Forecasting the 2018 Ryder Cup: February 13th
So, we’re only seven months away from the Ryder Cup. Now, I know what you’re thinking: talking about potential rosters when we’re still seven months out is ridiculous, and akin to seeing the FedEx Cup Update on the CareerBuilder broadcast, and you’re right! But, even if that’s true, people still love to talk about these things, and believe it or not, the rosters as they sit right now are probably closer to the final product than you might think.
Back when I started creating these forecasting posts in 2016, I did one roughly every two months, starting in February. Eight of the Americans in that post ended up on the team, and nine from the European side ended up at Hazeltine. So, even if you think it’s a little early, it’s not that early.
Just in case you’re new to these posts, here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll list out the eight currently qualified players for both sides, along with their Ryder Cup records and current points. I’ll then give you notable players on the bubble for the final qualified spot, as well as five general thoughts on how things sit, and I’ll end it off with my four captain’s picks for each side. Note that all players who are bolded are clickable, and you can access their full match play records by going to their page. Before we get started, a few reminders:
- Captains: Jim Furyk (USA) and Thomas Bjorn (Europe)
- Course: Le Golf National (France)
- Captain’s picks: Four for each team
|Team USA||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record||Current Points|
On The Bubble / Notable Names
- Chez Reavie (9th)
- Patrick Reed (10th)
- Patton Kizzire (11th)
- Phil Mickelson (12th)
- Kevin Chappell (13th)
- Zach Johnson (16th)
- Charley Hoffman (18th)
- Xander Schauffele (19th)
- Kevin Kisner (21st)
- Daniel Berger (23rd)
- Brandt Snedeker (26th)
- Tony Finau (40th)
- Patrick Cantlay (55th)
- Bubba Watson (60th)
- Tiger Woods (103rd)
- The one thing that immediately stands out is the presence of new faces. We all know how good Justin Thomas is, and there was a LOT of talk about how he should have been on the team in 2016, but Harman and Woodland are a little different. They’ve both been around for a long time, but have never really broken through in the kind of way that would put them up for selection on a team like this. Le Golf National is going to play pretty long at over 7,300 yards, so having another bomber like Woodland on the team to go with DJ, JT and Koepka would be really useful.
- It’s easy to get carried away with the whole “youth movement” discussion that happens in golf all the time, but if you look at the current group of players on this roster, the large amount of scar tissue that many American players have had in the past, simply doesn’t exist with this group. DJ, Kuchar and Fowler are the ones with the most experience on this team so far, and they aren’t considered part of that group that lost a lot of these things over the years. It really is a new day for the Americans in this tournament, at least with the guys at the top of the team.
- Koepka is currently battling a wrist injury, and given that he’s not supposed to be back for at least another month, things could change in a big hurry for him. If he is sidelined for a really significant length of time, he’s not only going to fall out of an automatic spot, but there’s also no shortage of players who are going to be able to jump into the mix and take his spot.
- Furyk figures to have a fairly sizeable group of his contemporaries to choose from for his final four picks, if he so chooses. Between Mickelson, Bubba, Zach Johnson, and maybe even Tiger, it’s going to be very easy to see Furyk lean on some veterans if this team skews a little young. The tough thing for him is going to be that there’s even more young guys that should be in the mix, and if it comes down to, say, Cantlay versus Johnson, it’s going to be interesting to see what he does.
- Speaking of that, if you remember last year, Reed wasn’t playing that well and for most of 2017, he was outside of the qualification area for the Presidents Cup. He eventually did make it so Steve Stricker didn’t have to use a captain’s pick on him, but we’re in that spot again at our first check-in of 2018. Reed also split with Callaway at the end of 2017, and is back playing with his old Nike gear at the moment, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he goes over the next few months. If he’s close to the top eight, he’ll obviously be selected, but can you imagine the pressure on Furyk to select Reed, even if he’s not playing well? We’ve still got a long way to go here, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
My Captain’s Picks
- My picks as of today: Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson, and Daniel Berger
If I was picking this group right now, it’s hard to go away from the experience of Reed and Mickelson. Reed is much like Ian Poulter in that, at least right now, he’s going to have either be injured or playing incomprehensibly poor golf to not merit a selection, and for all of his faults, Mickelson is still one of the most explosive players on the PGA Tour. There’s also no statistical proof of this, but the team definitely wants him there, and if that makes the team play better, he simply has to be there.
Of the guys who are left, I feel like Schauffele and Berger are the best of the young group and provide the best combination of explosiveness and reliability. That could obviously change over the next few months, but there’s just something about Schauffele that makes me feel like he’d be a great fit on a Ryder Cup team. Kinda like Thomas Pieters was for Europe in 2016.
Tiger is the obvious wildcard here. We’re so, so far away from thinking that he could be in a spot to make this team, but what exactly will it take for him to be in the conversation? What if he plays well again at Riviera, and again at the Honda, and on throughout the year? If he’s within range of being selected, he’s going to be awfully tempting for Furyk, right?
|Team Europe||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record|
On The Bubble / Notable Names
- Paul Dunne (7th on Euro List / 10th on World)
- Shane Lowry (8th on Euro List / 14th on World)
- Scott Jamieson (9th on Euro List / 18th on World)
- Victor Dubuisson (10th on Euro List / 15th on World)
- Nicolas Colsaerts (12th on Euro List / 27th on World)
- Henrik Stenson (13th on Euro List / 13th on World)
- Eddie Pepperell (15th on Euro List / 16th on World)
- Alexander Levy (19th on Euro List / 17th on World)
- Martin Kaymer (21st on Euro List / 30th on World)
- Rafa Cabrera Bello (22nd on Euro List / 11th on World)
- Lee Westwood (24th on Euro List / 29th on World)
- Francesco Molinari (37th on Euro List / 23rd on World)
- Alex Noren (39th on Euro List / 12th on World)
- Ian Poulter (41st on Euro List / 25th on World)
- Thomas Pieters (44th on Euro List / 45th on World)
- Paul Casey (109th on Euro List / 64th on World)
- I know it happened in 2016 as well, but it’s still stunning to me to see the explosion of English golf, and three of the four Englishmen on the team currently weren’t even on the team at Hazeltine. This is one of the most underrated stories in golf over the past few years, and there’s more coming as well.
- An awful lot was made after the Presidents Cup about the era of dominance that was going to come for the Americans in team competition, and I didn’t really see it. A few months later, it’s even more apparent to me that things are going to be much closer than some have posited already. Jon Rahm is terrifying, and will be a stalwart on this team for years to come, and because of how good he is, it feels like people are overlooking Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, who are pretty much locks to make the team in September. Europe’s Big Four (Rose, Garcia, McIlroy and Stenson) have been the focus of the team for a long time and still will be in France, but the young reinforcements aren’t too bad either.
- I wouldn’t expect Rory McIlroy to be listed as the last qualifier for too much longer.
- The return of Ross Fisher to contention has been interesting to follow over the past couple of years, and even though he still hasn’t won a tournament since 2014, the fact that he’s climbed all the way back is worth mentioning. It was eight years ago that he last played in this event as a 29-year old, and while I’m not sure that everyone thought he was a future star back then, I don’t think people thought it was going to be this long to see him get back into contention for this team, either. How much have times changed since that Ryder Cup? While Fisher did play against Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, he also teamed with Padraig Harrington twice, and lost to Jeff Overton in Sunday singles. It’s been awhile.
- Contrast that with Sergio Garcia, who has played in every Ryder Cup since 1999 with the exception of 2010, and who accounts for nearly half of the current roster’s experience in this event. The interesting thing about Garcia is that he hasn’t really had a consistent partner in recent years, and despite his lofty record and reputation, he has only won three of his last thirteen team matches in the event. Garcia is now looked at as an elder statesman on this team, and I think the safest bet in the world right now is that he’ll be paired with Jon Rahm in September as Europe’s modern day Spanish duo.
My Captain’s Picks
- My picks as of today: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey and Francesco Molinari.
What Bjorn ends up doing with his picks, at least at this point, is far more fascinating to me than what Furyk has in front of him. As of right now, I don’t see any scenario where Stenson, Noren and Casey are left off of the roster. They are the three players who stand out more than anyone for the obvious reasons, but the last selection is a real toss up and if I had to pick anyone right now, it’d be Molinari. He’s probably the most underrated ball striker in the world, and while he’s short off the tee and a poor putter, he’s going to hit the ball closer to flag more often than the other available options. Having said that, there are some real wildcards on the list:
- Alexander Levy was built for the Ryder Cup. He’s kinda crazy, has a lot of game and the added element of being from France may play a small role in getting him some consideration.
- If Thomas Pieters plays the way we have seen in the past, this spot should be his, but it’s been an oddly quiet run of form since the 2016 Ryder Cup, aside from some good finishes in big events. Pieters playing the way he can would be a massive lift for this team.
- I mentioned him briefly above, but what do you do with Poulter? If he’s playing well, and he did after getting his PGA Tour card back last year, his pull is going to be hard to resist.
- I thought Shane Lowry was a perfect fit for this team in 2016, and I still do in 2018.
|Team USA||Team Europe|
|Dustin Johnson||Justin Rose|
|Brooks Koepka||Jon Rahm|
|Justin Thomas||Tyrrell Hatton|
|Jordan Spieth||Tommy Fleetwood|
|Matt Kuchar||Matthew Fitzpatrick|
|Brian Harman||Sergio Garcia|
|Gary Woodland||Ross Fisher|
|Rickie Fowler||Rory McIlroy|
|Patrick Reed||Henrik Stenson|
|Phil Mickelson||Alex Noren|
|Xander Schauffele||Paul Casey|
|Daniel Berger||Francesco Molinari|