EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in O's series of updates on the Ryder Cup held at Gleneagles in Scotland on Sept. 26-28.
Inside the Final Month
The hours are dwindling for players to make their final impressions on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and European skipper Paul McGinley. Both will round out their squads with captain's picks next week.
The nine automatics are locked in for Team USA. The three captain’s picks will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 2. The European roster isn’t solidified just yet, but it will be with the next edition of the Official World Golf Ranking.
The Yanks are locked in with Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Bubba Watson. That’s a pretty nice mix of veterans and youth. Reed, Spieth and Walker are rookies, but Spieth has the advantage of having played a Presidents Cup.
Now the fun starts.
With a solid nucleus of players, captain Watson can fill in his roster with the final three as he deems necessary. Headed into the Deutsche Bank Championship, it would seem that the clubhouse favorites for the final three spots are Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker, in that order. That said, there are a handful of players that could displace one or more of those guys with a win or an otherwise big week at TPC Boston, coupled with poor performances from one or two of the guys currently on the right side of the bubble.
• Hunter Mahan – While he concluded the Ryder Cup points list in the 25th spot, his win at The Barclays would have likely moved him inside the top nine if the list was still running. He placed T15 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and T7 at the PGA Championship before winning The Barclays. He's also a veteran of two Ryder Cups, amassing a 3-2-3 record. With his combination of current form and Ryder Cup experience, he should be a lock to make the team at this point. If he doesn’t, then what’s the point of captain’s picks?
Mahan makes the team if: He makes the cut at TPC Boston and a perfect storm of challengers don’t finish 1-2-3. Chance of making the team: 98%.
• Keegan Bradley – The American Ian Poulter. Bradley is the heart and spirit of the U.S. squad. While he’s played only on one team (2012), he boasted a 3-1-0 record and ran the tables with current member Phil Mickelson as a partner. Bradley has likely pressed a little too hard down the stretch to make the team, but has proven that he thrives in team competitions and a Bradley/Mickelson pairing is a mere formality.
Bradley makes the team if: Should he crack the top 10 at TPC Boston, it really wouldn’t matter what happens around him. If he doesn’t pull that off, it should still take a pretty bad set of circumstances for captain Watson to pass him up. It probably doesn't hurt that Bradley was one of only two prospective Americans (automatic qualifier Jim Furyk was the other) to scout Gleneagles in July with captain Watson. Chance of making the team: 85%
• Brandt Snedeker – He was safely inside the bubble headed into The Barclays, but two very bad things happened to him. The first was self-inflicted as he missed the cut. The second was a win by Mahan, likely dropping Sneds from safely in to barely in. If the picks were made following The Barclays, he'd probably have held onto the last spot. Snedeker is a veteran of just one Ryder Cup, and his 1-2-0 record isn’t screaming “PICK ME.”
Snedeker makes the team if: A top 10 or 15 at the Deutsche Bank would prove that his missed cut last week was a fluke. That would be a huge start. Before his missed cut at Ridgewood CC, he had been on a T25-T12-T13-T5 run beginning at the RBC Canadian Open. He’s also the guy that needs to dodge a win by a handful of Americans in the field this week. Chance of making the team: 45%.
• Webb Simpson – There are a number of guys that could stake a claim to being the first man out, but Simpson is set apart due to his Ryder Cup experience (2-2-0 in his one trip) and his ability to pair well with Bubba Watson in past team competitions. Watson doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a great partner, but Simpson has figured out how to make it work. If captain Watson feels like he has a solid 11 players and he’s looking for a tie breaker in determining the 12th, that could bode well for Webber.
Simpson makes the team if: He’s been pretty inconsistent this year, so a timely top five or 10 could push him over the top. It stands to reason that a win would certainly do the trick. There isn’t a ton separating him and Snedeker, so some errors by Simpson’s closest competitors wouldn’t hurt. Chance of making the team: 40%.