Now that the U.S. Ryder Cup team has solidified its eight automatic qualifiers, it’s time to start examining the four potential captain’s picks — and primarily, what everyone always gets wrong about them.
There’s a prevailing thought that these selections should be given to the most deserving players. The ones who have competed at the highest level in the past few months. The ones who barely missed out on qualifying.
Nope. Try again.
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Hey, don’t be upset if you’ve been doing it wrong all these years. Plenty of captains have fallen into this trap, too, taking the easy road by picking players who seemingly earned it.
But that’s just the problem: They didn’t earn it. If they did, they would’ve already locked up one of those eight spots, which went to these guys:
2018 U.S. Ryder Cup Automatic Qualifiers
That all leads to the biggest mistake when contemplating the captain’s picks. They shouldn’t go to the most deserving players. They should go to the players who will most help the team win.
I’ve always thought it was strange that this even needed an explanation. The whole point of this exercise is to pick four wild cards who can bring intangible qualities to the roster that it previously lacked.
I mean, if we’re simply rewarding strong play, there might as well be 12 automatic qualifiers.
Bettors should understand this. It’s the old adage that past performance doesn’t serve as an indicator for future success.
In other words, just because Bryson DeChambeau won the Memorial Tournament in June doesn’t mean he’ll win matches in France in September. That’s not to pick on DeChambeau, who might not be a terrible addition to the squad and has been gaining some recent support.
He might be “deserving,” but does he offer a greater chance of winning for the team than other candidates? I don’t think so.
Before I dive a little deeper into that, let me get this out of the way.
My First Two Picks
Allow me to state the obvious: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are two of the four wild-card picks. They just are.
You really can’t argue Tiger at all (and if you do, I suggest revisiting the final round from Bellerive). And any argument against Phil’s form is moot; he brings invaluable experience, gamesmanship and leadership to the team.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk will pick each of them — and rightly so.
As for the last two picks, well, we’re all jumping the gun a bit here.
The reason why three picks are made after the Dell Technologies Championship (Aug. 31-Sept. 3) and the last is made after the BMW Championship (Sept. 6-9) is so that other viable candidates may emerge before those announcements.
Again, this usually results in taking players who are more deserving, rather than those who will help the team win. Still, I don’t see any fault in waiting, though Furyk doesn’t exactly have me convinced that he’s buying into the proper theory.
“I think you want guys that are in good form, say, from the summertime on,” he told me last week. “You want guys that have had a good solid season. You want the very best players that you have the trust in, as well.”
If I were Furyk, and if I had to make all the picks right now — a couple of insane hypotheticals — I’d already know who gives my team the best chance of success.
Which leads me to …
My Final Two Picks
Give me Tony Finau, who makes birdies in bunches and provides a little intimidation factor on the first tee.
And give me Kevin Kisner, a dogged competitor who will nip at the heels of an opponent and never relent.
If Furyk didn’t already know enough about Finau, he got a major glimpse last week at the PGA Championship, when they played three rounds together, including Finau’s 10-birdie performance in the second round. That kind of firepower is tough to find.
The captain needs to use it to his advantage. He’d be a perfect fit for the four-ball format.
Kisner thrives on match play. He plays a lot of money games at home and finished runner-up at the WGC-Dell Match Play event earlier this year.
Furyk could pair him with just about anybody and not hear a complaint. With steady guys like him, I always think foursomes are a great fit.
Are Finau and Kisner the most deserving selections? I don’t know. And I don’t care. Those are the guys who will put points on the board.
Too often, people overthink this and get it wrong.
For the sake of the U.S. team, here’s hoping Furyk gets it right.