- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Jeff Sluman again will be an assistant to U.S. team captain Jack Nicklaus at the Presidents Cup.

Sluman was Nicklaus’ assistant for the 2003 Cup, when the United States and Gary Player’s International team tied 17-17.

But when asked about the possibilities for his two wild-card choices for the matches — which will be held Sept. 20-25 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas, Va. — Nicklaus kept mum.

“I know pretty much what I’m going to do, but I’m not going to announce that until next week,” said Nicklaus, who will tap both his vice captain and his two wild-card choices Monday morning after the final U.S. points standings are tabulated following this week’s PGA Championship. “In all fairness to the players, you’ve got to let them play their last week. … It depends on who ends up in the ninth and 10th [final two automatic qualifying places] as to who I might pick. I may go for some youth; I may go for some experience, depending upon who’s up there.”

The first eight places on the team are fairly well secured, and veterans Davis Love, Scott Verplank and Justin Leonard are lumped in the ninth through 11th positions in the standings, giving Nicklaus an almost certain dose of experience from one or more of the trio.

The most intriguing potential pick would be 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie Sean O’Hair, who stands 26th in the point standings but has played better than anyone else in the mix over the last month, posting his first victory at the John Deere Classic and following that salvo with a T15 finish at the British Open in his first major appearance, a T8 finish at the Buick Open and a T32 performance at last week’s International.

O’Hair is a phenomenal driver of the ball, a major match-play plus in the foursomes format, and would certainly provide a bit of youthful spunk to a team already stocked with Presidents/Ryder Cup veterans. In his typical self-deprecating fashion, however, O’Hair refused to engage in any self-promotion yesterday, taking the opposite position on the issue.

“I definitely shouldn’t be a pick. Number one, I don’t have the experience,” said O’Hair, who ranks 15th on the money list ($1.97 million) and among the leaders in most of the PGA Tour’s ball-striking categories. “Obviously, I would love to play on the Presidents Cup team. But I would rather earn my way on from my play out here.”

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