Tom Watson Announces Captain’s Picks for Ryder Cup

Tom Watson Selects Ryder Cup Captain's Picks, image:

Tom Watson Selects Ryder Cup Captain’s Picks, image:

The United States’ Ryder Cup captain, Tom Watson, has finally named his three picks for the forthcoming Ryder Cup. This ends months of speculation, which only intensified after Tiger Woods ruled himself out of the running due to injury. Shortly after European captain Paul McGinley announced his selection to be Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, Tom Watson divulged his selection of Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson.

So who are these gents? Let’s start with the first, Mr. Keegan Bradley. This St. John’s University alum turned professional in 2008 and has since made quite a showing for himself in top tournaments. This will be his second time playing for the Ryder Cup, as he first debuted in 2012. Bradley’s 3-1-0 Record at the Medinah Country Club probably convinced Watson that the 28-year-old’s drive and Srixon golf balls make him a sufficiently polished matchplay competitor.

Hunter Mahan has been a little inconsistent throughout 2014. However, it is believed that his ball striking will be particularly suited to the conditions at the PGA Centenary Course in Gleneagles, the location of the 2014 Ryder Cup. In recent weeks, Mahan has been hitting the golf ball particularly well with his PING clubs, and he recently carried off the trophy at the prestigious Barclays event. Because of this, his inclusion by Watson should be no surprise.

The third name will possibly surprise a few people, and can clearly be considered the most controversial selection by the experienced Watson. Webb Simpson isn’t exactly a household name, and has been selected ahead of many more respectable rivals, most notably Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker. However, Webb Simpson certainly shouldn’t be considered a poor choice by the captain. He enjoyed a respectable Ryder Cup campaign in 2012, finishing with a 2-2-0 record. Of course, this 29-year-old has not won PGA Tour for nearly a year.

With the majority of the team based on PGA Tour rankings, Watson’s selection means that the final make-up of the 2014 US Ryder Cup team will be as follows (numbers in brackets denote world ranking):

Keegan Bradley (23)

Rickie Fowler (11)

Jim Furyk (7)

Zach Johnson (15)

Matt Kuchar (8)

Hunter Mahan (20)

Phil Mickelson (10)

Patrick Reed (27)

Webb Simpson (32)

Jordan Spieth (14)

Jimmy Walker (19)

Bubba Watson  (9)

With three Ryder Cup rookies on both the American and European teams, there will be pressure on the experienced players to deliver a disproportionate quota of points. For the US this will mean that multiple Major winner Phil Mickelson and in-form Jim Furyk are expected to do much of the heavy lifting. By the same token, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia will surely occupy prominent roles for Europe.

Given that the match will take place in conditions that are more familiar to European team, there is no doubt that the US squad will begin as the under dogs. Even the European captain Paul McGinley acknowledged that Europe is the favorite during Tuesday’s press conference. But with eleven players ranked inside the world’s top 30, this US team is nonetheless a formidable one, and certainly capable of upsetting the odds.

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2 Responses

  1. I grew up watching Tom come over to Scotland every year and disappear back with the claret jug, so it’s with a heavy heart that I find myself questioning his selections, but he’s been increasingly cutting the figure of a disorientated guy who’s losing the plot. I should say however (before I try and rewrite history) that I did say at the time that I thought he’d picked the right players for the wrong reasons, but as I understand it, he did have some latitude to request a deferral from the USPGA, which right now, looks like he should have done with his final pick.

    His reasons for picking Webb Simpson looked eccentric. He called it a “revelation” I’d call it guessing. In fact his justfication had all the conviction of someone who’d been set an examination question they didn’t know the answer to, and which they’d left until last. As the clock ticks away they then decide to scribble anything down by way of an offering and hope for the best. Let’s look at what he actually said;

    “I had a revelation this morning. I looked at the last time the Ryder Cup was played and I see Webb Simpson 5&4, Webb Simpson 5&4 and I said ‘that’s got to be the guy’. Looking at last year’s stats for Webb, he ran the table in the fall (autumn). The fall begins on 22 September and I think Webb’s the guy.”

    In the first case, what he’s actually referring to is a partnerhsip with Bubba Watson. That needs clarifying for starters. To suggest that Webb Simpson was single handedly responsible for these results is just wrong. He might also look at the strength of the opposition these 5&4 results were registered against. When the same pairing took on Rose and Poulter, they lost. Tom’s been given an absolute arsenal of statistics to work his way through. Indeed, when justifying his decision to pick Hunter Mahan he even said so,

    “If you look at the statistics as I have been for a long time, he led greens in regulation in three of the last four events he played.”

    …. and yet he’s seemingly looked at a result with no greater depth to it than wikipedia on the morning that he has to decide, and said “you know what, Webb Simpson won two matches, two years ago”

    I’ve got news for him. So did Luke Donald, and his overall cup record is superior to anyone currently active in the America sphere, but McGinlay decided that this wasn’t enough to save him. As regards Tom invoking the autumn solstice, this sounds like a curious mixture of paganism and witchcraft (which might work yet!) It all serves to confirm in my mind at least that Tom was indeed gearing up to pick Tiger Woods.

    He’d increasingly cut a desperate and incoherent figure in the press conference following the USPGA (we have the transcript). He was repeatedly questioned about Tiger’s fitness and despite him having palpably failed to get even remotely close to the conditions that Tom had laid out for selecting him, Tom continued to answer “but he’s Tiger Woods”.

    So what? If he isn’t up to the task at that moment in time, and Tiger clearly wasn’t, then past record doesn’t really matter. The best cup record amongst professionals who played at Valhalla is actually Tom Watson’s. He could justify a Dick Cheney moment and picking himself on that logic!

    So what’s prompted this mild attack on Tom? Well it’s the release today of the text message he sent Billy Horschel after the second round at East Lake. Bear in mind that both Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson were tied for second last, whilst Horschel led with Chris Kirk in close attendance;

    “Why didn’t you play this well before I picked my wildcards?”

    Heaven knows who made that message public, but you can’t do this sort of thing Tom and hope to build a team. What you’ve actually said is “I wish I hadn’t wasted a pick on Webb Simpson, I think you’re better”. He totally mishandled the Tiger Woods thing to rub further salt into the wounds of those who were chasing a spot. He dithering and refusing to rule Woods out himself (something he could have done after Firestone at the latest, and quite probably at Hoylake) he was in effect saying “I think a half fit Tiger Woods is better than you lot”

    This kind of behaviour is actually mismanagement and it eventually starts to corrode a teams spirit. As Jason Dufner withdrew from the USPGA he said;

    “All these guys are dropping like flies on our team and it is a bit scary. It doesn’t bode well for us so far.”

    We mentioned the press conference that followed, it Tom betrayed to our ears an admission that he didn’t think America could win. Asked about his role he gave an answer that lacked conviction:

    “My job as a Captain is to inspire them, if I can”

    …. if I can ……?

    On Rory McIlroy he said;

    “I wish he was playing for my team, I can tell you that,”

    Surely the correct answer was to point out that for over a decade the American’s have invariably had the number 1 ranked player in their midst rather than help fuel the sense of inferiority. He should also have taken the opportunity to talk about the expectation that being number 1 brings and that Rory had better be ready to deliver or else he’ll be snaffled.

    It’s not just Tom whose given some strange answers and done some strange things. Phil Mickelson is another who has exhibited some frankly quixotic behaviour, and his own record away from his adoring US public hints to us at least that he really doesn’t fancy it when it turns a bit ugly. I think he’s managed 4 points from a possible 18 outside of America (nowhere near good enough). If Bubba Watson got a bit flakey over cameramen inside the ropes at Hoylake, or the long drive competition at Valhalla, then he’s another who has self-destruct written all over him. Zach Johnson hasn’t shown much form recently too, and it remains to be seen if Jordan Speith’s 80 in the wake of Watson’s comments has left a scar. And that’s before we consider how Simpson and Mahan might be feeling about the text to Horschel

    I’d rather finish on a positive where Tom is concerned though, and hope that he’s a genius indulging in ‘rope a dope’. I should say however, that I’m not detecting anything I’d describe as dangerous over-confidence so far in Europe. The team is neatly split between those playing East Lake, and those due to play the Welsh Open at Celtic Manor (everyone apart from Poulter)

    One thing I think Tom still has to do though, (and only he can) is to work the charm on the Scottish crowd and see if he can dilute them. Tom is the nearest thing golf has to royalty in Scotland. McGinlay might have called for the nosiest Ryder Cup history, and Sky television are running some mildly inflammatory television adverts to this effect, but I suspect that if Tom calls for decency and sportsmanship from “the most knowledgable gallery in golf”, the Scots could easily answer him, before they do so McGinlay and Rupert Murdoch

  2. Brad Pecot says:

    I guess only time will tell if his picks turned out to be the right one. I bet he’s wishing Horschel would’ve revealed himself a bit earlier though. Regardless, I have a feeling this year’s Ryder Cup will be a special one…

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