With the 40th playing of the Ryder Cup less than two months away, the U.S. squad appears to be in big trouble.
U.S. team captain Tom Watson has some difficult decisions to make with his picks to round out his squad before the team heads to Scotland to take on the Team Europe.
Watson – who is weighing options concerning two of the game’s biggest names Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – was dealt some more bad news when Dustin Johnson dropped out of the picture. DJ is taking a “self-imposed’ six-month leave of absence to right himself.
Johnson had a solid year going with a victory (WGC-HSBC Champions last October), a pair of runner-up finishes and seven Top 10s on the PGA Tour. Ranked 16th in the Official World Golf Ranking before his announcement, Johnson was fourth in the FedEx Cup Standings.
Team Europe, who won the last edition in comeback fashion 14 ½-13 ½, is shaping up nicely with leaders Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose all peaking at the moment.
McIlroy is coming off his third career major championship —winning the Open — and Rose has a pair of wins recently on each the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Garcia won earlier this year on the European Tour, contended at the Open and leads the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a little more than a round to play.
Not to mention Martin Kaymer, the U.S. Open and Players champion.
With Woods unlikely to make the team on points, Watson will be tasked with making him a captain’s pick since Woods is on the outside looking in for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Mickelson is just outside the auto-bid in the standings. He should get a pick from Watson, but Phil’s successful partner in the last Ryder Cup – Keegan Bradley – is 15th in the standings. He needs to rally to earn a spot on the team.
Right now, Watson’s best horses are Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. FedEx Cup Standings leader Jimmy Walker is unproven in such a format. Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson look like locks in the standings.
On the inside at the moment (but could be in trouble if he needs a captain’s pick) is Patrick Reed. Currently 10th in the standings with DJ out of the picture, Reed has a WGC victory in March and a win at the Humana in January on his resume. But, he is unproven as well.
For Watson, he will need to engineer quite an upset at this point. He might be better off foregoing the veterans and picking the young, upstarts who come in with some momentum.
At least that would give players like Reed, Harris English, Chris Kirk, Brendon Todd and Ryan Moore some experience since they are clearly the future for America in international competitions.