While no favorites have emerged to land the final spot for the Ryder Cup, the choice for Davis Love will likely be between Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson.
The last pick in sports is something of a novelty. For football fans, Irrelevant Week celebrates the last pick in the NFL Draft. “Mr. Irrelevant” receives the Lowsman trophy and a week’s paid vacation to Newport California for his “celebratory parade.” Down the pecking order from professional sports, being picked last in gym class can feel both pitiful and enraging.
In the golfing world, Team USA’s last Ryder Cup pick will most likely be between two golfers who are neither irrelevant nor pitiful.
With the Ryder Cup just nine days away, Team USA captain Davis Love faces quite the dilemma. As per the rules and regulations of the Ryder Cup, in which America’s finest face off with the stars of Europe, each team must field a team of 12 golfers. While Europe has fielded all 12 golfers, most notably Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, Love has not yet added a 12th golfer to his list of Americans.
Team USA’s roster reads something of a who’s who and a “oh yeah, that guy.” Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Jimmy Walker are all major champions. Every other golfer has won at least four times on tour.
Love will name the final spot on the roster after the Tour Championship on Sept. 25. The safest bets for that final spot seem to be Jim Furyk or Bubba Watson. Both bring Ryder Cup experience, major winning pedigree, and a certain level of prestige.
But come the 25th one would-be hall of fame golfer will be left off an American team that hasn’t won since 2008.
The Case for Furyk
A U.S. Open, Tour Championship, and 17-time winner on tour, Furyk has been consistent his entire career. Since the 2012 PGA Tour season, Furyk has one win, eight second-place finishes, four third-place finishes, and 36 top-10s. Furyk ranks fourth on the career earnings list with just under $70 million.
Furyk is seventh on tour in driving accuracy (69%) and 15th in scoring average (70.13). On a course like Hazeltine National, in which the fairways are narrow and half of the holes have water hazards, driving accuracy will be key.
In a career that has spanned three decades, Furyk’s finest round came this past August at the Travelers Championship. While he came in fifth for the event, his final round was simply legendary. In a Sunday round of -12 that included an eagle and 10 birdies, Furyk became the first PGA Tour player to shoot a 58. He hit all 18 fairways in regulation and needed only needed 24 putts to finish his round.
In 613,000 rounds on the PGA Tour, no one has ever had one like this…
His second best round… a “lowly” 59 in 2013.
The Case Against Furyk
Yes Furyk brings experience to the table, but wins have been hard to come by in the Ryder Cup. Furyk ranks third in Ryder Cup appearances with eight, but in 30 matches Furyk is just 9-17-4. The champion golfer ranks near the top of the list for most four-ball matches lost (seven) and most overall matches lost at 17.
Furyk has also been sidelined for much of the 2016 season with a wrist injury. In early May, he had these words about coming back from injury…
“I know I can’t hit 100 balls every day and go out and play 18 holes and then go practice again,” Furyk said. I’ve got to pace myself a little bit,” (golfchannel.com).
Picking Furyk could be a huge gamble for Love if the 46-year-old is not feeling 100%.
The Case For Watson
Bubba Watson is the seventh ranked player in the world, and yet he is on the outside looking in. While Watson’s 2016 campaign has not gone as swimmingly as his last two seasons on tour, the man from Florida has won nine times on tour including two Masters.
Watson ranks fourth in average driving distance at over 310 yards and third in par-5 scoring average. His heavy hitting is perfectly suited for Hazeltine National, the longest golf course in major championship history. With over 7,674 yards to work with, hole number one, a par-4, sits around 490 yards. Its shortest par-5 is 572 yards, its longest-642.
The two-time major champion is still a premier golfer at the highest level who is capable of making a big course look small.
Yes, you did hear correctly—424 yards.
The Case Against Watson
Watson appears to the clear favorite to secure the fourth Captain’s pick. Love announced on Friday that Watson was invited to practice with the team at Hazeltine the weekend before the Ryder Cup. But nothing is a sure thing at this point. If Watson does not make this year’s squad, it will boil down to three reasons: team chemistry, previous Ryder Cup performances, and putting.
When ESPN asked 103 golfers who they more-or-less despised the most on tour, the highest percentage answered Bubba Watson. Watson is quirky, acerbic, and admitted to mental issues on CBS’ 60 minutes.
“I have a lot of mental issues. I just am so fearful of things, which I shouldn’t be, right?” Watson said. “Scared of heights. Scared of buildings falling on me. Scared of the dark. Scared of crowds. Those are my biggest issues. In between holes is really scary to me because there’s so many people that close to you,” he added. “I’m just scared of people in general.”
Davis Love hinted at a potential team chemistry disruption if Watson is picked.
“I’m going to talk to these 11 guys now that we have 11,” Love said. ”We’ve got a game plan, a strategy, and we’re going to work on that the next two weeks and announce our pick next Sunday night based on what fits best for our team, not really who shoots the lowest scores in the last tournament,” (cbssports.com).
Watson’s Ryder Cup record is poor too say the least. He is 0-3 in singles, has never led in an event, and has only won 6/46 holes that he has played. Adding Watson to the team would be puzzling for many fans. The long-drive maestro has had his chances to perform for his country, but perhaps it’s time to move on.
Finally, Watson has had difficulty putting all season. He ranks 175th in putts per round, 176th in one-putt average, and 173rd in putts inside 10 feet. When the hole is on the line, Watson is not your go-to guy to sink a 12-footer.
And he will never live this down…
By the end of next Sunday, the cards will surely either fall Furyk or Watson’s way. The choice boils down to an old, injured vet with a bit of brilliance still in him, or a golfer capable of monster drives on a monster course with a bit of a team chemistry problem.
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