The European Ryder Cup team was finalised last week, with Jose Maria Olazabal and his vice-captains already in the process of formulating strategy and planning prospective pairings for the 39th match, taking place at Medinah Country Club from September 28-30.
The same cannot be said, however, for Davis Love III, who has the unenviable task of selecting just four wildcards from a seven-strong group of players, all of whom are fully deserving of a place in the American side.
Jose Maria, in reality, only had two viable choices for his two wildcard picks, the diametric opposite of the decision now facing the American captain.
It is generally accepted Love III must choose four from Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler and Nick Watney. All those players made the cut at this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, and today’s final-round performances could well dictate who makes the team.
After Mahan missed out on automatic qualification, the assumptions was he would easily make the team as a wildcard pick. Indeed, if wildcard picks were announced as automatic qualification ended, on August 12, he would have been a shoe in. How times have changed.
It is testament to the strength of the American contenders that a two-time 2012 victor and the winner of the WGC Accenture Matchplay is not guaranteed a place in the team. If I was Mahan, I’d be extremely concerned.
Why? He hasn’t finished in the top ten since the AT&T National at the start of July, while his peers have flourished.
Stricker is in good form, finishing is a tie for second at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and a tie for 7th at the PGA Championship, and is expected to make the team and rekindle a successful Ryder Cup partnership with Tiger Woods.
Snedeker has also been a picture of consistency over the past few weeks. Similar to Luke Donald last season, he seems to be there or three abouts every tournament, and has the putting stroke, all-round game and the temperament to be a huge asset to the American side.
It would take a brave man to overlook Furyk. His Ryder Cup experience would be invaluable, he is the perfect man to accompany one of the more flamboyant members of the American team and he is adept at dealing with pressure.
Mahan, Stricker, Snedeker and Furyk would be an extremely strong set of wildcard picks, but I have to believe Johnson will make the side. His length off the tee will be a huge advantage at Medinah’s 7,658-yard #3 course, he finished in a tie for third last week at Bethpage Black and currently sits in third place with one round remaining at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Add Fowler, who won his first PGA Tour event this season and impressed at Celtic Manor in 2010, and Watney, who won The Barclays, into the mix, and you have a list of seven golfers who all deserve a place in the team.
Sadly, an enormous low awaits three of them. The reality is they didn’t play well enough to secure automatic qualification, but that won’t detract from the utter devestation of being overlooked, nor the difficulty of the thankless task awaiting Love III. It promises to be a sleepless 24 hours for the American captain.