(Reuters) – Tiger Woods and Bill Haas were both named on a powerful United States team for this year’s Presidents cup while the Australian pair of Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley filled the two International places as the rival captains revealed their wildcard selections yesterday.
The American team’s non-playing captain Fred Couples had already announced he was reserving one of his two spots for Woods while Haas provided a compelling case for his inclusion on the 12-man roster by winning last weekend’s season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta and the $10 million bonus as FedExCup points champion.
Norman also kept true to his pledge that he wanted two of his countrymen with experience of playing the tricky Royal Melbourne Golf Club layout where the Ryder Cup-style competition will be contested from Nov. 17-20.
He gave the nod to the two Australians ahead of last year’s British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Fijian former world number one Vijay Singh to bolster a lineup already overflowing with talent.
The addition of Baddeley and Allenby boosts the Australian contingent on the International squad to five with Jason Day and Adam Scott, the joint runners-up at this year’s Masters, and former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy having already earned automatic selection.
“Knowing we were playing in the backyard of Australia I wanted to load up the team with as many Aussies as I possibly could,” Norman said on a conference call.
Baddeley, who came up one shot short of joining Haas and Hunter Mahan in the playoff to decide the Tour Championship, did enough to pip John Senden for the last spot while Allenby, a Melbourne native, has a brilliant record at the course he first played when he was 12 years old and has since won two professional titles on.
“The way Aaron and John Senden performed at the Tour Championship, I put them on notice that whoever played the best would get the final nod and Aaron put on a tremendous performance there,” Norman said.
“The reason I picked Robert is his performances around Royal Melbourne over the years have been extraordinary….he was an automatic pick for me.”
No player will be under more scrutiny or pressure than Woods, who has seen his ranking and form plunge since his last tournament win, in Australia two years ago, while trying to rebuild his golf swing and private life following the breakup of his marriage.
The former-world number one has played on every U.S. Presidents Cup team since 1998 but has not won a tournament since the 2009 Australian Masters at Kingston Heath, located on the same reknowned Melbourne Sandbelt as the Presidents Cup course.
The 14-time major winner failed to qualify for the PGA Tour playoffs after missing the cut at the PGA Championship and, at Couples’ urging, will return to action next week at a Fall Series tournament in California to sharpen his game before heading Down Under for the Australian Open then the Presidents Cup.
“Things are going great, I’ve been practising very hard and playing as much as I can, which is something I hadn’t done all summer,” said Woods.
“My strength has come back, my explosiveness has come back…it feels great.”
With Woods already assured of a spot, the battle for the final place on the American squad came down to a fight between Haas, Brandt Snedeker and PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley but Haas made the decision easy for Couples.
“Bill Haas knew he had to win and he did,” Couples said. “I could not leave him off the team after that. Second place wasn’t good enough.”