EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in O's series of updates on the Ryder Cup held at Gleneagles in Scotland on Sept. 26-28.
What's That Smell?
The most wonderful time of the year for golf fans is creeping up and it comes only every other year.
History. Tradition. Emotion. Heartbreak. Tom Watson. Nope, not the Masters. Well, yeah, actually most of that applies to the trip down Magnolia Lane as well, minus the every-other-year thing.
In this case it’s the 2014 Ryder Cup, which is less than 200 days away. It’s time to start paying attention.
With all apologies to friends across the pond, our coverage leading up to the Ryder Cup will be heavily slanted towards the Yanks. That’s not to say we won’t bury you a bone somewhere deep into the article to keep you up to date, but our friendly zone of conceded article space will mirror that of Ian Poulter’s charity on the greens of Gleneagles.
The PGA of America wants to see the Ryder Cup trophy come back to the United States. Badly. Rather than take a card from the deck of 40somethings in line for a captaincy -- maybe a David Toms -- the organization made a bold move and pulled out an entirely different deck. The result was emphatically slamming a Tom Watson card on the table. The Europeans will trot out Paul McGinley. See, there’s a bone.
Watson has responded by aligning himself with assistant captains from the old guard, leaving fans to wonder how in touch with the current crop of players the likes of Raymond Floyd and Andy North are these days. The captain also sparked controversy when he reduced his number of captain’s picks from four to three, allowing the top nine in the Ryder Cup points list to qualify automatically.
Why not just leave it alone and discipline yourself to take the ninth guy rather than change the system for the guy coming behind you? Jack Nicklaus would regularly take the 11th guy in the Presidents Cup standings, but he didn’t reduce his number of picks to one.
Points for Team USA are based off money earned during the 2013-14 PGA TOUR season as well as the four majors from 2013. U.S. players pick up one point per $1,000 earned for each of the four 2013 majors, as well as all 2013-14 non-major events not played opposite a World Golf Championships or a major.
Players get two points per $1,000 earned in the four 2014 majors, but just half a point per $1,000 in any event played opposite the WGCs or majors. Think Puerto Rico Open.
The funny thing is, the way the U.S. roster is taking shape he may have been dumb like a fox. The top 12 in the current USA point standings are Jimmy Walker (3,861.680), Dustin Johnson (3,759.812), Bubba Watson (3,018.984), Patrick Reed (3,008.552), Jason Dufner (2,574.398), Phil Mickelson (2,537.422), Harris English (2,519.807), Zach Johnson (2,365.318), Webb Simpson (2201.097), Ryan Moore (2,161.201), Chris Kirk (2,025.870) and Kevin Stadler (1,674.152). With the top nine in as automatics, Moore, Kirk and Stadler would require a nod from Tom Watson if this were the final standings.
Walker and DJ are on the team. Bubba Watson and Reed will be, too, barring an epic collapse or an injury. That leaves five automatic spots up for grabs with three captain’s picks.
Let’s take a look at the four that are essentially locked in.
• Jimmy Walker – While it’s possible for a guy with two wins in a Ryder Cup season to just miss out on the team, three wins is the charm. Don’t expect his next five months to be like the first half of his season, but at the same time he won't forget how to play golf. He also won’t end the season as the top guy on this list, but he’ll stay inside the top five by default.
• Dustin Johnson – Perhaps being left off the Presidents Cup team served as some type of inspiration because he’s come out of the box swinging in 2013-14. Do not be surprised if he wins the Masters and he is as good a bet as any to end up leading the USA point standings.
• Bubba Watson – Another Masters' favorite, he’s seemingly in contention every week. He should also grab plenty of points at the Travelers Championship.
• Patrick Reed – He believes he’s top five in the world and, while that may be debatable, he is absolutely top five in this standing. He’s the reason why the assistant captains may work out well. Reed hasn’t lost a Ryder Cup. He’s “new blood.” Who better to mold the fresh faces than the guys who regularly won the Cup a generation ago? What would a guy like Toms instill in Patrick Reed? The recent winner at Doral will be fun to watch in this event. If his history at Augusta State is any indicator, he may tell -- not ask -- Captain Watson to stick him out last on Sunday. And Watson may laugh.
Here are the eight that should ultimately round out the Team USA, as well as their current standing.
• Jason Dufner – Currently fifth in standings due in large part to his win at the PGA Championship last year. He’s performed well in team events when paired with Zach Johnson. Should one of the two make the team on merit, the other will probably nab a captain’s pick.
• Zach Johnson – Sits eighth in the standings and has his regular cash boon of Colonial Country Club still forthcoming. He will also pick up plenty of points at the John Deere Classic. See Dufner for the rest.
• Webb Simpson – Considering Bubba’s caddie looped for him to start the year while Paul Tesori was home with the birth of a new child, and the two of them have played together in past team events with success, Simpson is on the team. He’ll probably make it on points (currently ninth) but if not he will be an easy captain’s pick.
• Harris English – Another potential Ryder Cup rookie, he has worked his way into seventh on the standings and has been a consistent top-10 machine in 2013-14. Has the game and demeanor to excel in this format and would pair easily with almost anyone. It’s somewhat imperative that he make the team on points because the list of players needing a captain’s pick is both deep and impressive.
• Jordan Spieth – Got his feet wet in a rather unimpressive Presidents Cup debut, but the kid is consistently knocking on the door. At 13th in the current standings, he is not a long shot by any standard. Should he pick up a win between now and then, it would solidify his spot.