Where Are They Now?
Wait a minute. There are only three spots left and we haven’t even mentioned Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. Bill Haas? Billy Horschel? Steve Stricker? Keegan Bradley? Brandt Snedeker?
Let’s weed a few of them out.
• Stricker is out because he isn’t playing frequently or well enough, and his recent record with Woods isn’t good. The theory that Stricker is on the team to guide the youngsters and play with Tiger doesn’t carry weight anymore. Sorry Stricks. The hazards of semi-retirement.
• Horschel is a distant 28th in the standings. The team already has youth, and if it came down to him or Bradley it would be a no-brainer in Bradley’s favor. Horschel needs to play his way inside the top 15 to even have a prayer.
• Haas played really well in the Presidents Cup last year despite an average record. It feels like he’s a guy that would have to make the team on points, and if he does he will be a solid member. But at 24th, I don’t see him doing that without a massive second half to the year.
• Snedeker isn’t playing well dating back to his Segway accident in late 2013. Who knows what happens if his putter gets hot, but for now he really hasn’t put himself on the radar.
If there was ever a captain with the kahunas and credibility to leave Tiger Woods off a team, it would be Tom Watson. In the past, Watson has been more critical than many of the legends in regards to the Woods temper tantrums and other shenanigans. If he’s healthy, Tiger probably has a spot. But it’s not a guarantee.
Fill 'er Up
The last three spots go to:
• Tiger Woods – The back bears watching, as does his form, but he has plenty of time to turn this ship around. If he picks up a win or two on courses like Bay Hill, Augusta National, Muirfield Village and Firestone Country Club, he’ll punch his ticket. If he continues to struggle and grab his back every three holes, remaining ranked near his current spot at 35th, stay tuned.
• Phil Mickelson – Because he’s fifth in the points and excels in majors, he may make the team on merit. If he doesn’t, he’s still a guy you want in the locker room. Ironically enough, if Keegan Bradley were to make the team on merit, then it would likely lock up a spot for Lefty in the process.
• Keegan Bradley – Gets the last spot because he often plays his best golf in and around the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship. If he peaks in early August again this season, he’ll be fine. If he doesn’t, he leaves the door wide open for Mahan or Kuchar.
There are two other names to keep in the back of your mind. Call it the Jordan Spieth category, or perhaps the ultimate darkhorse category. Both of these young American studs sit inside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking and neither has any status on the PGA TOUR. Not even Special Temporary Membership.
Meet Brooks Koepka (70th in the OWGR) and Peter Uihlein (73rd).
Short of one of them winning a major or a World Golf Championship, it’s highly doubtful that either will come close to cracking the top nine for an automatic bid. So, how would either earn a red, white and blue uniform?
Tom Watson tweeted the following on March 13: “While current hot play is a factor, what I’m looking for most is guts or heart.”
Both Koepka and Uihlein are members and winners on the European Tour. If one was to go on a roll and bag multiple wins in convincing fashion in Europe over the summer, perhaps with the Scottish Open or Irish Open being one of them, Watson may find one or both to have the heart or guts needed to earn a captain’s pick. Plus, either upstart would have proven himself successful in Europe where the Ryder Cup will be contested. Just sayin'.