Watson assumes top spot in latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings
As was expected with U.S. Ryder Cup points being worth double at the majors, there was some serious movement in the latest standings, beginning with the No. 1 spot.
Masters champion Bubba Watson -- a winner at Augusta National Golf Club for the second time in three years -- assumed the top spot on the strength of his victory, to move from No. 4 to No. 1, supplanting 2013-14 season three-time PGA Tour winner Jimmy Walker, who had occupied the top spot for much of 2014. Walker tied for eighth in his first Masters and dropped to No. 2 in the U.S. standings.
Here's a look at the current top 12 (remember, the top nine after the PGA Championship in August automatically qualify, while U.S. Captain Tom Watson fills out the team with three captain's picks):
1. Bubba Watson
2. Jimmy Walker
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Patrick Reed
6. Matt Kuchar
7. Jason Dufner
8. Phil Mickelson
9. Harris English
10. Zach Johnson
11. Chris Kirk
12. Webb Simpson
Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Jason Dufner, Phil Mickelson, Harris English, Zach Johnson and Webb Simpson -- all inside the top 10 of the standings before the Masters -- missed the cut at Augusta National and received no points.
The Masters triumph all but assures Watson a spot on the U.S. team for the matches this fall at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland.
And just in case the points aren't enough, this tweet sent out by U.S. Captain Tom Watson should have Bubba Watson feeling pretty confident about a third consecutive Ryder Cup appearance:
"Way to go Bubba!!! Enjoy your victory. See you on the plane to Gleneagles." -- @TomWatsonPGA
Bubba Watson's shot-making abilities have quickly drawn comparisons to European Ryder Cup legend and another two-time Masters champion, the late Seve Ballesteros, which can only serve the U.S. well come September.
The biggest mover in the latest standings is 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. Spieth entered the final round of the Masters tied for the lead with Bubba Watson and actually had a two-shot lead early on Sunday before two costly bogeys to Bubba Watson's advantageous birdies on the eighth and ninth holes.
Spieth couldn't get a putt to drop on the back nine, but still managed to register an impressive tie for second place in his first Masters appearance. The exceptional play by Spieth propelled him from No. 14 to No. 4 in the latest standings.
Matt Kuchar continues to rise in the standings. Two weeks ago, the reigning Players Championship winner was No. 19. After a runner-up finish at the Shell Houston Open, he improved to No. 10. And, with a tie for fifth on Sunday at the Masters -- his third consecutive top-8 finish at Augusta National -- Kuchar jumped to the No. 6 spot.
Other gaining ground this week included: Chris Kirk (No. 12 to No. 11); Kevin Stadler (No. 16 to No. 14); Rickie Fowler (No. 23 to No. 15); and Jim Furyk (No. 19 to No. 17).
Fowler's tie for fifth at the Masters marked the 25-year-old's first top 10 in four trips to Augusta. It was also an encouraging sign that swing changes Fowler is making with legendary instructor Butch Harmon are coming together nicely.
This week, the PGA Tour heads to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for the RBC Heritage. For American players hoping for a spot on the U.S. team, it will be a special week, too, since Captain Tom Watson is in the field.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.