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By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Presidents Cup captains Fred Couples and Nick Price face very different challenges as they mull over the various options for their two wild card picks to be announced on Wednesday for the biennial team competition.
While U.S. captain Couples is spoiled for choice with an impressive array of former major winners and emerging talent, his International counterpart Price is likely to opt for form given the relative lack of experience among his candidates.
The top-10 players in the Cup points standings automatically earned selection after the Deutsche Bank Championship finished in Norton, Massachusetts on Monday, leaving Couples and Price to round out their 12-man lineups with their additional picks.
Webb Simpson (11th), Dustin Johnson (12th), Jim Furyk (13th) and Bubba Watson (14th) narrowly missed out on gaining automatic places on the U.S. team and Couples will be looking closely at that quartet, with red-hot Jordan Spieth also in the frame.
Though PGA Tour rookie Spieth finished 22nd in the final standings, he had no status on the U.S. circuit before this season and has certainly captured Couples' attention with a sizzling run of form over the past two months.
The 20-year-old won his maiden PGA Tour title at the John Deere Classic in July, lost out in a playoff for last month's Wyndham Championship and rocketed into a tie for fourth at the Deutsche Bank Championship after closing with a superb 62.
However, Couples has only two captain's pick available to him for the October 3-6 Presidents Cup and former major winners Simpson, Furyk and Watson all boast impressive credentials, as does big-hitting Johnson, a seven-times winner on the PGA Tour.
"We have guys on the outside that are top players," Couples told reporters after the automatic top-10 spots on his team had been finalized following the Deutsche Bank Championship.
"We have two picks and we have four guys that we are looking at really, really hard."
Asked to give more detail on which four players were being scrutinized, Couples replied: "It would be, you know, Webb who got bumped out (of the top 10), and then it would be the next guy is Dustin Johnson and the next guy would be Jim Furyk.
"And then Jordan Spieth who, I don't know if I'm going on a limb, probably has had as good or better a year than those guys. Those were the four guys. It's pretty obvious."
While Couples has to wrestle with the possibility of omitting 2012 Masters champion Watson from his 12-man lineup to take on the Internationals in Dublin, Ohio, Price is casting his eye mainly on in-form players for his two wild card selections.
"I'm going to look at potential match-ups, who is going to play with who and who I think would be best suited to play with who," said Zimbabwean Price, a former world number one and three-times major winner.
"Those two picks are going to be a huge part of that decision as to who I think will complement the team for all. I'm down to five, maybe six guys at the most, but I'm going to be looking at the guys who are in form harder than the other guys."
Price already has five Presidents Cup rookies on his International team and that number could rise to seven once his two captain's picks are announced.
His selections are almost certain to come from Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, Australian Marc Leishman, South African Tim Clark, Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge and South African George Coetzee, and only Clark has previously played in the Cup.
"I'm very happy with our team," said Price, a veteran of five Presidents Cups as a player. "It's a team made up of quite a few rookies, but what they lack in experience I think they will make up for with enthusiasm.
"We have potentially six or seven rookies on our team; do we go for the experienced guys, or go for the youth and inexperience?"
Price then went on to enthuse over how well both Leishman and de Jonge had played at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where they finished respectively joint 16th and tied for ninth.
If Price wants form players, then he needs to look no further. Leishman and de Jonge have both qualified for the elite 70-man field at next week's BMW Championship outside Chicago, the penultimate event in the PGA Tour's FedExCup playoffs.
Qualified players for the 2013 Presidents Cup:
United States: Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, Stever Stricker, Tiger Woods.
International: Angel Cabrera, Jason Day, Graham DeLaet, Ernie Els, Branden Grace, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Richard Sterne.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)