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Captains make President's Cup wild card picks

Jack Nicklaus favoured experience and Gary Player form in deciding their captain's picks on Monday for next month's Presidents Cup team competition.

U.S. captain Nicklaus chose veteran pairing Justin Leonard and Fred Couples as his wildcard selections while Player went for Australia's Peter Lonard and South African Trevor Immelman to round off his 12-man International line-up.

Leonard and Lonard were next in line for selection according to the final Presidents Cup standings but 45-year-old Couples and the talented Immelman were relative surprises chosen for their consistency in this year's majors.

"Freddy has had a wonderful year and, with his experience, it was difficult to leave him out of my team," 18-times major winner Nicklaus said from Florida in a teleconference call.

"Although he finished 17th in the Cup standings, he is the eighth highest American in the world rankings. Along with Justin, he had the best collective record of the Americans in the majors this year, outside of Tiger."

Couples, the 1992 U.S. Masters champion, is a veteran of three Presidents Cups and five Ryder Cups.

"Justin was my first pick, after finishing 11th in the standings, and he has won twice on the PGA Tour this season," Nicklaus said of the 33-year-old Texan, the 1997 British Open champion.

Player, widely regarded as the best exponent of bunker play in golfing history, plumped for fellow South African Immelman because of the 25-year-old's major performances this season.

"He is truly an international player, a great shot-maker and an extremely focused young man," Player said from Florida via the teleconference.

"He is a very good team member and has played exceptionally well in the major championships this year."

Immelman, a lowly 22nd in the Cup standings, tied for fifth at the U.S. Masters, shared 15th at the British Open and tied for 17th in the weather-delayed U.S. PGA Championship at Baltusrol on Monday.

"Peter Lonard has won three tournaments this past year so it was pretty easy to pick him," added nine-times major winner Player.

"He has been very consistent and played on my team two years ago. I love his aggression when he plays golf."

The two captains announced their wildcard picks with the 10 automatic spots on each side having been determined after the U.S. PGA Championship.

The sixth edition of the biennial Presidents Cup, which pits a U.S. team against a line-up of international players from nations outside Europe, will be played at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas, Virginia from September 23-25.

The Internationals are without world number four Ernie Els, who is out of action for the rest of the year after suffering a knee injury on a sailing holiday in the Mediterranean last month.

"You can't replace a man of Ernie's ability," said Player. "That was a tremendous setback for our team and could make a big difference.

"But the show goes on and I think we have a very capable team with guys who have a lot of experience."

Nicklaus added: "I think I've got as good a team as I can have from the choice of American players today.

"I've got experience, depth, leadership, all the things I want in a team, and a bunch of guys that want to play and are looking forward to the match. Plus we are on home soil."

The U.S. line-up comprises world number one Tiger Woods, U.S. PGA champion Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Chris DiMarco, Jim Furyk, Fred Funk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Scott Verplank, Leonard and Couples.

The International side is: Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Tim Clark, U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, Stuart Appleby, Mike Weir, Nick O'Hern, Mark Hensby, Lonard and Immelman.


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