Jordan Spieth started the season without status on any tour. He ends it by going to the Presidents Cup.
Fred Couples used his captain’s picks Wednesday on the 20-year-old Spieth and Webb Simpson to fill out his 12-man team, making Spieth the youngest American to play in the Presidents Cup since it began in 1994.
“I’m just super stoked,” Spieth said.
Nick Price used his picks on a pair of rookies — Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe and Marc Leishman of Australia — as the International team tries to win for only the second time. The matches are Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
Spieth was just starting his sophomore year at Texas a year ago when he decided to turn pro at the end of 2012, even though he failed to get out of the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying and was not a member of any tour. He played well enough to earn special temporary status on the PGA Tour, won the John Deere Classic in July and lost in a playoff last month at the Wyndham Championship.
He is assured of being the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to start a season without status and reach the Tour Championship.
Couples left out young players his last two times as captain — Dustin Johnson in 2009, Keegan Bradley in 2011, even though Bradley had won the PGA Championship for his second win as a rookie. The captain said he had help from his team “and probably all of the United States” in taking Spieth.
Couples said not taking Bradley in 2011 “wore on me a little bit,” especially after watching Bradley play well at the Ryder Cup a year later.
“I’m going with the young guy and our whole team is excited,” Couples said. “We have a great team, but to pick Jordan I think was the right move.”
By taking the rookie, Couples left Jim Furyk off an American team for the first time since the 1997 Ryder Cup, ending a streak of 15 straight teams. Couples said it was such a tough decision that he did not call Furyk, and left him a text message late Tuesday night.
Furyk didn’t mind the delivery — “All you’re looking for is contact,” he said — and while he was disappointed, he said Couples was in a tough spot.
“Everyone is going to argue what the right call is,” Furyk said. “He had so many good players ... he wasn’t going to make a bad choice.”
Couples also said he would consider Johnson, who hasn’t won since the Tournament of Championship in January at Kapalua.
Simpson was inside the top 10 who qualified for most of the two-year process until the final hole, when Zach Johnson made a 25-foot birdie putt at the TPC Boston to move into the 10th spot by what amounted to $5,715 in PGA Tour earnings. Couples had said Monday night he was leaning toward Simpson.
Furyk narrowly made the Presidents Cup last time and then went 5-0 at Royal Melbourne. He also is a past champion at the Memorial, played at Muirfield Village.
“The whole thing was not fun,” Couples said. “I know all the stats. But at the same time, Jordan deserves to be on the team and Webb Simpson is a class act, great player. As Nick Price says, you get two picks and those are who we are going with.”
Price, on the other hand, leaned on history at Muirfield Village in guiding his picks. He said Tim Clark does not have a long history playing the Memorial, and that de Jonge and Leishman were better suited for Muirfield Village.
“We can debate amongst the three guys from here until eternity as to what you think and who you feel would be best,” Price said. “But I had to make the decision yesterday, and I really think that out of the three guys, Brendon and Marc would probably end up playing Muirfield better than Tim does.”
The picks meant that Price will have six rookies on his team, though it’s not like experience has helped the International side in the past. The Presidents Cup has become a lopsided event, with Americans holding a 7-1-1 advantage. They have won the last four times, and the last three matches have not been particularly close.
Besides, the Americans had six rookies a year ago and won handily in Melbourne.
“It’s going to be a tough job for us to win the cup, but I think we have got a really strong team right now,” Price said.