By Ron Green Jr.
Now comes the tricky part for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III – picking the four players to fill out his roster at Hazeltine next month.
The easy part was waiting for eight players to automatically qualify and Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson did that.
Two weeks from now, Love will add three players to his roster and on the Sunday night after the Tour Championship concludes, Love will add his final pick, just five days before the Ryder Cup begins. It’s a nod to Billy Horschel, who stormed into Ryder Cup contention too late two years ago.
With four picks, let’s say Love has several more serious candidates:
Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas, Jim Furyk, Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas and Ryan Moore.
That’s our seven candidates. Love may have more. He may have less.
The next two weeks will probably add a name or two to the list and take one or two off.
We can narrow it further. Bubba is going to be on the team. His bag and clothes are probably already ordered.
So what about the other three spots?
Let’s look at each player:
Fowler: He desperately wants to be on the team which may have played into his Sunday afternoon meltdown at Bethpage Black. He’d be a huge benefit in the team room but he’s struggled to close this year. He’s also never won a point in Ryder Cup competition. If it were purely a popularity contest, he’s in. It’s not. He’s iffy.
Holmes: He was inside the top eight for a long time, slipping out at the last minute. Hazeltine will be set up for bombers which helps him. He does his own thing and was good in his only Ryder Cup appearance. It would help if he plays well the next two weeks. He’s probably a pick but not certainly one.
Kuchar: The bronze medal in Rio was the highlight of Kuchar’s year. He’s steady, can play with a lot of different guys and has experience. He’s also one of the few Americans with a winning Ryder Cup record (3-2-2). Count him in.
Furyk: This is where things get really interesting. He’s an assistant captain but listening to Love in every press conference, it sounds like Furyk is going to be playing instead. He’s 15th in points despite missing half the season. He’s playing well and tends to be good on tough courses.
However – and it’s a big however – he’s 10-20-4 in the Ryder Cup including a 2-8-1 mark in four-balls. That matters, especially if you’re making the case with the task force that the status quo isn’t working and change is necessary. Will Love go with the veteran or fresh blood? Count Furyk in.
Haas: He’s 14th in points and hasn’t done anything eye-catching recently but he showed some steel in winning the clinching point at the Presidents Cup last fall. His major championship record is unimpressive which doesn’t help him. He needs to catch fire the next two weeks.
Moore: He’s down the list in points but he’s a seriously good player. If Love wants to shake it up, picking Moore would be a good way to do it. He was 11th in points two years ago and wasn’t picked. He’s a good wild card pick.
Berger: He’s really talented and had his season interrupted by injury but he could be the kind of young talent the U.S. team needs to freshen things up.
Thomas: Like Berger, he’s on the verge of big things and really wants to be on the Ryder Cup team. He needs to give Love a reason to pick him over the next two weeks.