Why Nick Price chose Brendon de Jonge to play in the Presidents Cup
From the September 9 edition of Golf World Monday:
Nick Price made sure Brendon de Jonge didn't have to wait by the phone for long. "He sent me a text after Boston saying, 'When's a good time to have a chat?' " said de Jonge from his home in Charlotte. "I didn't know if it was a good chat or a bad chat, but obviously I could tell by the tone that it was going to be good news."
The problem when Price followed up the text with a call at 4 p.m. on Sept. 3 is that de Jonge had to keep the secret for 22 hours. When Price said: "Go have a couple beers, you're on the team," he, of course, meant the International Presidents Cup team.
Earlier in the day Price said he made the toughest call in his Hall of Fame career, letting Tim Clark know he was the odd man out and that de Jonge, his Zimbabwe countryman, and Marc Leishman, an Australian, would fill out his side.
Clark has a 5-2-8 Presidents Cup record and was an assistant captain for Greg Norman in 2011 at Royal Melbourne GC. But he missed the cut in the first two FedEx Cup playoff events, and when Price started crunching the numbers, Clark's lack of length off the tee and the fact he only played Muirfield Village GC once since 2006 were the deciding factors.
Leishman has won on the PGA Tour (2012 Travelers Championship) and held his own in the Sunday pairing with Adam Scott at this year's Masters (T-4). De Jonge is winless and has never played a Masters or a British Open, but Price had a feeling. The way Ben Crenshaw had a feeling in 1999. Or the way Norman pulled Scott out of a tailspin by making him a pick in 2009.
Price knew Brendon's father, Rick, as a junior when they were members at Warren Hills. Now 76, the elder de Jonge, a retired banker, said his son was very much into team sports at school. As a junior he represented Zimbabwe in cricket but turned to golf when his cricket master said he was spending too much time playing golf.
Brendon has stayed at Price's house on Jupiter Island for the last three Honda Classics. "Nick has turned into a really good mate of mine," de Jonge said. Price has followed him around PGA National, but they have never played a practice round. "He's just a good, solid human being, a nice man," Price said.
At 33, de Jonge is 10 years removed from playing for Virginia Tech, where he roomed for three years with Johnson Wagner. In 176 events on the PGA Tour, de Jonge has 50 top-25s, 22 top-10s, and one runner-up finish, in last year's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Those are not exactly numbers that stand out but Wagner's assessment suggests Price made the right call. "He is one of the most fun people I've ever been around," Wagner said. "[Brendon's] personality is perfect for team golf. He's comfortable in every situation. I think he'll make a great partner because he is such a consistent player and he rarely lets his emotions get the best of him."