Brendon de Jonge could unofficially be called the last and 24th man in the Presidents Cup this week, but he likely has the most pressure of anyone competing on the International side. That's because he'll be feeling the need to justify his selection as Nick Price's second captain's pick, a decision last month that prompted criticism -- not because de Jonge is a bad player, but because of who was passed over.
The choice came as a bit of a surprise, with Price opting to leave behind the steady Cup veteran Tim Clark, and going for the fellow Zimbabwean de Jonge. Clark is one of the few International players who can cite past success in this event, but amidst some concerns of provincialism, Price justified the decision to leave Clark at home based on the course setup at Muirfield Village. Clark is not a long hitter, a trait that may be at a premium this week on Jack Nicklaus' design masterpiece. So de Jonge was the final choice, and he's now saddled with some that controversy.
It's unfortunate because de Jonge is one of the most solid week-to-week players on the PGA Tour. He missed only five cuts in 30 events this year, and leads the PGA Tour in birdies made -- a huge advantage for match play, where blow-up holes and total strokes can be quickly cast aside. The Zimbabwean is a regular on the Tour and he's probably more familiar with many of the American players than some of the Internationals. He made it all the way to the final FedExCup event in Atlanta, finishing 18th of the final 30 left standing in the Tour's postseason.
But de Jonge's above-average consistency might not be good enough for a competition like this against America's top 12. Price cited his length off the tee as a distinguishing factor from Clark, but de Jonge missed the cut on this track at the Memorial in May. He's never won a tournament on the PGA Tour despite making all those birdies. This will be an entirely different challenge, but one where he can create a career benchmark and appease the critics of Price's pick. It's likely he sits out at least one of the sessions on Saturday and could be a natural partner to one of the South Africans, perhaps an Ernie Els type to take him under his wing.
World Ranking: 63
Qualified: Captain's pick No. 2 of 2
Presidents Cup Match Play Record: This is his debut