NORTON, Mass. – After a two-year window of Presidents Cup qualifying, the final automatic spot for Team USA came down to less than a tenth of a point Monday. And in the end, neither Kevin Chappell or Charley Hoffman had the final say.
Chappell claimed the 10th spot for Steve Stricker’s team by exactly 0.073 of a point over Hoffman during a dramatic and chaotic final round at the Dell Technologies Championship. Hoffman, who had entered the week ahead of Chappell, falls to 11th and hopes to get one of Stricker’s two captain’s picks that will be announced Wednesday.
Neither player has played for a U.S. national team since turning pro.
“It’s been a range of emotions,” Chappell said Monday while headed to the airport after finishing T-35 at TPC Boston following a final-round 2-under 69. “… Charley is a good friend and I feel for him.
“It’s a great feeling and my emotions move towards getting ready to win the Presidents Cup for Team USA.”
Hoffman finished several groups ahead of Chappell and shot a 68. He came to the par-5 18th with a 28-1/2 foot eagle putt but missed it and settled for birdie. Had he made that eagle putt, he would have made the team. Instead, his birdie left him in a tie for 47th.
Afterward, he had resigned himself to dropping to 11th in the standings.
“Hopefully, I’ll be a pick,” Hoffman said. “If not, obviously I’ll be disappointed not getting on that team. But you know what? Life goes on. Happy family and I’m in a good spot.”
U.S. standings are based on FedExCup points. With the margin so close between Chappell and Hoffman, the outcome ultimately was impacted by how other players finished on the Dell Technologies leaderboard.
Once Hoffman and Chappell were in the clubhouse, it essentially came down to three players – Kevin Streelman, Russell Henley and, to a lesser degree, Bryson DeChambeau.
When Streelman – who finished roughly 20 minutes after Chappell — birdied the 18th, that moved Chappell into the 10th spot. But in the next group was Henley. Had Henley birdied the 18th, then Hoffman would have moved back into the 10th spot.
Instead, Henley found the native area guarding the green with his second shot, took a penalty stroke, and ultimately made a par.
DeChambeau, finishing 20 minutes after Henley, also could have turned the tide toward Hoffman had he not struggled on the back nine, losing four strokes in a six-hole span.
“It’s wacky because I’m good friend with both of them,” Streelman said when told how he played a part in the outcome. “They’re great players. Hopefully the other guy gets picked. It’d be a shame to be knocked out by what some other guy does. That’s amazing.”
Chappell won his first PGA TOUR event this year at the Valero Texas Open. A year earlier, Hoffman won the Valero.
Who knew back then the back-to-back champions would fight it out for the last spot Monday.
“The system’s right,” Chappell said. “For it to be a culmination of a 1-1/2 or 2 years, you know, every putt matters. … I feel like for me, the last 1-1/2 has been such a change in my career, and a step in the right direction. Momentum is on my side, that’s for sure.”
Hoffman had control of his own fate coming to TPC Boston. He wasn’t planning to dwell on his place in the standings coming into the week, but “all of a sudden, I was thinking about it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I want to be on that team. But I didn’t play my best this week. … My putter didn’t cooperate, which is the first time in a while it didn’t.”
At Liberty National, Chappell will play a course in which he shot 62 at THE NORTHERN TRUST in 2013 – that’s the course record. That should make him a very valuable member for Stricker’s team.
“It’s a place I feel comfortable,” Chappell said. “I look forward to embracing the crowds.”
In two days, he may have Hoffman as a teammate. But being 11th on the list is no guarantee.
“You never know,” Hoffman said. “Stranger things have happened.”
Doubtful it’ll be any stranger than how Monday’s final spot was determined.