Last chance for Cup hopefuls
Players heading for the US PGA this week know this is their last chance to qualify for the Presidents Cup.
Fred Couples plays the 90th major championship of his career at Hazeltine this week – but it will be unlike any of the previous 89.
Couples is captain of the American Presidents Cup team and this is the final qualifying event for October’s match at Harding Park in San Francisco.
Opposite number Greg Norman will also know who are the first 10 members of
his International side – the Rest of the World minus Europe – on Sunday evening.
Unlike Couples, the 54-year-old Australian sits out the final major of the season and will watch events unfold knowing that he cannot influence them.
Europe’s contingent could have a say, however, in who makes the two line-ups, as was illustrated by Padraig Harrington’s triple bogey eight in Akron on Sunday.
The main consequence of that 16th hole calamity, of course, was that Tiger Woods won and Harrington didn’t, but it also brought Robert Allenby into a share of second place.
And as a result of the world ranking points the Australian earned, he moved up from 11th to eighth in the International team standings, knocking Indian Jeev Milkha Singh out of an automatic spot.
Allenby has missed the last two Presidents Cup matches and admits he enjoyed himself fishing instead.
“I thought maybe it’s not important, but I think this time around maybe it is because Greg Norman is the captain,” he said after moving up from 42nd to 30th in the rankings.
“More importantly, I want to play my way onto the team. I didn’t want to be relying on a pick, so I guess I had a lot of determination this week.”
Singh will doubtless have the same determination at Hazeltine as he tries to become the first Indian to play in the match, but his chances were dealt a big blow this summer.
The 37-year-old suffered a rib muscle injury in finishing fifth at the European Open in May and although he managed to come sixth in the following week’s Wales Open the problem then worsened.
He missed the cut in the US Open, French Open and Scottish Open, pulled out of The Open and did not return until last week’s world championship, where he finished 64th out of 80.
The other two players Allenby moved past were South Africans Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini.
It looked set to be the week when Clark would seal his cup spot when he ended his third round in third place, but then came a two-stroke penalty for not moving his ball-marker back on the 16th green and he dropped to 29th with a closing 74.
Clark’s ball was in the line of playing partner Harrington, so he moved the marker one clubhead away and forgot to replace it.
“It is an unfortunate situation,” he said. “Padraig asked me to move my ball on the last hole and it got me thinking that I may have forgotten to move it back on the 16th.”
Television footage was looked at Clark accepted the penalty.
“I’m sure it’ll come back to him tenfold – that’s the gentleman’s game we deal with,” said rules official Slugger White.
Clark added: “The good thing about it is that I called it on myself. That sort of saved some integrity for me – that is about the only good thing that I can take out of the situation.”
With 100 world ranking points on offer to the winner this week he is still under threat at ninth place in the table.
As for the American team, the names at the top are the ones you would expect to see, but US Open champion Lucas Glover is down in 13th spot.
Their qualifying system is based on money earned and only a top two finish on Sunday could get Glover past 10th-placed Justin Leonard – and that is assuming Leonard misses the cut.
Couples and Norman are both waiting until September 8 to name their two wild cards, but as things stand Glover and Hunter Mahan, fourth at the weekend and unbeaten on his Ryder Cup debut last year, look the likeliest United States picks.
Norman could have a much longer short list, but last year’s Masters champion Trevor Immelman is back playing after a wrist injury – he missed both the US Open and Open – and if Adam Scott can show his slump is over they might be the favourites.
Team standings (top 10 qualify, plus two wild cards):
1 Tiger Woods 22,573,993, 2 Phil Mickelson 14,518,646, 3 Steve Stricker 12,893,476, 4 Kenny Perry 12,816,325, 5 Zach Johnson 10,008,249, 6 Stewart Cink 9,606,346, 7 Sean O’Hair 9,306,490, 8 Jim Furyk 8,815,824, 9 Anthony Kim 8,472,332, 10 Justin Leonard 8,362,967, 11 Brian Gay 8,130,967, 12 Hunter Mahan 7,580,481, 13 Lucas Glover 7,559,988, 14 Nick Watney 6,608,365, 15 Jerry Kelly 6,287,197
1 Geoff Ogilvy 5.64pts, 2 Vijay Singh 4.82, 3 Camilo Villegas 4.54, 4 Retief Goosen 4.21, 5 Ernie Els 3.55, 6 Angel Cabrera 3.47, 7 Mike Weir 3.46, 8 Robert Allenby 3.21, 9 Tim Clark 2.95, 10 Rory Sabbatini 2.68, 11 Jeev Milkha Singh 2.57, 12 Shingo Katayama 2.50, 13 Adam Scott 2.45, 14 Matthew Goggin 2.34, 15 Thongchai Jaidee 2.24
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