There is only one spot left to be filled on the U.S. Ryder Cup team and Davis Love III has less than two weeks to do it.
Team chemistry and being a player that others want to practice and play with will be critical factors in his decision. So will having just the right skills.
“I’ve been saying all along, we’re a sports team, and we have to draft the right player for the right positions,” Love said on Monday after he announced that Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes and Matt Kuchar had received his first three captain’s picks.
“Everybody just automatically thinks, ‘Just look at the scorecard, it’s a really long course, we need long hitters.’ Tiger (Woods) looks at it a whole lot differently than that. Tiger, over the last two or three weeks, has made us really think hard about not only pairings but other things that we need to look for in our players. He’s taken the stats package that we get and (has been) breaking it down to what we really need.”
That echoes the advice Patrick Reed gave Love eight months ago: “You need to look at this a little bit differently. Don’t just look at length and strokes gained putting.”
Analytics gurus who work in Major League Baseball and for National Basketball Association teams are tight-lipped when it comes to talking about stats they think provide a competitive advantage. Love is also playing things close to the vest, but he dropped a few hints Monday.
“I keep saying, if my team needed a quarterback and I drafted a running back, I would be in big trouble,” he said. “We looked at a lot of factors making the picks (Fowler, Kuchar and Holmes), and we made sure that we fit in, not necessarily the guy with the best-putting stat, or the longest driver or the highest-ranked points. A lot went into it, a lot of factors.”
The U.S. already has four players who rank among the top 20 in strokes gained: off-the-tee in Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler. Based on that fact and Love’s comments, don’t assume the U.S. team is fishing for another big hitter. A safer bet would be a good iron player and someone with a solid wedge game. In foursomes matches, it would make sense to compliment someone like Holmes or Johnson, who excel off the tee, with someone who consistently hits approach shots close to the hole.
Based on that stat, Kevin Na, Kevin Chappell, Jim Furyk and Justin Thomas would be worth considering, with Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner also being in the mix.