Picking Will Zalatoris' Presidents Cup replacement
5 Min Read
Was all but a lock to make roster as a captain’s pick, begging the question of who will replace him
Written by Staff @PGATOUR
Will Zalatoris, who withdrew from the TOUR Championship with two herniated discs in his back, also will miss the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow next month. At No. 7 in the U.S. standings, he was considered a lock to be one of the six captain’s picks playing for U.S. Captain Davis Love III, who was big on Zalatoris even before he won the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
So now what? Love’s task seemed easy; it looked like he may just go down the points list and pick Nos. 7-12 to bring his best roster to Quail Hollow. But the loss of Zalatoris opens up another spot on the roster.
Who is in line to be the final pick?
Captain Love, you didn’t ask for our advice, but here it is anyway.
Sean Martin, Lead Editorial: I hope someone got Sahith Theegala’s measurements. I think the door is now open for Theegala to make the U.S. Team.
But he’s 30th in points you say! Yes, but the Presidents Cup qualifying process for the U.S. Team is a three-year process and Theegala has only been on TOUR for one of them. No, he hasn’t won this season, but I think he showed something with the clutch finish he authored last week just to make it to the TOUR Championship.
Popular with his fellow players and as nice as they come, he’d potentially be a fifth Californian on the U.S. roster (along with Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and Max Homa). Top-15s in the first two Playoffs events also affirm Theegala’s form.
But he still has work to do this week to earn that spot. There are a handful of other players at East Lake who could insert their names into the conversation with a good run, especially Scott Stallings. Remember that U.S. Captain Davis Love III was on the task force that reinvented the U.S. Ryder Cup selection process. One of the changes was adding a late Captain’s Pick to capture the hot hand and not repeat what happened in 2014 when Billy Horschel won the season’s final two events after the Ryder Cup roster had been finalized.
Stallings’ strong finish to the season stretches beyond his runner-up at the BMW Championship. His showing in Delaware was his fifth top-15 finish in his past six starts, including four top-10s. I think he needs to continue that good form this week, though, to get that spot.
Cameron Morfit, Staff Writer: This is an interesting question because the absence of Zalatoris will not only strip the U.S. Team of one of the fastest-rising young talents in the game, it also will likely impact Love’s pairings.
Zalatoris and his old Wake Forest teammate Cameron Young – whose chemistry Love praised after playing with the dynamic duo for 36 holes at the Rocket Mortgage Classic – were looking almost as obvious a U.S. pairing as Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele and Sam Burns/Scottie Scheffler.
Welp, so much for that.
I'm guessing Maverick McNealy, who is No. 17 on the points list and was 4-0 at the 2017 Walker Cup, will now get a look. As the last man into the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play earlier this season, he routed Joaquin Niemann 8 and 6 in the first round. McNealy has an all-around game that would work nicely in any format, and is also young and seems likely to be on these teams going forward.
That said, if not him, I could see No. 30 Sahith Theegala playing his way into a pick with a strong performance at the TOUR Championship. Exciting player. Terrific short game. He will need to drive it better this week and go low to make his case.
Ben Everill, Staff Writer: We all know Zalatoris was a lock for the U.S. Team – the worst kept secret in the Presidents Cup was the U.S. Team would end up the straight top 12 in the standings.
But now Captain Love has a decision to make. Who on the outside can bring something to the team? Do they look at blooding a youngster to groom for the future like they did with Jordan Spieth in 2013? I'd plump for Aaron Wise, Maverick McNealy or Sahith Theegala in that case.
Or do they go with some experience and match play mongrel, like Kevin Kisner?
Or – hear me out – there is one pick that would turn the Presidents Cup on its head. TIGER WOODS. Woods can play just three times – twice with Justin Thomas in team play and then again first out in Singles. Tell me that doesn't send ticket sales through the roof!
Thomas is savvy enough in Four-ball play at Quail Hollow to carry most of the burden and Woods can play the grandpa golf role. Lay back in the fairway and hit to middle of greens. With the ability to choose their opponents its certainly doable!
If Tiger won't play ball, I think Wise is the play. He seems most likely to be ready for these U.S. teams.
Kevin Prise, Associate Editor: My gut says the current leader in the clubhouse is Kevin Kisner, 15th in the standings.
I know he’s struggled off the tee this season and that his game doesn’t quite fit the demands of Quail Hollow. But from the next group of guys under consideration, the South Carolina native fits the profile of a gritty veteran pro who could pair well with many of the team’s newer members. He went 2-0-2 in his Presidents Cup debut in 2017 at Liberty National, so why not give him another look?
If not Kisner, who is not at the TOUR Championship, I think J.T. Poston, who is, could play his way onto the team with a strong week at East Lake. I might still be enchanted from his Cinderella run on the 2016 Korn Ferry Tour, converting zero status to a TOUR card, but Poston grew up an hour from Quail Hollow and has described representing the U.S. in a team competition as a career goal. He’s 14th in the standings so he’s right there – and he has five top-25s in his last seven starts, including a win and a second.
I could see Love picking rising star Davis Riley, as well. Riley is Zalatoris’ longtime friend and former roommate from their Korn Ferry Tour days, so it would be fitting if he took the spot. Six top-10s as a rookie, and he narrowly missed East Lake.