Ryder Cup USA: Final audition -- maybe -- for Davis Love III's last Captain's Pick
Well, this is it.
Come Sunday night, we will know for certain the 12 members that make up the Ryder Cup USA team when Captain Davis Love III announces his fourth and final Captain's Pick selection during halftime of Sunday Night Football. Five days later, the 2016 Ryder Cup will tee off at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn.
Does that mean that this week's Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta is the final audition for players contending for that final pick?
Maybe. Maybe not. But, probably.
Love has already said that the final pick may not even be playing at East Lake this week (does that mean it could be Jim Furyk? A shocker of all shockers in Tiger Woods? Wouldn't that be something?).
Should a player in the field at the Tour Championship emerge as the final Captain's Pick, it will likely come from this group of five... and it won't necessarily mean one of these five was the highest finisher at East Lake. Love has stressed that the final pick, while they'd like a hot player, is going to come down more to team chemistry.
5. Jason Dufner
Final Ryder Cup ranking: 18
Reason to watch: Early in the season, Dufner won the CareerBuilder Challenge out in La Quinta, Calf. He's only had two top-10 finishes since -- a T6 at Colonial and a T8 at the U.S. Open. It should be noted, however, that Dufner hasn't missed a cut since the U.S. Open, a span of 13 starts. Dufner's name has come up frequently throughout the year from the lips of Love. Dufner has made it clear in no uncertain terms to Love his desire to be on the team. His lone Ryder Cup appearance was in 2012 where he went 3-1-0, which tied him for the best record on the team among players who competed in four matches. So he's not the hottest player heading into Hazeltine, but maybe he's the "right" player Love was talking about. That said, Dufner wasn't spotted at Hazeltine on Monday when current team members and potential picks were out for a practice round. Maybe he got the invite, but couldn't make it?
4. Ryan Moore
Final Ryder Cup ranking: 20
Reason to watch: Among this group of five, if Love were looking for the hottest hand, you'd have to think Moore gets the nod. But, like Dufner, Moore wasn't spotted at Hazeltine earlier this week. Moore has three top-10 finishes in his last five starts, highlighted by the fifth victory of his PGA Tour career at the John Deere Classic. And we get it -- the Ryder Cup is a different animal than an amateur match-play record. That said, Moore's amateur match-play resume includes victories at a U.S. Amateur and two U.S. Public Links Amateurs. Based on his absence at Hazeltine on Monday, we're thinking Moore probably has to win at East Lake to grab ahold of Love's attention for that last pick.
3. Daniel Berger
Final Ryder Cup ranking: 16
Reason to watch: OK. Now we've reached the three the three players not already on the team who were spotted at Hazeltine already. Berger is an interesting study. The 23-year-old is a rising star on the PGA Tour. He missed time this summer due to injury shortly after winning the St. Jude Classic. Love has already said that he will factor in the situations of certain players... for Berger -- he was hot just before he got hurt. What could have been if he had been able to play more? Since returning, he notched a T5 at the Travelers Championship and a T10 at the BMW Championship to earn a spot at East Lake. Berger is one of those young players you could envision on American Ryder Cup teams for years to come. Will Love give him his first taste of what it's like?
2. Justin Thomas
Final Ryder Cup ranking: 25
Reason to watch: Here's a name that has been in the Ryder Cup discussion all year. The 23-year-old's final ranking of 25 doesn't mean a whole lot. For starters, he picked up his first PGA Tour win in the CIMB Classic last October, but wasn't able to collect Ryder Cup points since the points for regular events didn't begin until Jan. 1. Love isn't holding that against him. Thomas also turned some heads early in 2016 when he said he'd rather be on a winning U.S. Ryder Cup team than win a major. And, if that final pick is all about "chemistry" as Love has said, you can't devalue how close Thomas is to Spieth and Fowler. They could be lobbying behind the scenes for their boy.
1. Bubba Watson
Final Ryder Cup ranking: 9
Reason to watch: The fact that Watson wasn't one of Love's first three picks just felt weird, but maybe it was sending a message. Watson is a two-time Masters champion and the seventh-ranked player in the world. That's higher than the three players who were selected in front of him (Fowler, J.B. Holmes and Matt Kuchar) and he also finished ahead of all three in the final Ryder Cup standings, missing out on the final automatic qualifying position by one spot at No. 9. Just when you thought, "wow, Bubba isn't going to be on this Ryder Cup team," there he was practicing at Hazeltine on Monday. Maybe Love was holding off on the Watson pick to drum up interest and then make a splash with a big name during halftime of Sunday Night Football? We'll see in a few days. All Watson can do now is play his heart out at East Lake to make one last strong case for himself.
WATCH: How Davis Love III made his captain's picks