Forecasting the 2016 Ryder Cup: June 29th
That’s all that’s left before we see the best competition in golf, and the 2016 Ryder Cup is looking like a very intriguing event with lots of new faces to go along with seasoned veterans on both sides. It’s been a couple of months since I last took a look at the rosters and how each team stacks up, so below, you’ll find each team’s qualified players, those who are on the bubble, five thoughts on the roster and who I would select as my captain’s picks if the competition started today.
Before we take a look at where each team stands, note that American captain Davis Love III will be making four additional captains picks after his qualifiers, while Darren Clarke will be selecting three Europeans to take to Hazeltine in addition to his nine qualified players. Also, whenever a player’s name is bolded, you can go to his match play record page to get full details on all the matches he has played across all competitions.
|Team USA||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record||Current Points|
On The Bubble
- Guys on the immediate bubble: Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Daniel Berger, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner and Charley Hoffman.
- Other big names and their current place: Jim Furyk (17th), Kevin Na (20th), Billy Horschel (23rd), Justin Thomas (25th), Webb Simpson (29th), Jimmy Walker (31st), Robert Streb (43rd), Smylie Kaufman (48th), Steve Stricker (49th), Tony Finau (52nd), Keegan Bradley (59th), Hunter Mahan (68th) and Tiger Woods (122nd).
- From the last time that I did this, we’ve seen the following changes: Brooks Koepka has moved into an automatic spot, with J.B. Holmes getting bounced.
- The first thing that immediately stands out to me when looking at these eight players is that only Spieth and Dustin Johnson have truly separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Based on the points, those two are pretty much guaranteed to have locked up spots. For a comparison, Bubba Watson was the top point getter for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, with just under 7,000 points earned; a number that has been easily surpassed by Spieth and DJ already and it’s only June.
- The flip side to this is that while Spieth and DJ are killing it right now, the rest of the team is completely up in the air, with only 400 points separating Koepka in 3rd and Fowler in eighth. That means that basically every one of those bottom six guys is on the verge of requiring a captain’s pick to get on the roster, and while a few good finishes should eliminate that possibility, a few bad ones is going to force Davis Love to do something that he didn’t think he was going to have to do.
- That may not sound like a big deal, but think about it like this: ever since Love became captain, he’s probably gone on the assumption that Fowler was going to make the team outright, but say he falls out of a guaranteed spot and someone ends up making the team that doesn’t have Fowler’s pedigree, like Berger or Hoffman. Now Love has to use one of his spots on Fowler because he’s absolutely going to be on the team, and a spot that maybe would have gone to a young, impressive talent like Justin Thomas or a veteran playing well like Jim Furyk is now lost. This is why I’ve always thought that getting rid of the automatic qualifiers is the way to go, but I think Tiger has a better chance of making this team than that ever happening.
- On Furyk: I know that Furyk has been brought up many times before as part of the losing pedigree at the Ryder Cup, but you can do so, so much worse than him and he’s also the prime example of how volatile these rankings can be. It wasn’t that long ago that he was hurt and nowhere near qualifying, but with a few more decent weeks, he’s going to be in the mix and that’s not going to be easy for Love to turn down.
My Captain’s Picks
- My captain’s picks from April 19th: Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Kevin Na and Bryson DeChambeau.
Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that I may have jumped the gun a touch on DeChambeau after his strong performances at the Masters and Harbour Town. He hasn’t played all that well since I said that I would put him on the team, but my overall point still stands that having an influx of new blood is a good idea, and unless something drastic happens to the rankings over the next few months, that’s likely to happen on its own. Since Koepka booted Holmes for an automatic spot, I don’t need to take him and I probably wouldn’t take Holmes if I had to choose the team today.
Reed and Na are picks because of the same reasons I mentioned back in April, so that leaves two spots. I would go with Berger in one of those spots, partially because of the new blood angle, but also because he’s just so solid everywhere with no real gaping holes in his game. His DJ-like attitude is a big thing too because I just don’t see him as the type of player that’s going to get rattled easily.
My last pick would go to Furyk, and I know that people reading this are likely going to call me an idiot because he hasn’t been the most successful player at these things in the past, but hear me out. You’ve already got a group of loud, boisterous, big hitting guys that should be able to manhandle Hazeltine, but there’s something to be said for the idea of dissecting a course methodically, with patience, and there’s no one better available than Furyk with the way he’s played since coming back from injury. Plus, you know that he cares a great deal about the event:
Put him with a good putter like Spieth, or if you look at the stats this year, Phil Mickelson apparently, and he’d be just fine. This team is strong on paper, and with Furyk, it gives them a great mix of youth and experience as well as strength and precision.
|Team Europe||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record|
|Rafa Cabrera Bello||N/A||N/A|
On The Bubble
- Guys on the immediate bubble: Victor Dubuisson (8th on Euro list, 21st World), Thorbjorn Olesen (9th on Euro list, 10th World), Soren Kjeldsen (10th on Euro list, 13th World), Shane Lowry (11th on Euro list, 11th World), Lee Westwood (13th on Euro list, 12th World).
- Other big names and their current place: Thomas Pieters (15th on Euro list, 14th World), Martin Kaymer (17th on Euro list, 17th World), Joost Luiten (18th on Euro list, 19th World), Russell Knox (31st on Euro list, 20th World), Jamie Donaldson (32nd on Euro list, 19th World), Graeme McDowell (42nd on Euro list, 16th World), Francesco Molinari (48th on Euro list, 31st World) and Luke Donald (52nd on Euro list, 28th World).
- From the last post back in April, there’s been one change: Chris Wood is in on the strength of his win at Wentworth, and Soren Kjeldsen is out.
- So, the big news on Europe’s end since the last Forecasting post is that Ian Poulter won’t be playing due to injury and will instead be taking up a spot as one of Darren Clarke’s assistant captains. I’m sure lots of American fans are thinking that this is great news for their side considering Poulter’s form in the event, but I actually think it’s better for the Europeans. Poulter hasn’t been playing well for some time now, and while it’s impossible to know how much of that was due to injury, one thing is definitely clear: there was no way he was going to be left off this roster regardless of how he was playing. With Poulter withdrawing his name from selection, it allows Clarke to pick the best possible team instead of automatically giving Poulter a spot.
- There’s been a lot of talk online about how the Europeans are rounding into form, with wins from Willett, McIlroy, Wood, Fitzpatrick, Stenson and Garcia in the last couple of months, and while I agree that Clarke must be happy to see his team win some tournaments, this ultimately doesn’t mean much, at least when we’re still this far out from the event. If you’re American, what you should be worried about is that Europe has quietly been developing younger players on the European Tour that don’t get that much attention, but are exceedingly talented. Combine that with the big guns (McIlroy, Stenson, Rose and Garcia) and you have a very dangerous roster.
- I thought he was a lock for the team anyway, but the one thing that Poulter being injured does is probably guarantee a spot for Lee Westwood. He’s always been close with Clarke, so it would have been difficult to envision a scenario where he didn’t make the team, especially with the lack of experience that currently makes up the roster, and Poulter’s absence means there’s one less veteran for Clarke to lean on. The good news of course is that Westwood is actually playing really well at the moment, and you can bet that there’s nothing Clarke would love to see more than Westwood qualify on his own and give him another pick to play with.
- Regardless of how this team shakes out, what’s clear is that the European team is going to have a significant amount of turnover for the first time in a little while. Only four of the nine qualified players were at Gleneagles in 2014, and with Poulter, Stephen Gallacher and Thomas Bjorn having no chance of playing, and likely only two at most of Kaymer, McDowell, Dubuisson and Donaldson teeing it up, it’s looking like half of the roster will be brand new in 2016.
My Captain’s Picks
- My captain’s picks from April 19th: Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry.
So, obviously Poulter is out now, and I’m still going with Westwood and Lowry as my first two selections. I’m torn on this last pick though because I’ve been on the Thomas Pieters bandwagon since I first saw him play, but I just don’t know if he’s the right guy at Hazeltine. Thorbjorn Olesen is starting to play well again, and he’s looking like the player that had a lot of people excited before he made the switch to Nike. If they were playing better, McDowell, Kaymer and Luke Donald are the types of guys that should play well at Hazeltine in this format, despite the course being long.
Ultimately though, if I had to pick the team today, I’d go with Russell Knox. He’s not a long hitter by any means, but he’s deadly accurate and if you put him with a good putter, which seem to be in short supply on the roster, I think he can be very effective in the team sessions. He also strikes me as the type of player who, like Lowry, isn’t going to get bothered by the moment and he’s held his own very well on the PGA Tour over the last few years, including a win at the WGC in China back in November. Him and Lowry are the two best players not currently on the roster, and they are both deserving of spots.
|Team USA||Team Europe|
|Jordan Spieth||Danny Willett|
|Dustin Johnson||Rory McIlroy|
|Brooks Koepka||Chris Wood|
|Phil Mickelson||Matthew Fitzpatrick|
|Zach Johnson||Henrik Stenson|
|Bubba Watson||Sergio Garcia|
|Brandt Snedeker||Justin Rose|
|Rickie Fowler||Rafa Cabrera-Bello|
|Patrick Reed||Andy Sullivan|
|Kevin Na||Lee Westwood|
|Daniel Berger||Shane Lowry|
|Jim Furyk||Russell Knox|