U.S. Ryder Cup picks not as ‘obvious’ to some

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Associated Press

NORTON, Mass. — One week into the Ryder Cup auditions for the captain’s picks, Davis Love III should have no trouble identifying the hot player.

Trouble is, Rory McIlroy plays for the other team.

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The Deutsche Bank Championship, where McIlroy rediscovered his putting stroke, was the first of two big tournaments that essentially allow Love and the Americans to buy time so they can decide how to use three captain’s picks that will be announced Monday.

Love will get a fourth pick after the FedEx Cup ends on Sept. 25, presumably before the boarding door closes on the flight to Hazeltine.

But is this really an audition?

Not according to Phil Mickelson, the senior member of the U.S. team who serves on the Ryder Cup Task Force.

“I think the picks are fairly obvious,” Mickelson said before the first shot was struck at the TPC Boston. “If they’re not, or if we get a guy like Billy Horschel who just gets a hot hand and we need that hot hand to give us the best chance to win, then we have that option. For the most part, I think it’s fairly obvious who the picks would be without even naming them.”

Maybe it’s obvious to Mickelson, and perhaps to Love.

But not to everyone.

“I can’t name them, either,” said Steve Stricker, an assistant captain and task force member. “I don’t know who they are, I swear. I could put five guys down that are obvious. I don’t think I could do three.”

Matt Kuchar would seem logical. He finished 12th in the standings, has the right game for match play because he is rarely out of position, and he likely played his way onto the team with that 63 on the final day to win the bronze medal at the Olympics.

Rickie Fowler makes sense, even though he has never won a match in two Ryder Cup appearances.

Fowler is well-liked, he paired nicely with PGA champion Jimmy Walker at Gleneagles and tied for seventh at The Barclays in the final qualifying event. Then again, he squandered a chance to play his way onto the team at Bethpage Black by making a mess of the last four holes. He wound up 11th in points.

After that, the obvious becomes opinions.

Bubba Watson finished at No. 9 in the standings and he is No. 7 in the world. However, the two-time Masters champion hasn’t had a top 10 on the PGA Tour in six months. Jim Furyk is under consideration, mainly because he finished at No. 15 in the standings despite missing four months at the start of the year to recover from wrist surgery. He also shot 58. But he didn’t make it beyond the second stage of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

J.B. Holmes was No. 10 in the standings. Holmes is a power player and one of the few active Americans to have never been on a losing Ryder Cup team. His only appearance was in 2008 at Valhalla. He went 2-0-1.

That’s five options, and there might be more.