Philadelphia, PA – Davis Love III passed the first test.
His four captain's picks were strong on Tuesday. For the uninformed, Love tabbed Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker to complete his team in three weeks at Medinah.
"Who we were thinking about didn't really change much," Love said Tuesday. "I think it just solidified with Brandt and Dustin; that they really played well under the pressure. They just confirmed what we were thinking. They held up under tough pressure. They played a lot of great golf since the PGA Championship."
Love's mind had to have changed to some degree. With Hunter Mahan slipping out with two weeks to go in the selection process, Love had to have him on his radar.
Maybe things changed more than Love indicated. He wouldn't be the first guy to bend the truth to avoid hurt feelings.
(This is very possible since two questions were asked directly about Mahan on Tuesday and Love didn't say the word "Hunter" once.)
If you do believe Love, he settled on Stricker and Furyk early. Love acknowledged that both helped in the process of selecting the last two captain's picks.
(Also interesting, but a little nit-picky is that Love did not include Tiger Woods in his group of veteran leadership.
"I'm really thankful to our veteran guys on the team who have really stepped up; Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker; guys that have played a lot on these teams have helped me a lot.")
You'd have to be headless to not understand why Stricker is on this team. He's ranked 10th in the world, steady as she goes and a great partner with Woods.
Johnson and Snedeker earned their way in this 3-week tryout, which Love, thankfully, saw.
"You can't argue with the golf that Brandt and Dustin have been playing," Love said.
Johnson is a monster off the tee, which helps at Medinah.
Snedeker is tops on tour in strokes gained through putting.
So that leaves Furyk as the most questionable of the picks, even though Love had him pegged about a month ago.
Furyk hasn't won on tour in two years. His Ryder Cup record is a thoroughly unimpressive 8-15-3. Those that like the pick will point to his experience, but what does that really matter?
"I'm not big on a lot of experience," said 2002 U.S. Ryder Cup captain and ESPN golf analyst Curtis Strange. "I think enthusiasm overshadows experience, but Jim Furyk, this is eight teams, and he said he picked him for experience. He's certainly playing well, he's had two very close encounters with victory this year, one being the U.S. Open, it didn't come true, but playing well."
Yes, Furyk has had two close brushes with victory and they were huge events - the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. But he won neither and let them go late. Is that what you want from one of your picks?
Probably not, but here's the only question that matters - what has Mahan, Nick Watney or Rickie Fowler done that is so far and away better than Furyk?
Mahan has two wins. One was the Accenture Match Play Championship and that came against Rory McIlroy, who right now is more unstoppable than the bulls of Pamplona. The other was the Houston Open.
That victory came over five months ago. Since that time, Mahan has one top 10, and missed cuts in two of his last three tournaments.
Before we go any further, I seriously doubt Mahan's troubles in the final match in 2010 were a factor in his snubbing this time around. There are few humans on the planet that could handle that kind of pressure and it clearly meant a lot to him because he was sobbing harder than my son when we remove the bottle from his mouth.
Mahan didn't do enough late.
Fowler is an interesting name. For how bad Mahan's performance in singles two years ago, Fowler's was that impressive. He was 4-down with four to play and a loss meant Europe won the Cup. Fowler pummeled Edoardo Molinari and scratched out a halve.
Fowler got his first tour win in early May and had top-5 finishes in his next two starts. In his last three months, Fowler's best finish was a tie for 24th. Does what Fowler did 24 months, or even, three months ago matter?
Fowler didn't do enough late.
Watney has a bigger gripe than Mahan or Fowler.
Watney won The Barclays, then tied for 20th at the Deutsche Bank Championship. That should've been enough, but Watney needed a better finish that 20th to force Love's hand.
He should've made this team on points. He played on the Presidents Cup team last year and took a step back this year. Prior to the win at The Barclays, Watney had three top 10s. That's not what Ryder Cuppers are made of.
Watney didn't do enough early.
Furyk has five top 10s and if he wins one of those two events he blew, he's on the team based on points. He didn't so that argument stinks, but he's made the second-most money on tour without a victory this year. Furyk has played on seven previous teams, so, with four rookies on his team, can Love be criticized for adding more of a veteran presence?
Not if your criticism is rooted in Mahan's case.
Love did just fine with these selections. He used two of them on the only two guys to absolutely make their case in the 3-week trial, and the other two on veteran leaders.
First hurdle is done. Now Love just has to get these 12 to relax, play to win instead of playing not to lose, and win this thing back.
That's the tougher task.
- Do you think it's possible that European stars like McIlroy and Lee Westwood became PGA Tour members this year to play meaningful golf in The Playoffs just before the Ryder Cup? It's not ridiculous. Could be obscene amounts of money, too.
- Golf Channel showed this stat and it's interesting - Since 1989, only one player who finished one spot outside the automatic qualifying on the U.S. side, was added as a pick. That, by the way, was Stricker in 2008. Why is that? One of the analysts, apologies, I don't remember if it was Brandel Chamblee or Tim Rosaforte, said that generally they fall out of the automatic spot late due to poor play and the captain doesn't want to go that direction.
- The Monday finish on Labor Day is always pretty cool. We are always on vacation for it, but it's unique so it makes it a tiny bit better.
- The Playoffs still don't move the dial enough. It was cool to see Charley Hoffman have a putt to make the next field, but that was not edge of your seat stuff.
- Movie moment - Vacation, we didn't watch anything although my uncle revealed that he hasn't seen "Star Wars" or "The Godfather." That rattled me pretty hard.
- TV moment - This one is golf-related. There are so few golf broadcast teams still on the air, but I still put NBC's ahead of CBS or Golf Channel. ABC is unfair to put in the mix because with how infrequently they do it, anything new seems good. I think Johnny Miller has actually slipped recently and become the product of his own success. The outlandish statements are absurd, like "I invented the long-putter." Where NBC excels, in my mind, is the on-course team of Maltbie/Rolfing (most underrated analyst on any broadcast) and Pepper.