To the eight guys who played their way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods, Captain Davis Love has added his four discretionary picks: Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker.
Here’s how Love introduced his picks and why he picked them:
And our first announcement, this guy is probably the best athlete on the team, he’s perfect for Medinah, I’ve been saying all along I was going to plug some holes in our lineup that I thought we had, and this guy will be playing on his second team, Dustin Johnson.
Then I’ve been saying that we also needed experience. This next guy is one of the most consistent players on the Tour, one of the most respected players on the Tour, I’ve been in the team room with him five times. He’s played on eight; this will be his eighth team and he was 5‑0 in his last international match; Jim Furyk.
Our next player fits the role of one thing I’ve been saying a lot, that we need hot putters, and there really has not been a hotter putter on Tour since the British Open and he brings a lot on and off the golf course, brings a lot to the team room, and he can pair really with anybody on our team, which I think is a great asset. This will be his first team, Brandt Snedeker.
And then last but not least…Certainly, a guy that’s been the best player in my mind on Tour the last five or six years, another guy that pairs well with anybody, and another great putter, and somebody that I really trust on and off the golf course, in the team room, has been a great asset to me already getting prepared for this night, this day, this last night, is Steve Stricker.
What I found interesting is that not only did Love rely on his four assistant captains; Fred Couples, Mike Hulbert, Scott Verplank and Jeff Sluman, he also specifically mentioned Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk in addition to Stricker.
It was interesting because Fuyrk and Stricker ended up being two of the picks. It was interesting because Love had no qualms about polling two of his most experienced Ryder and Presidents Cup players even though they weren’t on the team. And it was interesting because it gave us some insight into just how collaborative the team is.
And for Love, he’s glad this part is over:
We have put a lot of thought into this. It was a long time coming. I know my wife, Robin and I, we are usually pretty good sleepers, and we like to sleep in. And that has not been happening much the last two or three weeks.
If anything affected my play with this Ryder Cup Captaincy, it’s lack of sleep. I don’t think it bothered me when I was out on the golf course. I think I’m just tired of not sleeping and thinking about it so much.
But there was one big thing that came out of the selection process finally being over:
Once it was over, I finally did get some rest, and I’m excited to take these 12 guys, who I think they have totally bought into that this is their team, it’s not Davis’s team; this is the U.S. Team, and they are going to get golf bags that say ‘USA’ on it. …and they have bought into that.
And with that comes a team-wide collaborative process of deciding possible pairings and how to ease the less experienced players into the mix:
Oh, yeah, we have been thinking about pairings. Been thinking about it — we are basing our picks on pairings. You have to start thinking about it. I think we want our guys to know generally who they might be playing with, because they are getting ready to go play two big weeks of golf. They are going to be playing together and they are going to be hanging out together, and we want them talking about it and we want them starting to match up, pulling this team together.
It’s tough in golf. It’s not like USA Basketball who got to travel a bunch together and play a whole bunch of games before they got to the Olympics. We are all going to show up Sunday night, Monday morning and have to go get it.
You need the youthful enthusiastic energy of the young guys, but you also need the calming influence. I know the best thing that ever happened to me playing Ryder Cup golf was Tom Kite. Tom and I were friends. We had been through a lot. He beat me in playoffs. I watched him hit a million golf balls, but we had not played a Ryder Cup match together.
When I got to play three Ryder Cup Matches with him, it just set me up for understanding what The Ryder Cup was all about. You take a Brandt Snedeker and put him out there in his first practice round with Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, pretty much that’s all you need to do. After one day, he’ll be ready to go. And you pair him with a veteran, a Furyk or a Mickelson or a Stricker or a Tiger Woods maybe, those guys will lead him along, and that’s what it’s all about.
To that collaborative end, all 12 players are inside the top 30 of the FedExCup points. So they will certainly all see each other this coming week at the BMW at Crooked Stick just outside of Indianapolis. And if everybody has a good week there, after the open week the week after, they’ll all be together for the Tour Championship and FedExCup at East Lake in Atlanta.
The BMW is 70 players with no cut, so they’ll all be there all week. Hopefully they all get through to the Tour Championship because with just 30 players, there’s no cut there either.
And finally, Love intends to continue Fred Couples’ enlightened recruitment of Michael Jordan as a formal motivating influence with the team:
I told Michael this a couple weeks ago. One of the neatest things I ever saw in The Ryder Cup was Michael riding in the golf cart with [Captain] Tom Kite. I thought — he came out to watch Freddie and I play and I thought that was one of the coolest things.
So I want my team, like Fred did, to get to see Michael. Rather than him sneaking around in the gallery, I want him to be seen and I want him to be in our team room and be hanging around and be a great influence.
Sounds like all’s right with the world now. And the best part for us spectators is that the Ryder Cup is in our time zones this year after away games the last two years in both the Ryder Cup (Wales) and Presidents Cup (Australia).