Ryder Cup: Here’s who should be in the mix for a captain’s pick

Our Golf Insider is already giddy about Ryder Cup and he’s looked at who the captains on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean should be looking at….


The Ryder Cup will visit the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday in the company of United States captain Jim Furyk, a fitting stop on the American road to Paris and Le Golf National on September 28-30.

After all, Lady Liberty was a gift from the people of France, although European skipper Thomas Bjorn will be hoping that it remains the only example of largesse the Americans receive from this side of the Atlantic before the last Sunday in September.

They hardly need any help in their bid to retain the famous trophy, especially after Brooks Koepka powered his way to a second major of the summer on Sunday with his impressive two-shot win over Tiger Woods at the 100th PGA Championship.

It was the final qualifying event for the eight automatic spots on Furyk’s team, with US Open and PGA champion Koepka, newly risen to number two in the official rankings, joined by world numbers one, three, eight, nine, 10, 12, 14 and 20 – respectively Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.

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Bjorn has three more weeks before the core of his 12-man team will be set in stone, the eight automatic spots decided on September 2. He may well appreciate the additional wriggle room if one of his players on the qualification bubble suffers a dramatic collapse in confidence.

Yet the leveller comes in terms of the four captain’s picks both Furyk and Bjorn have at their disposal.

The American will declare three of his wild cards on September 4, a day after the second of the four FedEx Cup play-off events and his final choice will be made on September 13, after the third.

Bjorn will reveal his picks at the same time the shutters come down on automatic qualification with the big moves in that regard coming from world number five Jon Rahm, who moved closer to a Ryder Cup debut with a tie for fourth, and Ian Poulter, Europe’s Postman who may well get another chance to do what he does best at the Ryder Cup and deliver.

Of the four Europeans next on the points lists, Paul Casey, Thorbjørn Olesen and Russell Knox all dropped places with Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello moving onto the bubble after his T10.

With Molinari, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy the only current automatic qualifiers with previous Ryder Cup experience, the addition of Poulter to their ranks will be a relief for Bjorn, if the Englishman can hang on to his top-eight spot.

Both Casey and Knox, each of whom unfairly missed out two years ago because they were not European Tour members at the time, would add some grit and resolve to the European cause at Le Golf National if they won Bjorn’s favour. While the case for Henrik Stenson, though he missed the cut last week in St Louis, is also compelling.

The Swede tied for sixth at the US Open and tied-fifth at the Masters and his winning Ryder Cup partnership with Rose is another plus.

Yet the elephant in the European team room is undoubtedly the form of Sergio Garcia, which has fallen off a cliff with a missed cut at all four majors this season.

Yet the Spaniard is another Ryder Cupper integral to the European narrative, a talisman with eight appearances and a Masters victory since the most recent dust-up with the Americans at Hazeltine in 2016, even if his title defence in April ended in disaster after opening rounds of 81 and 78.

Speaking before the PGA last week Bjorn indicated – though not with great clarity- that a captain’s pick would be Garcia’s; that his Ryder Cup class against the Americans outweighed temporary loss of form.

He may well have in mind one of the few bright spots in Garcia’s recent form, a tie for eighth at the Open de France in June… at Le Golf National.

Over on the other side of the pond there are fewer concerns with Team America and the resurgence of Tiger Woods, which continued unabated at Bellerive over the weekend makes it almost certain that Furyk will upgrade the 42-year-old from vice-captain to captain’s pick.

Woods showed some imperious form on his way to a closing 64, his career-best final round at a major and the prospect of an in-form Tiger on the prowl in France next month will certainly bring out the passion and raise the bar in the American team room.

An equally easy decision for Furyk could be to omit Woods’ great sparring partner Phil Mickelson from his thinking.

A missed cut at the PGA completed a pretty miserable summer for the 48-year-old in which he failed to qualify automatically for the first time since 1993.

Though he has won more Ryder Cup points – 21.5 from 11 appearances – than any other American, the quality of the younger blood occupying the automatic spots in Team USA and Woods occupying the mantle of in-form elder statesman, may allow Furyk to pass on Mickelson’s experience in favour of a younger model, with Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffle joining the old stagers on the bubble.

Hard decisions lie ahead.

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