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Presidents Cup teams finalised

Jack Nicklaus favoured experience and Gary Player form in deciding their captain's picks on Monday for this year's Presidents Cup team competition to be held in South Africa.

Nicklaus chose veteran pairing Fred Funk and Jay Haas as his wildcard selections for the U.S. team while Player went for South Korea's K.J. Choi and South African Tim Clark to round off his 12-man International line-up.

Funk and Choi were both next in line for selection according to the final Presidents Cup standings, but 49-year-old Haas and the rock-steady Clark were relative surprises chosen for their steadiness under pressure.

"I selected Jay for a couple of reasons," 18-times major winner Nicklaus said from Wisconsin in a teleconference call.

"Jay's had a wonderful year this year. He had a good PGA Championship and he's had a lot of international experience, at previous Presidents Cup and Ryder Cups.

"I feel his stability and steadiness will bring a lot to the team, especially on foreign soil."

Haas, who has played in two Ryder Cups and one Presidents Cup, tied for fifth at the U.S. PGA Championship on Sunday.

South African Player, widely regarded as the best exponent of bunker play in golfing history, plumped for his compatriot Clark after the 27-year-old finished third in the U.S. PGA Championship on Sunday.

"Tim finished 13th at the (U.S.) Masters championship earlier this year and he has won just under a million dollars on the U.S. Tour, the most difficult tour in the world," Player said from South Africa via the teleconference.

"His performance at the PGA Championship on Sunday was absolutely magnificent.

"Fancourt (where the fifth Presidents Cup will be held this November) could be windy and Tim hits it a long way off the tee and is a particularly good wind player."

Nine-times major winner Player added he was surprised Nicklaus had not opted for new U.S. PGA champion Shaun Micheel, and then decided to have a bit of fun at the expense of his long-time rival.

"I'd much rather have a 27-year-old playing for my money than a 50-year-old," said Player, comparing Clark to Haas, who turns 50 in December.

"What does that mean?" Nicklaus asked.

"It means, I'm pleased you picked the oldies," Player replied.

Nicklaus said his choice of the 47-year-old Funk, one of four rookies on the U.S. team, had give him particular pleasure.

"Freddie is probably one of the more enthusiastic guys I know on our tour," he said.

"Fred told me at the Memorial (tournament): 'I'd row a boat to play for you in South Africa'. He kept moving up on the list and he had a good PGA Championship (tying for seventh).

"He has not had international team competition, but I think his age and experience will add something to the team."

The two captains announced their wildcard picks during a teleconference, with the 10 automatic spots on each side determined after Sunday's U.S. PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

The U.S. line-up for the Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate in George comprises: world number one Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Chris DiMarco, Jerry Kelly, Charles Howell, Funk and Haas.

The International side is made of: Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir, Nick Price, Retief Goosen, Robert Allenby, Stephen Leaney, Peter Lonard, Adam Scott, Stuart Appleby, Choi and Clark.

The fifth edition of the biennial Presidents Cup, which pits a team from the U.S. against a 12-man line-up of international players from nations outside Europe, will be staged on the Links Course at Fancourt in George, South Africa from November 21-23.

Automatic U.S. team places were decided by the 10 players who had earned the most official PGA Tour money from the first tournament of 2001 until the end of the U.S. PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

Earnings in 2003, however, counted double.

Automatic International team places were decided by the 10 leading players in the official world rankings after the U.S. PGA Championship.


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