Oosthuizen leads SA Presidents Cup challenge

Louis Oosthuizen_teamNEWLouis Oosthuizen was one of three South Africans who made it into the 2015 Presidents Cup team based on rankings when the first 10 players in the International Team and the US Team were revealed on Monday.

The other two South Africans are Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel, while New Zealand’s Danny Lee earned a return to his birthplace by qualifying with just a shot to spare.

Lee, who was born in South Korea, finished 10th in the International Team’s point standings. The top 10 players on the US and International points lists after the Deutsche Bank Championship earned automatic spots on their respective teams.

“Now I can die in peace,” joked Lee, who started the PGA Tourseason ranked 84th in the International Team standings. “I am very excited. Making the team has been my goal for this year; it was my biggest goal this year.”

Each captain will announce two Captain’s Picks on Tuesday. Those selections will be announced on a media teleconference.

The Presidents Cup will be conducted from October 8-11 at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

Chris Kirk hung on to the 10th spot in the US standings. Last year, Kirk was a controversial omission from the Ryder Cup team after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship. He didn’t have to worry about a captain’s pick when he left TPC Boston this time.

Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar also qualified for the US team.

The International Team also includes Jason Day, Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Grace, Marc Leishman, Anirban Lahiri, Schwartzel and Thongchai Jaidee. India (Lahiri) and Thailand (Jaidee) are represented in The Presidents Cup for the first time in event history. This year’s Presidents Cup will be the first contested in Asia.

No one moved inside the top 10 on either list on Monday, but that does not mean the race for roster spots was devoid of drama.

Lee, who was 10th in the International standings at the start of the week, looked like a lock when he started Monday’s final round in sixth place. He made just five pars in the final round, though, and shot 77. He played 14-16 in four-over to put his spot in jeopardy. Pars on the final two holes were good enough for Lee, winner of this year’s The Greenbrier Classic, to earn his spot.

Lee was 54th in the Official World Golf Ranking, which determines the International Team, after the Deutsche Bank. He was .0098 points ahead of Stephen Bowditch, who ranked 55th in the OWGR.

Australia’s Matt Jones made an 11th-hour bid to earn a roster spot. Jones, who was seeking his first Presidents Cup nod, needed to finish alone in third. He started the final round in third place, but shot 74. He played 10-12 in five over par, including two double-bogeys. He was one-under par the rest of the way, but finished four shots short of the mark.

Bowditch, who was edged out by Lee for the final automatic spot on the International team, is among the candidates for one of Nick Price’s two picks for the International Team. Bowditch won the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson. South Korea’s Byeong-Hun An, the son of table-tennis Olympians, will also wait to learn if he makes the team. An won this year’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. He finished 12th in the International Team standings

John Senden, who hasn’t had a top-10 on the PGA Tour since The Players Championship, finished 13th in the International standings.

Jones finished 14th after his T4 at Deutsche Bank. He also was the 36-hole leader at the PGA Championship before finishing 21st. Among other candidates for the final two picks is Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who won the European Tour’s Paul Lawrie Match Play and Shenzhen International in 2015. Aphibarnrat is nicknamed “Asia’s John Daly” for his long backswing and aggressive play. Price has said he is looking for players who make a lot of birdies.

George Coetzee, who finished seventh at the PGA Championship and 15th in the International Team standings, broke his ankle this week and is unable to compete.

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