By Mark Lamport-Stokes
(Reuters) - In just over a week, International captain Nick Price will announce his two captain's picks for the biennial Presidents Cup and he is not yet sure whether experience or current form will ultimately tip the balance.
The top 10 players in the Cup points standings after this week's Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton, Massachusetts will automatically secure places and Zimbabwean Price will then round out his 12-man team with his selections on September 4.
As things stand, Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day, South Africans Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama have all but locked up their spots to take on the United States.
Argentina's Angel Cabrera and Canadian Graham DeLaet occupy the ninth and 10th positions and will need to stay there if they are to avoid having to rely on Price's pick to make the team for the October 3-6 competition at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
Next in line for possible selection are South African Tim Clark (11th), Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (12th), Australian Marc Leishman (13th) and South African George Coetzee (14th) and Price will have to mull over their respective credentials, among others, before he announces his decisions next Tuesday.
"There are so many things to think about," three-times major winner Price wrote in his official captain's blog.
"My co-captains Tony (Johnstone), Mark (McNulty) and Shigeki (Maruyama) and I will weigh up how much experience we have on the team when the points are finalized, and if we are short on experience, we might include a player with more experience.
"We will look at who the 'hot' players are and may look at players who have had success at Muirfield Village in the past."
TEMPTATION FOR PRICE
Given that Oosthuizen, Grace, Sterne, Matsuyama and DeLaet would all be making their Cup debuts, Price may be tempted to opt for experience in a player well outside the automatic top 10, such as former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia.
"That's the $64,000 question," Price replied with a smile when asked earlier this year if he would consider picking someone like Ogilvy, a three-time Cup veteran who sits 20th in the standings.
"The other factors are who plays over here (in the U.S.) a lot, the American-based players, because guys who have played Muirfield in the past, that's going to be a factor.
"There are so many things to think about, but I think that will be the biggest dilemma: Do we add more experience or do we go in there with someone who's playing really well?"
While Price has much to think about this week as Cabrera, DeLaet, Clark and Leishman aim to catch his eye with good performances at the Deutsche Bank, his opposite number Fred Couples has plenty of quality options for his captain's picks.
Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson are the players occupying the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th spots in the American standings and all four competed on the most recent U.S. Presidents Cup team, which triumphed in Australia in 2011.
Further emphasizing the greater depth in strength available to Couples is a stark comparison via the world rankings.
While Price has 56th-ranked Clark and 59th-ranked Jaidee as his first two players outside the automatic top 10 going into this week, Couples has Stricker (14th), Johnson (23rd), Cup veteran Furyk (15th) and Watson (22nd).
"The American team is going to be a lot stronger on paper than our team is going to be," said Price, who competed in five Presidents Cups.
"But it's hard to measure the camaraderie and the willpower and the spirit of a team, and that can overcome a lot of things. It's going to be up to the players, up to me and up to my assistant captains to really get these guys fired up."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)