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Charlotte’s de Jonge gets call his captain

By Ron Green Jr.
Correspondent
Ron Green Jr.
Ron Green Jr., a former Observer staff writer, will write golf columns occasionally for the newspaper.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/10/18/10/RyAsi.Em.138.jpeg|204
    Darren Carroll - Getty Images
    JERSEY CITY, NJ - AUGUST 24: Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round of The Barclays at Liberty National Golf Club on August 24, 2013 in Jersey City, New Jersey.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/10/18/11/SGmqF.Em.138.jpeg|404
    John Minchillo - AP
    Brendon de Jonge, of Zimbabwe, hits a shot from a trap on the 18th hole during the third round of The Barclays golf tournament Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Jersey City, N.J.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/10/18/11/XQjzU.Em.138.jpeg|210
    Andy Lyons - GETTY
    Before the Presidents Cup, Brendon de Jonge will finish the FedEx Cup playoffs. He is in 26th place and will need to remain in the top 30 to earn a spot in the Tour Championship next week in Atlanta.

Brendon de Jonge was in the floor wrestling with his children when the phone rang in his south Charlotte home last Wednesday.

Nick Price, captain of the International team for the upcoming Presidents Cup matches, had texted a day earlier asking when would be a convenient time for him to call with news of whether de Jonge had earned one of his two captain’s picks for the October matches at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be good news or bad news,” said de Jonge, who finished just outside the top 10 automatic qualifying spots.

“The first thing Nick said was, ‘I hope you’ve got a beer in your hand because you’re on my team.’”

For de Jonge, 33, it was the best moment in his golf career to this point. A Zimbabwe native, he has won nearly $8million in his PGA Tour career but he’s still chasing his first victory.

He set a goal of making the International Presidents Cup team but didn’t say much about it, not that he tends to talk a lot. He’s generally quiet and low key but his desire to be a part of Price’s team – he lists his fellow Zimbabwean as his sports idol – has been a driving force this year.

When the FedEx Cup playoffs began three weeks ago, de Jonge figured good weeks at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship would force Price to consider him if he didn’t automatically qualify. A tie for 19th at The Barclays and a tie for ninth at the Deutsche Bank convinced Price to add de Jonge and Marc Leishman to a team led by Adam Scott, Jason Day and Ernie Els.

“It was definitely on my mind near the end,” de Jonge said, sitting outside a south Charlotte coffee shop before heading to Chicago for the BMW Championship which begins Thursday.

“Guys were asking me about it and I played with Ernie the last round in Boston, and that felt kind of like an audition. This is without a doubt the biggest thing in my career not just because it’s the Presidents Cup but because it’s playing for Nick and my relationship with him.”

At the end, Price chose de Jonge and Leishman, leaving former N.C. State star Tim Clark off the International team.

“Particularly in the last five, six months, Brendon has shown a lot of really consistent form,” Price said. “I like that he’s always hit the ball left to right, which I think is one of the keys to playing at Muirfield.

“I spoke to a lot of players … and just about every single one of them felt that Brendon deserved a pick. … He’s getting ready to break through. He’s in a situation where I think this may be a wonderful break for him and I think he’s going to be a great teammate.”

Before the Presidents Cup, de Jonge will finish the FedEx Cup playoffs. He is in 26th place entering the BMW Championship at Conaway Farms and will need to remain in the top 30 to earn a spot in the Tour Championship next week in Atlanta. It would be de Jonge’s first appearance in the finals if he qualifies.

He’s capable of making birdies in bunches but de Jonge has struggled in recent seasons on Sundays. He ranked 135th in final round scoring average in 2011 and 82nd last year. This year, de Jonge’s 69.87 final-round scoring average is 14th-best on tour.

He finished second at Las Vegas last fall but may have learned the most from a tie for 11th in the AT&T National a year ago. Paired with Tiger Woods after taking the lead into the final round, de Jonge shot 77 on Sunday to fade while getting an up-close look at how Woods can close out victories.

“It was just seeing how he goes about it,” de Jonge said. “It was amazing how his intensity changed from the front nine to the back nine that day. We talked a lot on the front nine but on the back nine he was pretty well stuck into what he was doing.

“I’m very satisfied with how things are going. The glaring omission is still a win, though. The Presidents Cup is a wonderful addition but the next two weeks are probably more important to me for different reasons.”

Swing thoughts

• Nick Faldo added the Greater Hickory Kia Classic to his Champions Tour schedule. He will make his tour debut at the SAS Championship in Cary on Oct.11-13, then play at Rock Barn Oct.18-20, when he will be joined by Kenny Perry, Fred Funk, Jay Haas and others.

• Because of flood damage this year, portions of two courses at Rock Barn will be used for the tournament. The back nine of the Jackson Course and nine holes from the Jones Course will be used, allowing the tournament to finish on the par-5 18th hole on the Jones Course.

• The 2014 Wells Fargo Championship will be played April28-May4, three weeks after the Masters. The 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule was announced this week, with the new season starting Oct.10 at the Frys.com Open, one of six official events before the end of the calendar year.

• Because of the Ryder Cup in Scotland next year, there will not be an open week in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which will conclude Sept.14 in Atlanta, two weeks before the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Ron Green Jr. is senior writer for Global Golf Post ( www.globalgolfpost.com) and a contributor to the Observer. He can be reached at rongreenjr@gmail.com.
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