Ryder Cup 2018: Way-too early predictions for the American team, part 2
Shortly after the 2016 Ryder Cup, I took my first crack at a "way-too-early predictions for the 2018 American team," piece.
Two of those predictions already hit: Jim Furyk is in fact that captain and the one Vice Captain he's already appointed is Davis Love III.
Nearly four months after my first crack at this, here's my second try -- and not a whole lot has changed.
The top-8 qualifiers on points (assuming the process remains the same with eight automatics and four Captain's Picks):
1. Dustin Johnson
OK. So he missed the cut at Torrey Pines last week -- just his fifth missed cut since the start of the 2014-15 season. I'm not deterred in any way, shape or form. I believe DJ will be asending to World No. 1 soon and he'll be staying there for a good while. Over the next two seasons leading up to Paris 2018, DJ will add to his major championship total (currently "1"). There's no way -- with the exception of unforeseen injuries, of course, that he's not on the team.
2. Justin Thomas
On this, the last day of January, Thomas already has three victories in the 2016-17 season -- three victories in five starts. His name was bandied about quite a bit leading up to the 2016 matches as a potential Captain's Pick. It seems he's on a mission this time to not make his inclusion on the team a captain's decision. Sure, no points have been available for potential U.S. team members just yet (we're expecting something soon with WGC events and the Masters creeping up on us), but Thomas and his game are in a great place right now. I had him at No. 6 in my last prediction piece, so he's clearly on the rise moving up four spots.
3. Jordan Spieth
Spieth is going to be this generation's Phil Mickelson when it comes to Ryder Cups -- he'll be on the team every year and will be a leader both on the course and in the team room. I don't really see his position in the top 12 mattering all that much. He'll be there. In two starts this calendar year, Spieth has two, top-3 finishes... and we're about to jump into a portion of the schedule he loves and thrives on.
4. Patrick Reed
Captain America. It's as simple as that. For years the U.S. has longed for a team within its team that could almost assuredly go out there and snag a coveted point the way Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal did for those European teams. The Americans now have that in Reed and Spieth. Spieth can play calm and steady to Reed's rock star.
5. Brooks Koepka
Still one of the brightest young stars in the game today, Koepka got a taste of the Ryder Cup for the first time at Hazeltine, where he compiled an impressive debut record of 3-1-0. Talk about poise. He sure didn't look like a rookie there. Expect that experience and all the scrutiny and eyeballs that come with it to pay big dividends for Koepka on the course over the next two seasons. Then, also expect him to be a force in Paris.
6. Tony Finau
I would love to see Finau on the 2018 team. He's 27 right now and one of the most powerful players on the PGA Tour. In order to make the team, we're going to need to see some strong play in the majors, similar to that T10 he had at the 2015 PGA Championship. A T4 last weekend at Torrey Pines -- a major championship course -- is a step in the right direction.
7. Brandt Snedeker
We've said it before in this space, but it's worth repeating: When he's rolling the rock well, there may be no better putter in the game than Snedeker. And, in case you hadn't noticed, that's exactly what you need in a Ryder Cup. Snedeker was 3-0-0 at Hazeltine.
8. Phil Mickelson
The last time the U.S. won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil was 1993 at the Belfry. Mickelson's first Ryder Cup USA appearance came two years later at Oak Hill and he hasn't missed a team since. Even though Lefty will be 48 years old once Paris rolls around, I still can't see him 1. not being on the team; 2. not making it on points. Among the most remarkable stats in his impressive career -- at least to me -- is the fact Mickelson has never once had to rely on a Captain's Pick for the Ryder Cup. That's just crazy.
Captain's Picks: Daniel Berger, Jimmy Walker, Ryan Moore, Rickie Fowler
For me, the early candidates for Captain's Picks hasn't changed. It probably will as the sample size of tournaments gets bigger.
Lastly, a quick note on Jon Rahm, the PGA Tour's most recent winner. The Spaniard -- who could be a force on European teams for years to come -- is not yet eligible to even play for the European side. He'll have to take up membership on the European Tour to make the team, or to be considered as a pick.