East Lake Golf Club is many states and about 1,100 miles removed from Hazeltine National Golf Club, so can we safely deduce that William McGirt, Roberto Castro and Kevin Kisner are not candidates to be Mr. 12th Man on the upcoming U.S. Ryder Cup team?
After all, those unheralded Americans were tackling short-game issues in gnarly Bermuda at East Lake’s practice area Monday afternoon, not auditioning for Captain Davis Love in the land of lakes and Vikings. No, sir, by all reports, invitations were only extended to Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Jim Furyk to play Hazeltine, so it’s pretty clear that the final captain’s pick will go to one of those four.
The 11 players who are already on the U.S. Ryder Cup team were also invited to be at Hazeltine, but we know there wasn’t perfect attendance because Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar were spotted Monday at East Lake. But whether all the others — Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler and J.B. Holmes — were in Minnesota doesn’t really matter much; the only intrigue left swirls around the final pick, which Love will breathlessly reveal Sunday night during halftime of the NFL game.
The final pick being revealed at halftime of the Bears-Cowboys game is laughable, of course, but it’s in keeping with the Americans’ obsession for grandstanding and hyping their selections. The more we lose, the more we think, and the more we think, the sillier it all seems.
Think about it: The European team has been solidified for three weeks now and here are the Americans running around like a collective group of Jack Bauers with 24 hours to save the world. Good gracious, it’s golf, and if Love & Co. don’t know by now what what Watson, Thomas, Berger and Furyk bring to the table, then it doesn’t bode well for those decisions that invariably have to be made on the fly. Yet here we are, less than 10 days from the Ryder Cup gala and we don’t know who is wearing that 12th tuxedo for Team USA.
So, who’s it going to be? Well, those who are closest and know best — players — have in all due respect been chuckling for weeks over this hype. As early as the first FedEx playoff event, The Barclays, players were saying the picks were made, that the first three were locks — Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes. When Love announced that Fowler, Kuchar and Holmes got his first three picks, only the Captain Renaults among us feigned surprise.
Players are also suggesting that the fourth pick would seem to be Watson, but there is an asterisk attached. “They’re looking for a reason not to pick Bubba,” said one player, and so the scenario appears to be this: Should Watson play exceptionally well here at the Tour Championship, he’d likely get the nod.
But Love’s son played at Alabama with Thomas and the captain is enamored with the young man’s power, just as he feels Berger’s length and prickly demeanor would bring an edge to the team. So if Watson were to stumble at East Lake and either Thomas or Berger were to play very well, one of the kids could get the nod.
In that case, it would serve more as an indictment against Watson than a testament toward Thomas or Berger and there are plenty of folks who feel the two-time Masters winner is not being treated fairly.
As for Furyk, who reportedly did not play Monday at Hazeltine, one player said the nine-time Ryder Cupper is still an option. “If Watson doesn’t play well and Thomas and Berger didn’t appear ready, Furyk is the safe pick,” he said.
All of which leaves American players like Kisner, McGirt and Castro where? Quite content, thank you. They’re in the grip of a season finale that comes dressed with an $8.5 million purse and is the final step before $35 million in bonus money is dispersed.
Not a bad way to make a living, so no, the lack of an invite to Hazeltine didn’t bother them at