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Woods, Singh lead qualifiers

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Fred Couples played his best golf this
year in the two tournaments where Jack Nicklaus said farewell. Now
he gets to play in the Presidents Cup where Nicklaus will be
captain for the last time.
Nicklaus selected Couples and Justin Leonard to fill out the
U.S. team on Monday, while International captain Gary Player took
Peter Lonard of Australia and Trevor Immelman of South Africa, a
pick that caught some by surprise.
The Presidents Cup will be played Sept. 22-25 at the Robert
Trent Jones Golf Club in northern Virginia, where the United States
has never lost in three home games.
The matches ended in a tie at 17 two years ago at South Africa,
when Tiger Woods and Ernie Els slugged it out over three holes of a
sudden-death playoff before it was too dark to continue. Nicklaus
and Player agreed to share the cup, and both were given another
chance to be captain.
Couples finished one shot behind at the Memorial. He played a
practice round with Nicklaus at his final major, the British Open
at St. Andrews, and went on to tie for third, six shots behind
Woods.
The 10 players who qualified for the U.S. team earned their way
on Sunday, before the PGA Championship was over. Woods again led
the standings -- only once has he failed to do that since 1997 -- and
was followed by PGA champion Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Kenny
Perry, Chris DiMarco, Jim Furyk, Fred Funk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III and Scott Verplank.
The list was based on PGA Tour money, with dollars counting
double in 2005.
Leonard was 11th in the standings, but missed the cut at the PGA
Championship. He is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, at
the Bob Hope Classic and the St. Jude Classic.
Steve Elkington, who missed a 10-foot birdie putt Monday morning
at the PGA Championship to tie for second, needed a victory to move
into the top 10 for the International team, which was based on the
world ranking.
Els is out for the rest of the year with a knee injury, so the
top 11 made the team: Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Angel
Cabrera, Tim Clark, Michael Campbell, Stuart Appleby, Mike Weir,
Nick O'Hern and Mark Hensby.
Player went with Lonard, who was next in the standings, as one
of his captain's picks. Immelman was a mild surprise, since he has
never played in the Presidents Cup, never won on the PGA Tour and
was 22nd in the standings.
But the diminutive South African tied for fifth in the Masters
(seven shots behind) and tied for 15th in the British Open (nine
shots out of the lead). He did not qualify for the U.S. Open, and
tied for 17th at the PGA.
Next in the standings was K.J. Choi, who made the cut in all
four majors this year.
It will be the first time since the Presidents Cup began in 1994
than an Asian will not be part of the team.
Word began to get out late last week that Nicklaus was going to
select Couples, especially after the captain said he was looking
for experience. None of the players in the standings between
Leonard and Couples had played on a Presidents Cup team, although
Chad Campbell was in the Ryder Cup last fall.
Couples has a history at RTJ, twice hitting dramatic shots on
the final hole -- a 9-iron out of the bunker into 2 feet for a 1-up
victory over Nick Price in 1994, and a 35-foot birdie putt on the
17th hole in 1996 to beat Singh and clinch victory for the
Americans.
Couples last played in the Presidents Cup in 1998 at Royal
Melbourne, and said then he was excited to play because "it might
be my last Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team."
Couples has not played in either cup since then, although
Nicklaus made sure he got one more chance.
Also Monday, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Weir made the
official announcement that Royal Montreal Golf Club will be the
site of the 2007 Presidents Cup, a move first reported nearly two
years ago.
"I really pushed for the event to come here for a number of
reasons," said Weir, the Canadian star who won the 2003 Masters.
"One was that you heard rumblings from U.S. guys complaining about
having to travel far to play. I don't blame them. They have to play
an event every year, This is an easy one -- just travel a bit north.
There won't be complaining from guys coming to play."