They can't be caught and they comprise a strong start. Bubba Watson is not guaranteed a spot, but it would take a mathematic formula reminiscent of pi to knock him off the list.
Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and David Toms are anything but safe.
Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas are the most likely to take a spot from that trio. Obviously it depends on how that aforementioned triumvirate plays at Cog Hill, but Snedeker doesn't need much to unseat Toms. A solo 43rd could be enough for Snedeker if Toms lays an egg. Haas would need a top 10, along with a dud from David.
Furyk is playing well after round one at the BMW and Mahan is probably in as good a shape as possible.
Fellas like Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, two-time winner this year Mark Wilson and PGA Champion and fellow multiple winner in '11 Keegan Bradley need either solo seconds or outright victories to supplant Toms.
That's a tall order, so Johnson and Wilson are going to be eliminated from contention. They haven't done enough in 2011, nor are their resumes such that should be considered based on pedigree...unlike someone who was picked already.
Bradley should still be in the mix based on his major victory, but since hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy, this New Englander has done a lot of fishing and even threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game.
He hasn't golfed well.
Bradley's missed both cuts in the first two Playoff events. Momentum should mean something and all of his Atlanta playoff mojo could be lost in the missed cuts of the Playoffs. Couples shouldn't want both of his picks struggling heading into the competition, but Boom Boom did mention Bradley on his blog, so what could that mean?
Fowler is an interesting case. Still winless on the PGA Tour, Fowler was a pick of Corey Pavin at the Ryder Cup and staged an amazing comeback to halve a Molinari brother. He did his part in the American comeback, but does he belong here?
He does more than Woods, but that ship sailed. Fowler has four top 10s in 2011, including one a few weeks back at the Bridgestone, but his last three finishes weren't stellar. Fowler's finishes have been stuck in the mid-50s, much like my dad's mindset in trying to understand the prices of things. That may not be enough to warrant a pick.
Haas is ninth on tour in greens in regulation. He's lost two playoffs this year, has littered in a few more top 10s, and was a top 10 staple on the Presidents Cup points race for much of the season.
Much has been made of the fact that Bill's father Jay is Couples' assistant captain. Would Freddie give his buddy's son the nod? With Couples pegging his friend Tiger so far in advance with no rational basis behind it, Couples might be leery of having both of his picks questioned based on matters of the heart. Haas has earned his position in the mix, but he may be a victim of reverse nepotism.
That leaves the loser of the Toms/Snedeker scramble as the logical other choice.
Toms had the great feel-good run through May when he lost a playoff at The Players Championship, then won at Colonial the following week. May is an eternity ago (or four months ago), but Toms posted four straight top 20s through August, so his form is good.
Snedeker's form is downright awesome.
He's tied for third at the first two Playoff events and vaulted up to fifth in the Playoff points list. Snedeker is a world-class putter and those two factors make him the perfect example of a captain's pick.
A player's form doesn't have to be great all year to be selected. Recent success is at the essence of why captain's picks exist. If he's hot heading into the event and can putt (Snedeker is second on tour in strokes gained through putting), why wouldn't you want him?
Norman has at least been smart enough to leave himself the agreed up two picks to make.
Two years ago, Norman was pretty shrewd with his choices. He took teenager Ryo Ishikawa and a completely off-form Adam Scott. The selection turned Scott's career around so much, the Aussie will be the No. 2 qualifier for the International team this time.
Norman wasn't the only International leader to pick with his heart. It's not reserved for Couples either. Gary Player tabbed another off-form star, Mike Weir, when the event was in Canada. Weir stepped up in a major way (he beat Tiger in singles), so precedent has been set that International captains will take players if they feel they should be there for reasons other than form.
(Worth noting, International teams have a record of 1-6-1.)
The closest thing to a lock for Norman appears to be a man who wasn't even on the radar two months ago.
Vijay Singh, who has played in every Presidents Cup, was nowhere on the contenders list until a tie for fourth at the Wyndham Championship, then a tie for third at The Barclays.
Those two recent high finishes moved Singh to 13th. Norman respects the big man so much, he mentioned him on his captain's blog after The Barclays, so Singh seems like pick No. 1.
Norman has a 10th place situation brewing between last year's British Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen and Australian former U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.
An argument can be made for either. Neither guy will kill you, both have been decent this year, but frankly, no International player outside the top nine has been too great in 2011.
If Norman wants to make his home country and the galleries happy with an Australian pick, there's Robert Allenby, a longtime veteran of the Presidents Cup, or Aaron Baddeley.
Allenby doesn't have a top 10 since July 4th weekend and Baddeley, despite a win at the Northern Trust Open in February, has only two top 10s since and none since The Players in May.
Again, there seems to be two scenarios in play, but unlike the American one, the captain may not take the loser of the 10th-place battle.
If Ogilvy gets the last spot, Norman could take Oosthuizen, who is a natural partner for close friend and Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel. Sentiment could be with Oosthuizen since he won the Open Championship, the only major Norman ever won, and did it at St. Andrews.
But Norman might want to bring another Australian if Ogilvy automatically qualifies. Allenby is a respected veteran and would make sense ahead of Badds.
Call it a hunch, but smart money says Ogilvy, Oosthuizen and Singh all end up at Royal Melbourne.
At least Norman gave himself some options heading into Monday. Couples can't say that.
- Phil Mickelson on Rees Jones' design at Cog Hill, "I'd love to see like a Gil Hanse or a Crenshaw/Coore or Kyle Phillips or David Kidd or guys that really know what they're doing come in and create something special here because I think that's what the family and this facility deserve." Ouch.
- The criticism of Cog Hill all week, by other players too, can stop. We get it, tour players don't love it. The tournament is leaving so enough piling on.
- I like Europe in the Solheim Cup. The U.S. team isn't as strong as some people think and Europe is sneaky good. Also, Juli Inkster and Annika Sorenstam are your next Solheim Cup captains.
- Movie moment - I have decided to rotate my fantasy football team names on a weekly basis based on the worst movies I've ever see. Week one - "She's Out of Control." Asked what it's about, I replied, "it's got Tony Danza," My friend said, "Ok, I get it." It's an old movie, but a scathing indictment of Mr. Danza.