Fred Couples was under the gun prior to making his selections for the Presidents Cup.
The captain of the U.S. team had two picks to make, and one of them had to be Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old phenom who has taken the golf world by storm with his performance in the 2013 season.
A year ago, Spieth was a college player at the University of Texas. He made the decision to turn pro, and he has been spectacular.
If Couples had not selected Spieth, he would not have been able to explain the pick away. He would have been open to criticism that he did not want to face.
Couples had left Keegan Bradley off the 2011 Presidents Cup team, and he said that he came to regret the decision. He wasn't going to leave off the hot, young player this time.
Couples' other selection was Webb Simpson, who was 3-0 in his Presidents Cup competition in August in 2011. Simpson was edged out for an original position by Zach Johnson.
Nick Price, the captain of the International team, named Australia's Marc Leishman and Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe as the final two members of his team.
Here's our grades of the captains' picks from both teams.
Jordan Spieth and Webb Simpson
Spieth has been a spectacular performer on the tour and has rarely shown any of the nerves that can impact young golfers who have just joined the tour.
Spieth became the first teenager to win on the tour when he won the John Deere Classic in July. He turned 20 shortly after that victory, and he did not suffer any letdown. Since then, Spieth finished second in the Wyndham Championship and fourth in last week's Deutsche Bank Championship.
He climbed to that position with a final round of 62, which was four strokes better than any other golfer in the field on that day.
Spieth has played in 21 events this year, and he has made the cut in 16 of them. The most impressive aspect of his season may be his consistency. He has eight top-10 finishes this year.
This is why @JordanSpieth is ideal for Prez Cup: “I love feeling the nerves. I love the adrenaline rush. That’s what it’s all about.”— Adam Schupak (@GolfweekSchupak) September 4, 2013
Simpson has long been a Fred Couples favorite and was in the 10th position prior to the final results of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Simpson moved down to the No. 11 spot as Zach Johnson moved up, so it was a fairly easy decision to select Simpson, who Couples admitted to Golf Channel is one of his "favorite players."
While Couples made Spieth and Simpson happy, he did not do the same for Jim Furyk. Other players who were left off include Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson.
Couples admitted he had not called Furyk and had merely texted him to let him know of the decision. "I couldn't handle it," Couples admitted, which may not be the best way for a captain to behave.
Couples' Grade: A. It took guts to select a 20-year-old phenom. The selection of Spieth was the only tough decision, and while it may not make Furyk, Watson or Johnson happy, it was the right one to make for U.S. golf.
Marc Leishman and Brendon de Jonge
Price's selection of Marc Leishman appears to be a solid one. Leishman made a big impression during the Masters when he was in contention up until the final holes.
Leishman finished fourth in the Masters, and he followed up that performance by finishing ninth at the RBC Heritage and eighth at the Players Championship.
Playing well in three straight high-profile events opened up eyes in the golfing community, and that helped Price make his decision. He also told Golf Channel that he was impressed by Leishman's ability to hit the ball for distance, which he says will be a big factor at Muirfield.
However, the numbers don't necessarily bear out Leishman's reputation as a big hitter. Leishman is averaging 287.7 yards per drive, a figure that ranks 97th on the tour.
Brendon de Jonge got the nod for the final spot over South Africa's Tim Clark, and Price said the decision was the most difficult one he had ever made in golf.
De Jonge has not had a spectacular season—he has just four top-10 finishes in 28 events played—but he has gained a lot of experience playing against the best golfers in the world. Price also cited de Jonge's distance and said that may have been the key reason that Clark was not selected.
De Jonge is averaging 287.4 yards off the tee, and that ranks 101st on the tour. He also failed to make the cut at the Memorial, which is also played at Muirfield.
Clark has three top-10 finishes in 20 events this year. His best event was a second-place finish in the season-opening Sony Open in Hawaii. Clark is not a big hitter, averaging 273.9 yards per drive and ranking 181st in that category.
Price's Grade: C+. No argument with the selection of Leishman, but Price's decision to pick his countryman Brandon de Jonge is questionable. He has not enjoyed a stellar year, and it seems that the selection of a player like Clark or Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee would have made more sense for the International team.
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