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09/09/2015

How you view Jay Haas’s 2015 Presidents Cup captain’s picks depends on how you view the competition as a whole.

On one hand, sentimentality won out and the inclusion of Bill Haas and Phil Mickelson on the American side makes for a good story. The former will play for his father, the latter will continue a streak of playing in every Presidents Cup to date.

On the other hand, neither name offers much inspiration beyond warm fuzzy feelings. To his credit, Haas played well enough over the last two seasons to merit a selection on form alone. He finished just outside automatic qualification after posting a win and 10 top-10’s in 2014-15. His father could point to those results as justification for his familial selection. The younger Haas is also a veteran of two Presidents Cups.

Although, it should be said, not a very good one. Therein lies the issue in the father-son pick. Haas has posted a poor 3-5-2 record in tournaments the Americans have won 19-15 and 18.5-11.5 respectively.

Also of note: of the seven players who have played in the last two President Cups, Haas is the only one without a Ryder Cup appearance to his name. He ranks 53rd in scoring average this year, 160th in one-putt percentage, and 29th in greens-in-regulation. None of his skills stand out as advantages in the match-play format. Haas is a better-than-average player, maybe even a good player on his best days.

Ask yourself this, though—-had Chris Kirk, who’s won three times in the last two seasons, finished in 11th instead of 10th in the American Presidents Cup standings would he be strongly considered for a captain’s pick? Unlikely. Haas’s point total, on the other hand, fell some 286 behind the Georgia product, Kirk.

Meanwhile, long-bomber JB Holmes and the fiery Billy Horschel, like Haas a FedEx Cup Champion, were each within 144 points of Haas.

Either would have been a more exciting, and frankly, useful choice. Holmes’s driving ability makes him a force in match play and Horschel was a menace on the greens on his way to the 2014 Tour Championship.

Then there’s 25-year-old Brooks Koepka’s whose status on the European Tour a year ago robbed him of much-needed points. All Koepka did in 2015 was win once, finish top-10 eight times (including at both the British Open and PGA Championship) and miss just three cuts. He’ll be a stalwart in American golf for years to come along with contemporaries Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.

Which brings us back to Mickelson. The qualified players reportedly campaigned for Lefty to make the team. He remains popular with young and old golfers alike and, given his attendance record, is Mr. Presidents Cup. But at 45, Phil is clearly in decline. He hasn’t won since the 2013 Open Championship, nor has he been particularly close this season.

Phil has long been hailed as a nice guy, the approachable neighbor to Tiger’s intimidating figure. He also has a huge ego. Mickelson openly criticized 2014 Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson at the post-tournament press conference and lobbied for a change in leadership. The trouble is, he’d rather play than be a part of that leadership.

If his long goal is to improve the results of American golf, Mickelson should have offered to work as a vice captain in South Korea. Alas, he can’t unpick himself. Perhaps Mickelson will play as well if not better than a Koepka, Horschel, or Holmes for one more weekend. But that’s not the point. His selection seems ceremonial, as does Haas’s.

Maybe it’s just the Presidents Cup. So many are quick to dismiss the event as nothing more than an exhibition. Considering the United States holds a 9-1 record against the International Team suggests it’s more about worldwide reach rather than competition.

That very well could change this year. The International Team is loaded top to bottom— from Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman to Anirban Lahiri and Thongchai Jaidee. That roster epitomizes the sharp rise of international golf. It’s a lineup that should be taken seriously. Jay Haas should have taken note.

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