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Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Good call on picking Jordan Spieth

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

Fred Couples made amends for leaving Keegan Bradley off his 2011 Presidents Cup team by taking Jordan Spieth with one of his two captain's picks on Wednesday.

With wins at the Byron Nelson and the PGA Championship, Bradley should have made the team that went to Australia in 2011, but Couples instead picked Bill Haas and Tiger Woods.

Spieth, a popular 20-year-old Dallas native who owns a win and seven other top-10s in 2013, left no doubt on Monday with a 62 in the final round at Deutsche Bank. He finished tied for fourth and proved that he wanted to be a part of the team that would face the Internationals at Muirfield Village on Oct. 3 in Dublin, Ohio.

"We have a great team, but to pick Jordan I think was the right move, and Jordan has had an incredible year with really only one crack at [earning points] this year," Couples said.

With his other selection, Couples chose Webb Simpson, who made the team off the strength of his victory at the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Couples could have easily picked Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson.

Furyk has a 10-6-2 record in seven Presidents Cups. He's won the Memorial, annually held at Muirfield Village. And since missing the cut at the Open Championship in July, the 43-year-old former U.S. Open champion has had four top-10s in his last five events, including a second at the PGA Championship.

Jordan Spieth
In 2013 on the PGA Tour, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth ranks third in the overall ranking behind Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.

In the absence of a special story like Spieth, a young man who started the season with no status on any major tour, Furyk would have been almost a shoo-in for his eighth trip to these biennial matches.

Still, Furyk has a right to be disappointed at not making the team. He has played in every international match play competition for the U.S. since the 1997 Ryder Cup.

If Couples opted for Furyk over Spieth it could have been viewed as the safe pick. But with a team of eight veterans, Couples could afford to take a risk.

Though in many ways, Spieth is not a risk. What does an American side that is 7-1-1 in these matches have to lose? If the Americans are victimized in any way by Spieth's presence on the team, giving the Internationals a much-needed victory, it could point to the salvation of these beleaguered matches that have failed to reach the international and beloved stature of the Ryder Cup. But one player cant win or lose the cup over three days.

With his great length off the tee, Johnson would have been an asset to almost any partnership at the 7,300-yard Muirfield Village course. At Royal Melbourne in 2011, Johnson tied for the worst record on the team at 1-3-1, but he went 3-0 in the Ryder Cup last year at Medinah.

With Simpson, Couples had to consider the ramifications of leaving a recent major champion off the team. The 28-year-old Raleigh, N.C., native had been in the top 10 of the standings all year until this past Monday when Zach Johnson bumped him out with a birdie on his 72nd hole. But Simpson hasn't had a top 10 since the Travelers Championship in June, one of just four for him on the year.

What has he done lately? The Olympic Club is old news.

Nick Price, the International team captain, took Marc Leishman and his fellow Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge with his two picks. Price left Tim Clark off the team because he felt the short hitting (273.9 driving distance average) 37-year-old South African would be hard to pair with other players on the long Muirfield Village course.

On the flip side, Price could have taken Clark based on his 70 percent driving accuracy, which is ranked fourth on tour.

Yet stats, age and experience never tell the whole picture. Spieth is the game's best story of the year. And Couples was smart not to write a negative chapter in that book. That's good for the game and the Presidents Cup.