Tom Watson’s US Ryder Cup Selection Dilemma

With just under a month until the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, American team captain Tom Watson has seen his American team already decimated by a combination of personal issues and injury. This has led to speculation as to who Watson is likely to pick as his three wildcard selections for the tournament.

Of course, Tiger Woods has ruled himself out of the Ryder Cup this year due to his recurrent back injury and it seems likely that another major winner, Jason Dufner, could also be set to miss out with a similar ailment, although Dufner has not yet confirmed he won’t be able to compete. These two injuries are a big blow for the American team, as is the self-imposed exile of big-hitter Dustin Johnson (below) for personal reasons.

Dustin Johnson

Yet, is it that big a blow? In the current standings, only Jason Dufner had a realistic chance of making the top 9 places required for a spot on the team (he is currently 10th on the list). Tiger Woods was way down in 70th, while Dustin Johnson is no longer listed.

Woods’ Ryder Cup record is already somewhat notorious as being well below par, but Dufner won two of his three matches in the 2012 tournament, Johnson won all three of those that he featured in. Five points is a large amount for manager Tom Watson to find with the players left at his disposal.

Currently the nine players occupying the automatic qualification spots are: Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson.

Perhaps only six other players, Harris English, Webb Simpson, Chris Kirk, Keegan Bradley, Brendon Todd and Ryan Moore could realistically play themselves to a spot on the team over the next couple of weeks.

Keegan-Bradley

So it looks pretty clear that Tom Watson’s team will have a relatively new look when they head over to Scotland in September and there is now increasing speculation as to who the American skipper will take as his three wildcard picks.

Most experts agree that Hunter Mahan’s timely return to form at The Barclays last weekend will see him lock up a spot on Watson’s team. Mahan’s putting is a key strength and with the Ryder Cup often determined by what happens on the greens, Watson will want a player who is strong with the smallest club in the bag but who also has Ryder Cup experience in the UK and who is right in form.

The other two selections are more open to speculation. Many feel that Brandt Snedeker is another player who fits Watson’s template as a Ryder Cup player. His form is also improved, he is a fine putter and he too has Ryder Cup experience. If Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson don’t make it by right of a top nine finish, they too could be strong contenders.

As it stands, this US team will feature at least three Ryder Cup rookies in Jimmy Walker, Jordan Spieth (below) and Patrick Reed and most experts feel that Watson’s picks are unlikely to include a rookie given the experience that he has lost from the team.

That could be a mistake as the form of Ryan Moore has certainly been hugely impressive and his ability around the greens this season has been spectacular. Plus Moore seems to be a player that thrives under pressure and nothing is quite as intense as a Ryder Cup event.

Whatever team Tom Watson does select will be missing some key players, but that may work in the US favour. The last time they won the event, back in 2008, Paul Azinger’s team featured a number of new faces and the American team duly delivered a fine performance and a dominant victory.

The European team however will not make the mistake of under-estimating the American challenge. Whatever 12 players make the trip to Scotland, Tom Watson will have them ready for a real battle and heading into the event as the underdogs, may just work well for the American team.

Images courtesy of relevant players Facebook and Twitter official pages/feeds/

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