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That big blast coming from the Great White North was a nation exhaling. Canada will be hosting the Presidents Cup next month, and on Monday it was assured of having its biggest star.
Former Masters champion Mike Weir was picked as a wild card for the International team, ending months of speculation whether captain Gary Player would take someone who was 20th in the Presidents Cup standings and had not won in three years.
"He's a terrific team member," Player said. "And being played in Canada, if we didn't have a Canadian in my team and playing in Canada, I can assure you, the series would be quite flat among the Canadian people. Mike is a hero in his country, deservedly so."
Two years ago, Player took fellow South African Trevor Immelman, who was 22nd in the standings.
His other selection Monday was Nick O'Hern, the only player to have beaten Tiger Woods twice in match play. The left-handed Australian narrowly missed making the team on his own when Stuart Appleby closed with a 69 in the PGA Championship to tie for 12th, earning just enough world ranking points to finish 10th in the standings.
U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus used his two picks on two promising young players who have never played in any cup &
Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan, who has not finished out of the top 25 all summer. Glover was 11th in the U.S. standings, while Mahan finished at No. 14.
The Presidents Cup will be held Sept. 27-30 at Royal Montreal, the first time the matches have been played in Canada. The event already is a sellout, although Weir's presence most certainly will bring the buzz.
"I'm sure the Canadian people are going to be relieved," Player said. "I continually had questions every week, 'Are you putting Mike, are you putting him in?' It's going to enhance the event in Canada."
Ernie Els, who didn't play in the 2005 matches while recovering from knee surgery, led the top 10 players who qualified for the International team through the world ranking. The others were Adam Scott, Vijay Singh, Geoff Ogilvy, Rory Sabbatini, K.J. Choi, Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Immelman and Appleby.
Woods again was the top U.S. qualifier, which was based on PGA Tour earnings the last two years. He was followed by Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Charles Howell III, David Toms, Scott Verplank, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink and Woody Austin.
Austin's runner-up finish at the PGA Championship allowed him to finish 10th ahead of Glover.
It will be the first team for Glover, whose lone PGA Tour victory came two years ago at Disney. He was in good shape to make the Ryder Cup team last year until he put too much pressure on himself and didn't earn a single point the final four months.
Mahan turned his season around with a 63 during U.S. Open qualifying, and he hasn't stopped. He won the Travelers Championship in Hartford for his first PGA Tour victory, then finished in the top 10 the next three weeks, including the British Open.
"If there's been a player who has played better, a young player who's played better in the last six months, I don't know who it is," Nicklaus said.
Still, the biggest news of Monday's announcement was Weir.
He has played on the last three Presidents Cup teams, going 8-6-0. But he has been slowed the last two years with nagging back and neck injuries, and revamping his swing to take stress off his back. Last week at Firestone, he withdrew in the middle of the Bridgestone Invitational after tweaking his neck. Then, he opened with a 77 in the PGA Championship and missed the cut.
Weir spent the weekend wondering if he would take part in Canada's biggest golf event.
"I felt like maybe I was trying too hard," Weir said. "Now that Gary has made me a selection, hopefully I can relax a little bit more and play some good golf leading into the Presidents Cup. I'm really relieved."
Stephen Ames, raised in Trinidad Tobago but a Canadian citizen the past several years, could have earned a spot on the team by finishing fourth at Southern Hills. Playing in the final group with Woods, however, he closed with a 76 and wound up 16th in the standings. Player said he considered Ames, but has traveled enough to know that Weir is the player the Canadians wanted to see.
Player thought about Andres Romero, the 26-year-old Argentine who nearly won the British Open and captured his first European Tour victory a week later in Germany. It would have given Cabrera a Spanish-speaking partner.
But it was hard to argue with O'Hern, who has beaten Woods twice in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
"I'd obviously love another crack at Tiger," O'Hern said. "He's the No. — player in the world for a reason, and I think everyone would love to have that challenge. That's why we play the game, to play against the best players in the world."
O'Hern has been making his U.S. base at Isleworth outside Orlando, Fla., where Woods has lived since turning pro.
"I see him from time to time out on the driving range," O'Hern said. "We sort of go about our business. He's pretty intense when he practices, so I leave him alone and vice versa. We get along just fine. It's probably a good thing I don't play with him, because then I'd find out how really good he is."
Player adds Canadian Weir for Presidents Cup match
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