There are reasons to love all 3 of Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup captain’s picks
CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. – Naming three of his four captain’s selections to round out his 2018 Ryder Cup squad, U.S. Captain Jim Furyk early Tuesday evening called upon the game’s hottest performer, the No. 2 putter on the PGA Tour this season and a 14-time major winner who has been the most dominant golfer of his generation.
Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were selected by Furyk as additions to the U.S. team that will compete in the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National outside Paris Sept. 28-30.
Woods, 42, didn’t know if he’d even compete again a year ago at this time, and now he’s headed to Paris to play in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012. It will be his eighth Ryder Cup (he is 13-17-3 overall). Woods was asked if this could potentially be his most memorable of all.
“Absolutely,” Woods said. “To have an opportunity to go to Europe and to have an opportunity to win a Ryder Cup, and we haven't done it in 25 years over there, and to be part of this group of guys to have that opportunity to go there, it's exciting, it really is.”
With his three newest team members, Furyk added 126 PGA Tour victories to his team. Mickelson may be playing in his 12th Ryder Cup, but this was the first time he needed a captain’s pick to be part of it. DeChambeau and Thomas, the 2017 PGA champion and last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year, are the lone rookies on the U.S. team.
“I would have to say I'm extremely happy with the 11 players we have,” Furyk said. “(I've) got a lot of confidence in those players. I think we have some great chemistry. I think we have some great pairing opportunities. We've got some great veteran leadership and we've got some youth. It's a well-rounded team, and we'll go to work, get set to go.”
Woods already had been part of this team as a vice-captain, and though he won’t be shy to offer advice on the team and its pairings, he will relinquish that role now that he will be competing. Furyk named his final three assistants to join Davis Love III and Steve Stricker, adding David Duval, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Furyk will round out his team by naming a 12th player on Monday morning, following the final round of the BMW Championship.
DeChambeau, who turns 25 on Sept. 16, captured The Memorial in June, but missed the cut at last month’s PGA Championship and finished ninth in the final Ryder Cup points standings. Faced with a challenge of showing his captain something special, DeChambeau rebounded with victories at The Northern Trust and Dell Technologies the last two weeks.
“Even after I won at Ridgewood, I still thought, 'Man, I've got to play well at Boston just to show them that, yeah, I'm a contender and I'm going to keep doing the right things to be a valuable asset to the team,' ” DeChambeau said. “This is about the team, and I wanted to be part of this experience so badly that I worked twice as hard. It showed, and it paid off.”
DeChambeau attended the Ryder Cup two years ago at Hazeltine as a spectator, leading then-U.S. Captain Davis Love III to do a double-take when he saw him in the gallery. This year's captain, Furyk, said he was impressed not only that DeChambeau won back-to-back titles, but by the method in which he won.
“He took control and seized control of those tournaments and took big leads and was able to finish out tournaments,” Furyk said. “So I have to say, I guess, ‘Thanks’ – you made it really easy on the captain.”
As did the others, really. Woods was second at the PGA Championship, shooting 64 on Sunday. Mickelson, 48, won for the first time since the 2013 Open Championship when he outdueled Thomas in a playoff at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship in early March. He hasn’t posted a top-10 finish since the Wells Fargo Championship in May, but his play has been pretty consistent through the year. He has 11 finishes of T-15 or better in his 22 starts. His victory in Mexico was the 43rd of his career.
In addition to an incredible body of experience and his ability to lead, Mickelson can deliver something else this U.S. team could use: Quality putting. Mickelson ranks behind only Australian Jason Day this season in strokes gained: putting. In Monday's final round of the Dell Technologies Championship, Mickelson holed 129 feet of putts.
Mickelson said he aims to accomplish something he never before has done in this event: Win away from the U.S.
“It's going to be a great challenge because we know how strong the European side is and how well they play at home, but it's a wonderful chance, an opportunity for us to do something I haven't done or been a part of in my career, and would very much like to,” Mickelson said.
The three captain’s selections named by Furyk on Tuesday join eight players named after the PGA Championship who qualified for the team off a two-year points table: Brooks Koepka; Dustin Johnson; Justin Thomas; Patrick Reed; Bubba Watson; Jordan Spieth; Rickie Fowler; and Webb Simpson. Six of the 11 players are in their 20s, and all 11 players rank among the top 26 in the world (Woods is 26th).
One other dose of good news for Furyk on Tuesday was the return of Fowler to the PGA Tour after Fowler missed the first two FedEx Cup Playoffs events with a partial tear in his right oblique, an injury he first felt at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational prior to the PGA Championship. Fowler has been receiving treatment from a spinal neurosurgeon near home in Jupiter, Fla., and returned to practicing and playing at home last week.
The U.S. hasn’t won an away Ryder Cup since 1993, at The Belfry in England. European Captain Thomas Bjorn will round out his team on Wednesday, naming his four captain’s selections, and is expected to lean toward experience. Among his eight automatic qualifiers via two points lists – one a European list, one a World list – Bjorn already counts five rookies: Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen. Also on the team are seasoned Ryder Cup competitors Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy.
Said Furyk, “I have a lot of respect for Thomas and I have a lot of respect for the players that have qualified for the European Team, and I'll be anxious to see who they pick tomorrow.”