Here's what that incredible Masters means for the Ryder Cup
As if the 2018 Masters weren't captivating enough, the final round was loaded with Ryder Cup storylines for later this year at Le Golf National, Paris, France.
The top 20 finishers in the Masters included 17 potential Ryder Cup players -- 11 Americans and six Europeans -- with nine (six Americans, three Europeans) in the top 10.
It's another great sign for the defending champion U.S., highlighted by Patrick Reed's victory, making him the fourth consecutive American to win a major at age 27 or younger (Reed, 27, Masters; Justin Thomas, 24, PGA Championship; Jordan Spieth, 24, Open Championship; Brooks Koepka, 27, U.S. Open).
Let's take a closer look at what the Masters meant for the nine potential Ryder Cuppers who finished inside the top 10.
1. Patrick Reed
Masters finish: Winner
U.S. Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 1
Ryder Cup notes: Masters win or no Masters win, Reed had literally nothing to prove in terms of Ryder Cup moxie. There's a reason he has the nickname "Captain America." But he now also has that first major win, which is huge. Remember a few years back when everyone laughed at the brash, young Reed after a victory at Doral when he said he believed he was a top-5 player in the world? He hasn't cracked that top 5 yet, but we'd all be wise to start taking him seriously, don't you think? Let's be honest -- whether he made the team on points or not, it would have been impossible to imagine Reed not repping the U.S. in France based on his Ryder Cup track record. But now he'll be going to his third Ryder Cup, not only as a force in the competition, but also as a major winner when the world's best players are chasing him. And you thought he was confident before? Look out.
2. Rickie Fowler
Masters finish: Runner up
U.S. Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 6
Ryder Cup notes: With his runner up finish at the Masters, Fowler now has to be considered the best player under the age of 30 without a major (if he wasn't already). It sure feels like it's only a matter of time before he breaks through, doesn't it? And who knows? Maybe that major breakthrough happens before we even get to Paris. He mentioned at the end of the Masters that Shinnecock Hills -- site of the U.S. Open in June -- is one of his favorite courses in the country. It's been said many times that Fowler is a great team-room guy. He's also the type who really could play alongside anyone in the team portion of the competition. Like Reed, he probably would be going to the Ryder Cup regardless of if he'd made it on points, but the finish at the Masters -- especially the 65-67 weekend -- just reinforces that Fowler is a guy who can rise to the occasion in the big spots.
3. Jordan Spieth
Masters finish: Third
U.S. Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 4
Ryder Cup notes: Spieth's third-place showing in the Masters just drove home what we already knew -- he is a beast at Augusta National. Spieth fired a final-round, 8-under 64 with a bogey at the last. He made a serious run at overcoming the largest 54-hole deficit to win the Masters (eight by Jackie Burke Jr. in 1956), but fell just short. In five career starts at Augusta National, Spieth's record includes a win, two runner-up finishes and 2018's third. Could it be that 25-30 years from now we're talking about the Texan as the most decorated Masters champ of all time? As for how it pertains to the Ryder Cup, there's a very good chance you'll see Spieth alongside Reed in the team competition once again. It's the Captain America-Superman team and now they have two green jackets between them. Spieth started doing something at Augusta National that he hasn't done much of in 2018: he started making putts. Did you see that birdie, must-make putt on 16? When Spieth is on, there's no better putter in the world today.
4. Bubba Watson
Masters finish: T5
U.S. Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 5
Ryder Cup notes: Remember in 2016 when Watson was a last-minute vice captain add on at Hazeltine? Well, the T5 at the Masters -- where he's won twice before -- along with two wins already this season, means when the 2018 Ryder Cup rolls around, there's very little chance he won't be there in a playing capacity. Watson is one of the most creative players in the game today. With the shots he can pull off, there's really no hole he's ever out of... which we also saw in his second victory of the season, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. So a match play win and a top-5 major finish already? That's good stuff in a Ryder Cup year.
5. Tony Finau
Masters finish: T10
U.S. Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 14
Ryder Cup notes: One of the marks of a great match play competitor is grit. At the Masters, Finau showed grit in spades. His status for his first Masters was questionable after Finau suffered a gruesome ankle injury while celebrating an ace in the Par 3 Competition. His ankle was dislocated and he literally popped it back into place. But the high-ankle sprain he dealt with was brutal. Even still, Finau fought through it and notched a T10 in his first Masters. That's some awesome resilience.
6. Dustin Johnson
Masters finish: T10
U.S. Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 3
Ryder Cup notes: Whenever you top 10 in a major, it's a great week. But Johnson no doubt left Augusta probably wanting a little more. If you remember, he missed the 2017 tournament after a freak back injury the evening before the Masters started. So a 2-over 73 on Thursday was a bit of a bummer. But he bounced back with three straight sub-par rounds and left Augusta still occupying the No. 1 ranking in the world. Johnson was always going to be one of the no-doubters for the U.S. in France.
1. Jon Rahm
Masters finish: Fourth
European Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 3
World Points rank after Masters: 2
Ryder Cup notes: Few players in history have risen in the world ranking as quickly as Rahm. And talk about fight. He's got the same fight in him as fellow Spaniards and Masters champions Seven Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia. Rahm opened the Masters with a crushing, 3-over 75, but battled back with rounds of 68-65-69. He was very much in the mix late, but became unraveled with a bogey on the par-5 15th when a birdie was an absolute must. But don't worry about that. Rahm will play for Europe in his first ever Ryder Cup this year. The fire he brings to the course is perfect for the Ryder Cup. The home fans won't have any problem getting behind that. Could you imagine a Reed/Rahm singles match?
2. Henrik Stenson
Masters finish: T5
European Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 10
World Points rank after Masters: 10
Ryder Cup notes: If you're like me, you'll find it almost impossible to believe that Stenson's T5 at Augusta National marked his first ever top-10 finish in the Masters? How could that be? Stenson, Reed and Louis Oosthuizen were the only players in the field last week with all four rounds under par. The Swede just turned 42 years old, but with steady play like that and veteran leadership, you can most certainly expect to see him in France.
3. Rory McIlroy
Masters finish: T5
European Ryder Cup rank after Masters: 7
World Points rank after Masters: 4
Ryder Cup notes: If there's such a thing as a disappointing T5 at the Masters, this is it. McIlroy went into the tournament as a favorite, having won in his last start at Bay Hill. He put himself right in position through 54 holes, three shots back of Reed and earning himself a spot in the final pairing, setting up an epic showdown -- we hoped -- much like their singles match at Hazeltine. It looked like it would be close early, but what we all yearned for never quite panned out. McIlroy limped home with a 2-over 74 and wasn't a factor at all on the back nine. Nothing that happened at the Masters, or going forward, will keep McIlroy off the European team. But now you have to start wondering if maybe Reed has got his number.