By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
In Davis Love III’s mind, there were really just two openings among his four captain’s picks left to be decided. All along, he had Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which meant everyone else was playing essentially for two spots.
In the end, Love went with Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker, along with Stricker and Furyk, to fill out his 12-man roster.
The decision was far from easy. “It’s tough to leave anybody off,” Love said Tuesday. “This is probably the deepest, strongest year of earning points that I have seen.”
And some strong performances when the pressure was at its highest is what set his picks apart.
“Some guys were feeling pressure to make the team,” Love said. “Since the British Open, a couple of guys stepped up and handled that pressure really well.”
Here’s a closer look at each of Love’s four captain’s picks, including one player who didn’t make it.
Dustin Johnson: All along Love has emphasized wanting guys who were playing well late in the year and Johnson has done just that with third- and fourth-place finishes the last two weeks. His length is also a huge asset at Medinah, which will play over 7,600 yards. "Medinah is a big ballpark and I love Dustin Johnson on that course," Love said. And remember, if Johnson didn’t miss three months due to injury, he would have likely finished in the top 8 in the standings and qualified on his own anyway. Johnson is a combined 2-6-1 in one Ryder Cup and one Presidents Cup, but Love is more concerned about having the right players (and pairings) on the right course and he has that in Johnson, who he called the “best athlete” on the team.
Brandt Snedeker: Like Johnson, Snedeker played his best when the pressure was on. Beginning with the British Open, where Snedeker finished third, he had three finishes in the top 6 the last seven starts, including two in the last two weeks when he knew Love was watching. Snedeker is also the best putter on the U.S. team, leading the PGA TOUR in strokes gained-putting. The Tennessean is one of four rookies on the team, but Love’s other two captain’s picks will surround him with plenty of experience.
Jim Furyk: Experience -- and not a career 8-15-4 mark in the Ryder Cup -- is what got Furyk, who will be playing in his ninth Ryder Cup, on the team. He’s a leader in the locker room and highly respected among his peers. You knew his chances were also pretty good when Love was consulting he and Steve Stricker on potential captain’s picks as part of his process. Love said both were “easy” picks, and it’s not as if Furyk has had a bad year. He lost in a playoff in Tampa and nearly won the U.S. Open and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Steve Stricker: This was the least surprising selection with Stricker’s place seemingly all but assured when Love noted during the PGA Championship the Wisconsin native’s success in being paired with Tiger Woods. Tuesday, Love confirmed it. Stricker has played well this year, too, winning the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions before adding a half-dozen more top 10s the rest of the year -- three of which have come since July. Only Snedeker is arguably a better putter than Stricker, who like Furyk brings veteran leadership to a team that could use some.
Odd man out?: Last month, Love was surprised that Hunter Mahan would win twice in a year and not be among the top 8 in the Ryder Cup standings. But a so-so summer and a poor last month hurt Mahan, who finished ninth in the standings. It also turned out he was competing against Johnson and Snedeker, among others, and not Furyk and Stricker. Johnson and Snedeker simply played better with Mahan missing the cut at the PGA Championship and The Barclays and failing to finish better than 39th in his last five starts.