Philadelphia, PA – Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker should send Paul Azinger a basket of mini-muffins.
It was right before Azinger took the U.S. Ryder Cup captaincy that he pitched the PGA of America on a format change. Zinger felt that by weighing the 2008 season much heavier than the one in 2007, he could get the best players at the time of the matches.
Azinger's biggest contribution came in the picks process. He lobbied for, and got four picks and moved the selection date back on the calendar.
Essentially, Azinger set up a three-week playoff for those last four spots.
Now Davis Love III is the beneficiary of this change and he has to be enjoying it. With his eight automatics getting fitted for sweater vests, Love can let the rest of the male American professional golfers duke it out and he'll be there to pluck his quartet.
However, the day after the PGA Championship, Love seemed to play his hand a little far away from the vest. It certainly appeared Love had settled on Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan and that one spot would be up for grabs.
It felt like Love almost had to be muzzled from telling everyone they were going to Medinah.
"Well, Julius (Mason, PGA of America media official) asked me not to do that, to go ahead and announce. We wanted September 4 to be fun," Love said.
That clearly means he had his mind made up on at least some of the players.
It's easy to form a list as soon as those first eight are settled. That's human nature, but Love needs to step back from that a bit.
Stricker is probably as no-brainer as you can get. He's Tiger's partner, still a top-20 player in the world rankings and a good fit.
But how can Love realistically still be set on Furyk and Mahan? Both missed the cut at The Barclays.
Azinger's idea was for the U.S. squad to get the best players going into the matches. It wasn't to get the best players with the best careers.
The fact is the matches are less than a month away. Watney is clearly in form, as is Snedeker and Dustin Johnson, who tied for third at Bethpage, but was probably on Love's radar prior to Sunday.
Snedeker probably was as well, but Watney couldn't have been. Watney was 30th on the points list at the start of last week. One more decent week and how could Love justify taking Furyk or Mahan over him? He couldn't.
We won't know what Love is thinking until he announces the picks a week from Tuesday.
It's easy for Love to say something like, "This team needs veterans," or "We need guys like Steve and Jim for their stature." That couldn't be further from the truth.
What this team needs is players playing well now.
On the European side, Rory McIlroy won the PGA Championship less than three weeks ago. Paul Lawrie won on the European Tour Sunday. Sergio Garcia won, then took third in the last two weeks. In fact, they have one guy out of form, and that's Martin Kaymer.
Phil Mickelson is not lighting the world on fire, plus, with his age and arthritic condition, it's reasonable to be concerned about his fitness at Medinah. He will have played seven of the nine weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup.
The rest of the team stacks up all right, but again, form at the time of the event is paramount.
Furyk has had the best year on tour money-wise without a victory. That, coupled with the fact that he's been on every international team since 1997, should guarantee him nothing. He's essentially blown the U.S. Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Rickie Fowler has been a non-entity since late May. His performance against Edoardo Molinari in the singles two years ago was stout. That was two years ago. That shouldn't be too large a deciding factor.
Mahan won twice this year and went underground after that.
A name, nor Ryder Cup experience, can't be the determining factor for Love. It has to be form. If it happens to be Watney, Snedeker and some other American who has a great week this week, then that's who it has to be.
(Stricker goes unless he tears his ACL at some point during the Deutsche Bank Championship.)
Azinger came up with a brilliant strategy for this thing. He set it up for the U.S. team to get the best of the best, peaking at the time it needs to be. Love has the same criteria ahead of him.
Use this week and last as the barometer.
Just make sure you send Zinger something for the idea.
- The FedExCup is killing the strength of fields on the European Tour. None of the big names are playing right now to compete in the playoffs. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's never more obvious than right now how badly the European Tour is getting pummeled by the PGA Tour.
- Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts were the only choices for European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal. Colsaerts not making the team ended up being a blessing in disguise. Had Colsaerts made the team, Kaymer would have fallen out, then Ollie has to consider Padraig Harrington. This spat between Ollie and Paddy, which Ollie denied existed, stemmed from the Seve Trophy almost a decade ago. It seemed like such high-school girl nonsense, but at least it got avoided.
- The European team is really good, but I still lean toward the Americans, based on what I see, and that's factoring in Stricker. Stricker can't play all five sessions anymore, but he's such a steady player in these team competitions. The key for the United States is what it gets out of the Bubba/Webb/Kuchar group. If that trio can hang with the McDowells, the Lawries and the Molinaris, this thing will go to the U.S. squad.
- Lydia Ko is one remarkable 15-year-old. She was already the youngest winner of a professional event at the age of 14, now she's the youngest to win on the LPGA Tour. What had to impress everyone was that she said, had she won, she would've given a large portion to charity. At 15, I'd have been waiting on a car or drawing initial plans to recreate the Bat Cave. She wants to go to Stanford and is not turning pro anytime soon.
- Movie moment - After finally getting the boy down for a nap, I was ready to take a quick one myself. Until AMC generously deemed "Summer School" an American Movie Classic. I've seen it 1,000 times, but what struck me on this viewing was how truly awful a human teacher Mr. Shoop was. At the end, the principal notes the improvement in the grades (up from like an average score of a 27 to a 45, by the way) and says, "That's teaching." Mr. Shoop, in the span of four weeks of summer school, got arrested for giving alcohol to minors, having a party at his house with alcohol and minors, let a minor female live with him, took field trips to the zoo for his group of high- schoolers and brought a bed in for one of his students - a stripper - to sleep in during class. Mr. Shoop, that's not teaching, that's criminal, sir, and the police are waiting outside.
- TV moment - My comment about my viewing habits and how they relate to "Yo Gabba, Gabba" brought about some obvious responses like "Breaking Bad," or watching old stuff. I get it. I just have to wait until Luke is in high school to watch them.