Forecasting the 2016 Ryder Cup: August 22nd
We’re just over a month away from the Ryder Cup, and I’m almost as excited as Paul Azinger is above. This will likely be the last Ryder Cup Forecasting post that I do before the event, as the qualification period ends after the Barclays on the PGA Tour and the Made in Denmark event on the European Tour.
Just two quick reminders: First, the Americans have four captain’s picks available, while Europe only has three and second, if you want to see full match play records for each of the players mentioned in this piece, you can click on their bolded names and see the results.
|Team USA||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record||Current Points|
On The Bubble
- Guys on the immediate bubble: J.B. Holmes (9th), Bubba Watson (10th), Matt Kuchar (11th) and Rickie Fowler (12th).
- Other big names and their current place: Bill Haas (14th), Jim Furyk (15th) Daniel Berger (16th), Jason Dufner (19th), Kevin Na (20th), Justin Thomas (25th), Webb Simpson (26th), Billy Horschel (28th) and Steve Stricker (29th).
- It’s crazy how things have changed since the last time I did one of these posts. Back in June, Fowler and Watson were in as automatic picks, and have since been replaced by Reed and Walker. Holmes and Snedeker have leapfrogged each other several times in 2016, and it happened again at the conclusion of play on Sunday at the Wyndham, as Snedeker’s good finish saw him move into the sixth position.
- Walker’s win at the PGA Championship was obviously great for him and much deserved, but in terms of the Ryder Cup, it really threw a wrench into the projected plans. Before winning at Baltusrol, Walker was hovering around 30th in the points list for much of 2016 and was likely not garnering a whole of attention with his play. When you look at the names around that spot right now, you see guys like Horschel, Stricker, Gary Woodland and James Hahn, none of whom you’d say are lighting it up at this point. Now though, he’s in and as you can see above, a lot of the bigger names who haven’t been playing all that well are the ones who are most affected. Walker’s a fine player who drives it far and putts well, so he’s unlikely to end up hurting the cause in any way, but I’m guessing that Love didn’t exactly have him slotted in for a spot on the roster.
- On Furyk: Soly at No Laying Up has been staunchly against his selection, as many of you in my Twitter mentions have as well, and he shared his thoughts on it a few days ago. When I suggested back in June that he wouldn’t be the worst idea as a captain’s pick, a lot of it had to do with the dearth of other options and as Soly pointed out in his piece, Love seems to be oddly fixated on him as a pick based on the way he’s talked about him over the past couple of months. I maintain that I don’t think it’s a bad selection at all, but with the other options currently available, even if they’re not playing that well, I think it’ll be tough for Love to justify making Furyk one of his four picks.
- If I had to guess, my bet would be that despite what many want him to do and shake it up with a pick like Berger or Thomas, that Love will end up playing it safe and going with more known commodities, even if their records aren’t stellar in this event. My guess is that the final four picks, unless there’s a 2014 Horschel-esque FedEx Cup run, will come from this group of six: Holmes, Watson, Kuchar, Fowler, Haas and Furyk.
- I’m planning on looking back at prior Ryder Cup point lists in a future post, but it’s super interesting to me that to some degree, only two players have truly seperated themselves from the rest of the pack in this qualification period. DJ and Spieth have had spots locked up for months while the other six have been fighting it out with tons of movement. Contrast that with the European roster and for the most part, it’s stayed the same since about April when Danny Willett won the Masters. To this end, you should aslo read Soly’s other piece from last week on how the qualification standings could look different with a few tweaks.
My Captain’s Picks
- My captain’s picks from June 29th: Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, Daniel Berger and Jim Furyk
Like I mentioned above, Walker’s win at the PGA kinda came out of nowhere and has significantly altered the captain’s pick process for Love. If I’m picking the team right now, even though they aren’t playing that well, Bubba and Rickie would have to be selected. You have to go with the best players possible, and both have the capacity to be absolute game changers when they’re playing their best. This is why it’s tough for Love because it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation with these two. If they get picked and don’t play well leading to an American loss, you can argue that they haven’t played all that well for months and they didn’t deserve a pick. If you don’t take them and the Americans lose, people will ask why on earth Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler were watching from their couches. Winning obviously takes care of that, and I think your best chance of winning comes with those two on the roster.
I’ve been riding the ‘Kevin Na for Ryder Cup’ bandwagon since 2014, and will continue to do so because he’s a solid player (21st on the PGA Tour in 2016 in Strokes Gained Total) who seems like he’s perfectly suited for match play conditions. Yes, he’s sped up as a player, but he’s still very slow and deliberate out there, as evidenced several times during the Wyndham and when you combine that with his mannerisms, he’s exactly the kind of guy that would frustrate you on the other side.
The last pick isn’t as certain for me as the other three. I want nothing more than to see Justin Thomas on this roster, not only because he infuses some new blood into the team but because he’s got the mentality and the skill set to do well, but he’s so hit and miss and the same goes for Holmes. Theoretically, Furyk and Kuchar bring a lot more consistency to the table. If I’m picking the team right now, I think I lean towards Kuchar as the last pick despite being very conflicted about it.
|Team Europe||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record|
On The Bubble
- Guys on the immediate bubble: Soren Kjeldsen (8th on Euro list, 11th on World), Tyrrell Hatton (9th on Euro list, 14th on World), Victor Dubuisson (10th on Euro list, 26th on World), Thorbjorn Olesen (11th on Euro list, 15th on World), Martin Kaymer (12th on Euro list, 13th on World) and Lee Westwood (13th on Euro list, 12th on World).
- Other big names and their current place: Shane Lowry (14th on Euro list, 16th on World), Thomas Pieters (15th on Euro list, 18th on World), Joost Luiten (20th on Euro list, 21st on World), Francesco Molinari (21st on Euro list, 17th on World), Andrew Johnston (24th on Euro and World list), Russell Knox (30th on Euro list, 10th on World), Jamie Donaldson (37th on Euro list, 23rd on World), Graeme McDowell (44th on Euro list, 20th on World) and Luke Donald (52nd on Euro list, 33rd on World).
- Much like the American team, the final date for qualification is after next Sunday’s tournament. However, based on the points and money available, the top nine is already confirmed and there will be no changes unless their is an injury. That means that Darren Clarke will be taking at least five Ryder Cup rookies with him to Hazeltine.
- Usually this is the kind of thing that would make people nervous, but I don’t think that should be the case this time around because of the personalities involved. Willett, RCB, Wood and Fitzpatrick don’t strike me as the type of players that will wilt under the pressure of the Ryder Cup, and as I’ve said before, Sullivan is a lightning rod. He’s going to be Europe’s new Ian Poulter; both in terms of play style, and the capacity to annoy the American players and fans. This guy was made for TV, and he’ll be great theatre along with being a quality player.
- Once the nine automatic selections were solidified, Sky put out their odds for who is going to get selected. It’s interesting to see who they think is going to be on the team, namely that Kaymer is a heavy favourite. Perhaps they have some inside knowledge and he is having a better year than I thought, but it seems a touch weird to me. Guessing that it has some to do with the fact that he has experience on a team that is sorely lacking it.
- To be honest, unlike the Americans, I really believe that it couldn’t have fallen much better for Darren Clarke in terms of his automatic qualifiers. Sure, you could say that Love has it “easy” in the sense that even if they don’t play well, no one would be critical of selections of guys like Bubba and Rickie, but don’t you want your best players to be secure on the roster? If one of Europe’s “big four” of Rory, Stenson, Rose and Garcia required a pick, it would have probably been because a lesser player was in their place, and that likely makes the team weaker overall.
- One last thing to keep an eye on regarding the captain’s picks that Clarke will make: Both Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald played really well at the Wyndham, and obviously that’s the smallest possible sample size, but if one of them can win the Barclays, I wouldn’t be altogether shocked if one of them ended up on the roster. They have tons of experience, good Ryder Cup records and they’re both close with Clarke. It’s probably not the direction I would go in, but I can see a scenario in which it comes together if they get hot.
My Captain’s Picks
- My captain’s picks from June 29th: Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry and Russell Knox
There’s no doubt that the three captain’s picks are coming from that group of 18 that Sky has on offer, although I’m pretty sure that Westwood already has a spot locked up and it’s the right call. He’s been playing pretty well, and if you are concerned about the lack of experience, no one has more than him. When Clarke announced that Sam Torrance would be his last vice captain, it pretty much guaranteed Westwood’s spot on the team, at least to me. Russell Knox has been playing fantastic golf even if you ignore the win at the Travelers and is one of the best players in the world, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be on the team. This leaves the last spot, and I’m conflicted.
If you had told me months ago that Shane Lowry wouldn’t be an automatic pick, I would have thought you were crazy but he’s struggled since the U.S. Open and has fallen down the list. I still think he’s got the right mentality and skill set to be a great Ryder Cupper, so he’s going to be my last pick just ahead of Thomas Pieters, but I don’t think that’s where Clarke ends up going. My guess is that he picks Westwood, Knox and Kaymer, giving him six rookies and six guys with experience. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think it’s the way I would personally fill out the roster.
|Team USA||Team Europe|
|Dustin Johnson||Rory McIlroy|
|Jordan Spieth||Danny Willett|
|Phil Mickelson||Henrik Stenson|
|Jimmy Walker||Sergio Garcia|
|Brooks Koepka||Justin Rose|
|Brandt Snedeker||Rafa Cabrera-Bello|
|Zach Johnson||Chris Wood|
|Patrick Reed||Andy Sullivan|
|Bubba Watson||Matthew Fitzpatrick|
|Rickie Fowler||Lee Westwood|
|Kevin Na||Russell Knox|
|Matt Kuchar||Shane Lowry|