but he’s also a cancer on this team. So, both are vulnerable. If Spieth or Na can set the world on fire over the next three weeks, then Tiger has a tough decision to make. Na is just about the hottest player on Tour right now and Spieth and Justin Thomas made some magic in the pairs last year in Paris. Plus, he’s Jordan Spieth. I think Tiger goes with Finau, Fowler, Na and Spieth.

The PGA Tour leaves the North American continent for the next three weeks with big money events in Korea, Japan and China that will attract many of the world’s top ranked players. Twenty-five years ago, Greg Norman proposed a World Tour that would include the majors and at least a dozen international tournaments. At the time, commissioner Tim Finchem shot down the concept but soon after responded with the WGC events. Finchem was more concerned with losing control but now it looks like one of the aspects of a World Tour is playing out. Elite players from all Tours are chasing after big purses no matter where, and the so-called regular events are finding it more difficult to attract top talent. Is Norman’s concept finally coming to fruition?

Deeks: I think Norman’s concept was co-opted at the time by Finchem (as suggested in the preamble). I happened to have some dealings with Norman around that time, and he was NOT a happy boy… either with Finchem or with Jerry Tarde of Golf Digest, who wrote a scathing editorial about Norman and his ego and global pretensions.  But Norman had a realistic vision… that professional golf was becoming more and more of a global game, and that fans around the world would flock to see it, driving up purses and making the best players phenomenally rich.  He was right, except it’s all happened under Finchem’s terms.

Loughry: World Tour you say? The PGA Tour doesn’t do a good job for in person global exposure to their fans worldwide. The European Tour on the other hand does a fantastic job and I think its that Tour which is pushing the PGA Tour to do more. WGC events in which 90% of them are played on US soil is laughable to call WGC, all that refers to is the international flavour to the field, not where the venue is. I think Norman’s vision is closer to what the European Tour is delivering. Seriously compare maps of counties/continents played on and you tell me who’s doing a better job of global exposure to their players and brand. European Tour > PGA Tour (no contest).

Schurman: This is a moot point! By the time a USPGA TOUR player plays in 4 major championships, 4 WGC events, the Memorial, the Arnold Palmer, the Players. 3 play-off events, either the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup plus the mandatory “one new event every four years” they have reached the minimum obligation of 15 tournaments required. Considering business obligations whereby players are required to play in events sponsored by their own sponsors, personal choice events and special events endorsed by fellow PGA TOUR members a player is already teeing up in 20 to 25 tournaments. Add on international events with huge purses and guaranteed appearance money and you begin to realize how valuable the entry of a top player is to any regular tour event.

Kaplan: To an extent, I guess. It’s telling that these events, with the exception of the WGCs, fall into the autumn sections of the PGA Tour season and lack any real significance, importance, or draw other than the large purses offered. I don’t see that changing going forward nor do I see talks of an all-encompassing World Tour regaining momentum due to the sponsorship and television deals already in place on the PGA Tour. But I really would like to see the PGA Tour’s rotation of courses during the heart of the season expanding to include more countries outside of the US. There are some great courses and countless PGA Tour fans around the world that the circuit would benefit from including into its operations.

Quinn: At least in the court of public opinion, Norman won the case for flagrant intellectual property theft. His World Tour is unfolding as he suggested it should, except for the players not having control. If it was Norman’s Tour, the players would very likely have much more input into a decision to play in China given the current factious political and human rights climate.

Mumford: Norman’s concept has been evolving for decades. Just ask the tournament director of a second-tier tournament how hard it is to attract anybody in the World Top 20. Both the European Tour and PGA Tour have minimums that their members have to meet but it’s not terribly onerous when you add four majors, four WGC’s, the Players and three FedEx Cup events. That leaves a lot of weeks to chase big money all over the world. I expect to see more of these elite events scheduled into the January-August period, eventually setting up a showdown between the PGA Tour and the players. It’s already happened several times starting with Palmer and Nicklaus. Ultimately, money talks and the players follow.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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