By Tyler Olson
This past week, while Phil and the rest of the American Ryder Cup team were goofing off in Gillette Stadium, the European squad finalized their roster with the captains pick additions of Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, and Thomas Pieters. It’s now Davis Love’s turn to do the same. He will announce his first three picks on September 12th then the final one on the 26th. So who should he choose? With the depth on the tour nowadays, there’s no shortage of options, but alas, there are only twelve spots on the team.
The first name that comes to mind is Rickie Fowler who played his way out of the top-8 qualifier spots last Sunday at the Barclays. He’s had a solid season, as evidenced by the fact that he was in the mix to begin with, so if he plays well in the lead up to September 12th, DL3 may well feel obliged to include Fowler. Another factor that could play into the decision is that Fowler was on the American Olympic delegation to Rio so he’s used to repping the red, white, and blue.
Speaking of American Olympians, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, and Jim Furyk are also in the top-15 of the Ryder Cup standings and each can make a case that they should represent the States at Hazeltine. Furyk especially has been especially hot in recent weeks, so much so that Love acknowledged that he is, “…screwing up the top twelve right now.” One fact that may end up keeping Mr. 58 off of the team is his abysmal record in Ryder Cup matches: 10-20-4. The Americans’ quest to take back the cup after the disaster in 2014 has been focused on changing up their approach, and sticking with players who don’t have a record of success may not be the way to go.
A big part of winning in the match-play format at the Ryder Cup is having the mental confidence to face up against an opponent every single hole. This should lead Love to look for somebody with a hot hand in recent tournaments, and Justin Thomas may be the man for the job. He’s had an unimpressive year in 2016, but his recent T3 at the Travelers and T10 at the Barclays make a solid case for him. Although he was cut at the Deutsche Bank, if he can win or at least contend for a win at the BMW it could be hard to leave him off the team.
JB Holmes is ranked inside the top 12 in the points standings, but he has been the antithesis of a hot hand lately. He’s been cut in four of his past seven tournaments and as of this writing is a pedestrian T33 at the Deutsche Bank. Just outside of the top 12 is Scott Piercy, who proved this year that he can play on golf’s biggest stages with back to back runner up finishes at the US Open and the Bridgestone Invitational. However, much like Holmes, he followed those up with back to back missed cuts and has failed to crack the top 20 in a tournament since. That string of mediocre play could keep the 37-year old late bloomer off the Ryder Cup team for another two years.
If Davis Love is really looking to throw a monkey wrench into the peoples’ caption’s pick predictions he could go with Smylie Kauffman. At just 25 years old, he’s already become a crowd favorite (and we know how important crowds are at the Ryder Cup) and is contending for the win at the Deutsche Bank this week; tied for third as of this writing. Good play in the final round and a strong tournament at the BMW could lead to a come-from-behind spot in Hazeltine for Kauffman a la Phil 2014. Jason Dufner could be another crowd favorite pick that Love has to consider. He’s higher up in the standings, ranked 18, and the folk hero status he achieved after his 2013 PGA Championship and the Dufnering fiasco that year may be just the shot in the arm the home team needs to bring the Ryder Cup back to this side of the Atlantic. Also in a decent spot in the standings is Ryder Cup virgin Bill Haas, who sits at 14. Like Furyk, however, his match play record of 9-13-3 from his time at the Presidents’ Cup and the WGC Match Play doesn’t speak well for him.
All in all, Davis Love III does not have a very enviable task. However, he does have lots of help from assistant captain, Tiger Woods. While the odd and confusing spectacle of Tiger Woods zipping around the course in a golf cart may steal the show, according to Love, he will serve at the chief strategist and hopefully take some of the pressure off of the captain. It’s been widely reported that for some time now he’s been texting DL3 his takes on possible captain’s picks (let’s pause for a moment to imagine how cool it must be to have your phone buzz and for the name “Tiger Woods” to show up on your lock screen. Okay, that’s enough) and his prolific experience for the US team should also serve well in selecting pairings come time to play the actual matches.
Who do you think should be the captain’s picks for the American side? Think we missed anybody who should be considered for the team? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter (@mygogi), Facebook (Game of Golf Institute), Instagram (my_gogi), or Snapchat (golf_swagger)!