Five potential Captain’s Picks for U.S. Team
Over the course of the last four days, both Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods came through in a big way for U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson.
First, there's Mickelson.
A veteran of nine U.S. Ryder Cup teams, Mickelson went into the PGA Championship at No. 10 in the standings, one position outside of an automatic berth. There's little doubt that Watson would have selected Mickelson if he needed to -- the mentoring of players like Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley on a weekly basis, just to name a couple, makes Mickelson a huge asset. But Mickelson finished runner-up at Vahalla -- his lone top-10 of the season -- to take the decision out of Watson's hands, making the team on points and finishing in the No. 5 spot.
Mickelson's appearance -- his 10th overall -- is the most by an American. Nick Faldo owns the record for most Ryder Cup appearances overall with 11.
Then there's the case of Woods.
Surprising to many, Woods took his name out of consideration for a Captain's Pick on Wednesday evening.
Said Woods in a statement: "I'm extremely disappointed that I won't be ready for the competition. The U.S. Team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best."
It's hard to imagine being better off without Tiger Woods. However, in this instance, the U.S. Ryder Cup team is better off without Tiger Woods.
This decision was Woods being a team player. Instead of going through the next three weeks of speculating whether Watson would select Woods or not, Woods stepped up and explained why he needed to sit this one out.
If Woods hadn't done this, one has to imagine it would have been extremely difficult for Watson to leave him off the team. After all, as Watson has said, "he's Tiger Woods!"
Based on performance -- yes, poor results chiefly because of injury -- Woods truly didn't deserve a pick this time around. His five victories in 2013 were amazing. But, with the neck and back troubles this year, he was only able to play in seven PGA Tour events. Two of those were missed cuts; two resulted in withdrawals; and his best finish was a tie for 25th.
All that left Woods 70th in the U.S. standings.
He did the right thing taking this decision away from Watson -- it would have been a tough one and there are many players far more deserving.
So, with Mickelson in, Woods and Dustin Johnson out, Matt Kuchar (No. 6) and Jason Dufner (No. 10) nursing injuries, the "pick-pool" is wide open.
Here are five players -- in order -- deserving of a Captain's Pick.
1. Keegan Bradley
Ryder Cup Standing: 13
Why he should be on the team: For starters, he's a lightning rod. Easily excitable and someone who can get others fired up (much like Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia on the European side). Bradley's antics could even get under the skin of the competition, which isn't a bad thing in a Ryder Cup. Furthermore, he compiled a 3-1-0 record as a rookie for Team USA at Medinah in 2012. Bradley brings experience (the winning kind) and enthusiasm. Oh yeah... another feather in his cap? Bradley and Jim Furyk (No. 3) were the only two players to take Watson up on an offer to join him at Gleneagles for a scouting trip the week before the Open Championship. Bradley has said he wants to be on this team, the trip to Gleneagles showed Watson he wants to be on this team and his play of late proves he deserves to be on this team (T4 at the U.S. Open, Greenbrier Classic and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).
2. Brandt Snedeker
Ryder Cup Standing: 20
Why he should be on the team: Routinely one of the best putters in the game (he's currently ranked No. 4 on Tour, holing 37.96 percent of his putts between 10-15 feet), Snedeker would be a great addition to this team. The Ryder Cup, as it's often said, is a putting contest. If you have one of the best in the game at your disposal when it comes to putting, how could you leave him off the team? This hasn't been Snedeker's best season, but he's gotten it together of late. Since the U.S. Open, Snedeker has finished in the top 13 in four of seven starts. His 1-2-0 record in the 2012 Ryder Cup doesn't exactly make you want to do backflips, but -- again -- when the putter is hot there are few in the world better than Snedeker.
3. Webb Simpson
Ryder Cup Standing: 15
Why he should be on the team: Despite five missed cuts in 20 starts this season on the PGA Tour, it's been a solid 2013-14 campaign for Simpson, who has racked up seven top-10 finishes, including a win. Most of that work was done early in the season, but he also tied for third in Memphis the week before the U.S. Open and then finished alone in third at Greenbrier. Simpson was 2-2-0 at Medinah and in both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, we've seen that he's been able to form a strong partnership with Bubba Watson (No. 1). That's not an easy pairing for a lot of players, but it works for Simpson. It's a duo you could see a lot of at Gleneagles.
4. Harris English
Ryder Cup Standing: 16
Why he should be on the team: In three seasons on the PGA Tour, English already has two wins. Listen to a lot of veterans out there and they'll tell you, English is on the brink of becoming one of the game's next big stars. What's working against him here? Aside from the fact that he would be a rookie, nothing. English has been consistent throughout the season and has never truly fallen in to any kind of rut. In terms of match play experience, English isn't all that far removed. He went 2-2-0 in the 2011 Walker Cup, where the U.S. lost to Team Great Britain and Ireland, 14-12.
5. Ryan Moore
Ryder Cup Standing: 11
Why he should be on the team: Watson has said he's looking for guys who are playing great. Well, that's what Moore has been doing most of the year and particularly recently with four top-12 finishes in his last five starts. Moore has been within the top-20 of the U.S. standings for much of the year. That shows consistency. He hasn't been consistently great, but he's certainly been consistently good. Though he's never played in a Ryder Cup, Moore has a solid match-play record from his amateur career, having won the U.S. Amateur in 2004 and the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2002 and 2004. Yes, that was 10 years ago, but it's always nice to have some winning experience to lean back on.