PHILADELPHIA – There is but one last puzzle piece for Jim Furyk to add to complete his 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup squad, and he's not without options. In which direction will the captain turn before announcing his 12th man on Monday morning following the BMW Championship?
With 11 team members already set and the team bound for Paris in 18 days for the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, will Furyk opt for a player with a potential pairing in mind? Or will he lean toward a player in strong current form?
“A little of both,” Furyk said Tuesday evening. “I still want someone that's had a good body of work, someone that's playing well right now, but definitely that person has to fit. We have a very good idea now with 11 players of pairings, and that player is going to fit nicely into a spot to make things work.
“So it's something we'll go to work on – not that we haven't already talked about it – but something we'll go to work on even deeper and dive deeper into things this week, and make sure we're very comfortable with that selection on Monday.”
One candidate whose performance has been strong over the past month has been Tony Finau, the long-hitting 28-year-old from Utah. Finau owns only one PGA Tour victory (2016 Puerto Rico Open) and never has played in a Ryder Cup, but when Furyk played alongside him as the PGA Championship at Bellerive, he walked away very impressed.
Finau made 10 birdies in the second round of the PGA playing alongside the captain. In the past two weeks, Finau finished second at The Northern Trust (to captain’s pick Bryson DeChambeau) and tied for fourth at Dell Technologies at TPC Boston.
“The more solid I play each week, I’m making it tough to not pick me, if I’m being honest,” Finau told Golf Channel after Monday’s finish at Dell. “I’m not the one that gets to pick, I’m the one that just gets to play. But I’ve played some nice golf these last couple weeks, and if that’s what it comes down to when (Furyk) makes his decision to pick a team for the Ryder Cup, and (if) that’s what he’s waiting for for those picks, then I think I’m going to be a hard guy to look past.”
Another young player potentially in the equation is Xander Schauffele, last year’s winner of the Tour Championship. Schauffele, 24, had strong showings in two big events this season, tying for second at The Players and the Open Championship, though he has cooled since contending at Carnoustie.
“I don’t know, because I haven’t been on a team … but to represent your country, and rally together with the boys, it’s just a really cool camaraderie from what I’ve seen,” Schauffele said at the PGA. “To be part of it would be really special.”
A two-time winner last season, Schauffele filled out that grouping for the first two rounds alongside Furyk and Finau at the PGA Championship, and Furyk enjoyed what he saw in Schauffele, too.
“Xander was just overall solid,” Furyk said. “He got off to a very poor start and was very unflappable. … I saw a lot of good things in both of them.”
In naming DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods as his first three captain’s selections Tuesday, Furyk chose the players who had finished 9-11, respectively, in the final points table that concluded at the PGA Championship. The next five players: Schauffele (12th), Matt Kuchar (13th), Kevin Kisner (14th), Finau (15th) and Kyle Stanley (16th).
Furyk already has two rookies among his first 11 (Justin Thomas and DeChambeau), and could travel the route of adding experience, just as his counterpart, Thomas Bjorn, did in Europe on Wednesday morning. Bjorn, who counted five rookies among his first eight automatic qualifiers, had four picks to make, and went heavy on seasoned Ryder Cup performers. Bjorn added Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson, all of whom have played on winning Ryder Cup sides.
So to whom might Furyk turn if he wants more experience on his side? Well, Kuchar, a part of every U.S. national team since 2010, and Zach Johnson, two U.S. Ryder Cup veterans, were removed from consideration on Tuesday when Furyk announced they would be serving as his vice-captains. They join Davis Love III, Steve Stricker and David Duval.
Kisner has not played in a Ryder Cup, but he competed in last year’s Presidents Cup, pairing successfully with Mickelson. If, say, Brandt Snedeker were to win the BMW this week, he’d have won twice in the last month (Snedeker shot 59 en route to winning the Wyndham Championship) and has played on past Ryder Cup teams. Also, Kisner or Snedeker could help shore up an area where the U.S. is lacking. Kisner ranks 12th in strokes gained: putting; Snedeker is 16th. Among the current players on Furyk's team, only Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson would rank higher.
“I think we have a lot of good options on the team,” Furyk said, “and we still have options left that I'm excited about for next Monday.”
One more pick to go, and the U.S. will be ready for Paris.