Here’s Who Should Head To The Ryder Cup
Davis Love III will select three of his four captain’s picks for the 2016 Ryder Cup on Monday following Dustin Johnson’s victory at the BMW Championship. His final selection will come after the Tour Championship in two weeks. Much has been made of Love’s tenure as captain of a maligned American side. The embarrassment from 2014 still hasn’t worn off, and fans were somewhat dismayed to see familiar faces back in contention.
With all the young talent in the game, the return of Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker to the team and conversations in support of Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar does little to excite the masses. Rickie Fowler’s lack of form hasn’t helped, nor has the uneven play of guys who just missed the cut two years ago, namely Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk.
We’re left with a small group of potential captain’s picks for Love. Bubba Watson is just outside automatic qualification. He’ll go to Minnesota. Ditto for Fowler. The last two selections will likely go to the foursome of J.B. Holmes (10th in the standings), Jim Furyk (15th and currently on a hot streak), Matt Kuchar (recent bronze medalist) and Bill Haas (veteran with international experience).
Love has few choices and little room for error. He has to go with ready-made players, even if they don’t possess the verve necessary to right the American ship.
Let’s take a step back for a moment, then. What players would we like to see take on the Europeans regardless of current status? Here are four the Love won’t pick, but we can.
How is it that a guy can be named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, win one tournament the next season and collect five top-10’s in 24 starts and still not get any publicity? That’s the Daniel Berger conundrum. The 23-year-old has all the talent in the world for future stardom but the personality. He comes off as cold on the course and almost abrasive off it. His demeanor is similar to Ryder Cup qualifier and fellow Florida State Seminole Brooks Koepka. As a result, the networks keep their cameras away from Berger who has been in contention throughout the summer despite a lingering injury.
Berger won’t be intimidated and with that languid swing, may just do some intimidating of his own.
Okay, so maybe “verve” doesn’t come to mind when thinking about Kevin Na. But here’s what we know—he’s a man growing more comfortable with the mental side of golf. Na famously battled the yips in recent years, a problem which compounded his tendency to play slowly. Fellow players scoffed at his performances and even embarrassed him. That hasn’t phased Na. At least, not when it comes to results. He’s produced eight top-10’s and made 20 cuts in 24 events in 2016.
He’s also not afraid to take a chance. No one has popularized driver-off-the-deck more than Na in the last two seasons. Plus, his slow play can be used against the Europeans. Every team, regardless of sport, needs pace setters and pace disrupters. Na is the latter.
Yes, he’s Jordan Spieth’s good buddy. Chemistry is paramount to any team endeavor. But Thomas can flat out play, too.
As Soly from No Laying Up, who as a friend of Thomas can be described as Jordan Spieth’s good buddy’s good buddy, argued a few weeks back, few players have been punished by the fall season more than Thomas. He won his only tournament last November at the CIMB Classic and finished third at the Frys.com Open.
But the fall events don’t count towards Ryder Cup points to ensure that star players can have their precious time off. Per Soly’s calculations, if the totality of the 2015-16 were considered, Thomas would comfortably qualify for the Ryder Cup.
Now, that that’s settled, let’s talk about his game. He hits the ball a mile, and he’s fearless. There. That’s enough.
It’s true that Tony Finau has struggled in his sophomore campaign after dazzling at times as a rookie. Nine missed cuts is far too many for someone with Ryder Cup aspirations.
But let’s consider this another way.
The Ryder Cup is not a stroke play event. Finau’s errant shots, which have become too frequent, will cost him just one hole rather than several spots on the leaderboard. This leaves him with the freedom to grip and rip it. He does that well. Finau ranks third on tour with a driving average of 312.1. He’s also 12th in birdie-or-better par-5 percentage at just a hair less than 50 percent.
Pair Finau with Spieth and watch what happens.