Tiger? Bryson? Kooch? Your definitive guide to who will (and won’t) earn Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup picks

August 13, 2018

ST. LOUIS — Finally, the first eight spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup are cemented.

The PGA Championship was the final event for players to earn points before the top eight spots were locked down through auto qualifying, and although Tiger Woods made a run with a Sunday 64 the 14-time major winner came up just short.

Webb Simpson held the eighth spot heading into the week, and his T-19 finish at Bellerive was good enough to keep him there. He’ll be back on the squad for the first time since 2014, when he needed a captain’s pick.

The eight auto qualifiers for the U.S. are: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Simpson.

Among the notable odd men out are Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Woods. Captain Jim Furyk now has four captain’s picks to round out his team. Three will be made following the conclusion of the Dell Technologies Championship on Sept. 3, and the final one on Sept. 9 after the BMW Championship. The Ryder Cup is Sept. 28-30 in Paris, France.

So, with only four spots available, who are the candidates to join the Americans in France? Those still vying for a spot only have four tournaments remaining to prove themselves, and not all of them will play in all four events (although a win would go a long way in helping their cause).

“When I look at having a veteran or youth or whatever it may be, I think the idea is to round this team out with the four best players possible, the four players we think that can make us the most successful,” Furyk said on Monday. “Veterans and youth, they both have their positives.”

Without further ado, here’s our list of captain’s pick candidates, and why they might — and might not — be picked by Furyk.

 

THE CONTENDERS

Bryson DeChambeau

Ryder Cup ranking: 9th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he will be picked: Won the Memorial earlier this year and has the talent to be on several Ryder Cup teams to come. He’s pals with Tiger — they’ve played several practice rounds together — who will definitely have input when it comes to selecting captain’s picks. He’s 18th in Strokes Gaines Off the Tee and 21st in Strokes Gained Approach the Green, not to mention tied for 16th in birdie average.
Why he won’t be picked: He’s a quirky personality, which might not gel well with a team of veterans who have played together for years. He’s also emotional, which isn’t a bad thing for a Ryder Cup, but videos of his range blowups won’t help his case. He led the European Open in Germany last month with four holes to play, but unraveled down the stretch, finishing bogey-bogey-par-triple to tie for 13th.

DeChambeau’s volatile personality could give Furyk pause.
Getty Images

Phil Mickelson

Ryder Cup ranking: 10th
Ryder Cup history: 11 appearances, 18-20-7 record
Why he will be picked: Might? Phil’s on the team and everyone knows it. The players look up to him and he’s auto qualified for every team for the past 11 events. He’s not sitting out this one. He ranks 6th on Tour in birdie average, and birdies win match play events.
Why he won’t be picked: Hasn’t recorded a top 10 since May and his erratic driver can be a liability in foursomes.

Tiger Woods

Ryder Cup ranking: 11th
Ryder Cup history: 7 appearances, 13-17-3
Why he will be picked: Where do we start? He’s won 14 majors, made a miraculous comeback in 2018 and, even though he hasn’t won, contended and shown flashes at a slew of tournaments — the Honda, Valspar, Bay Hill, Quicken Loans, British and now the PGA. He’s already on the squad as a vice captain, but you know Woods wants to play. On Monday, Furyk didn’t give up many hints, but expect Woods to play between the ropes in Paris.
Why he won’t be picked: Humor us here for a moment. Would Woods, who is looked up to by virtually every player on Tour, be more beneficial as a vice captain and leader than a player? He was highly praised for his work as an assistant captain on the last Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams.

Xander Schauffele

Ryder Cup ranking: 12th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he will be picked: Last season’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year seems to rise to the occasion at some of golf’s biggest events. He won the Tour Championship last season and finished T2 at both the Players and British Open this year, as well as a T6 at the U.S. Open. He played the first two rounds of the PGA with Furyk and Tony Finau, another potential captain’s pick, so who knows what impression he left on the man in charge. Schauffele shot 70-67 in those rounds.
Why he might won’t be picked: Besides playing well in some biggies, he might be two years too soon. Some vets might get the nod over the 24-year-old simply due to their past experience. If he misses out on a pick, he’ll be one of the first or second men out.

Matt Kuchar

Ryder Cup ranking: 13th
Ryder Cup history: 4 appearances, 6-7-2
Why he will be picked: A likable veteran, Kuchar brings a lot to the team room, and he’s close to the cast of captains and players. His consistency is important for a Ryder Cup. While he’s not a slam-dunk captain’s pick like Woods and Mickelson seem to be, Kuchar won’t be far down the list of options.
Why he won’t be picked: He’s 1-3 all-time in Ryder Cup singles and has missed the cut in three of his last five starts.

 

THE HOPEFULS

Kevin Kisner

Ryder Cup ranking: 14th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he will be picked: Kisner earned three points in his Presidents Cup debut in 2017, finishing 2-0-2 (2-0-1 with Mickelson as his partner), and also was the runner-up at the WGC-Match Play earlier this year. His laid-back personality could mesh well with the team. Ninth in Stroke Gained Putting, Kisner is deadly with the flatstick, which comes in handy during team competitions.
Why he won’t be picked: He contended at this year’s British Open and PGA, but wasn’t able to close either. A win in one of them should have been enough to lock up his place on the team.

Kevin Kisner, British Open 2018
Kisner’s no-worries attitude would play well in the team room.
Getty Images

Tony Finau

Ryder Cup ranking: 15th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he will be picked: One of the few players to make the cut at all four majors this season, Finau’s had a strong year even without a victory. He’s finished runner-up twice and has eight top 10s, and he’s missed the cut in just three of 24 starts. More recently he made 10 birdies in a crazy second-round 66 in front of Furyk on Friday at the PGA. (He shot 74 in front of the captain on Thursday.) He’s tied for 14th on Tour in birdie average.
Why he won’t be picked: A lot of solid veterans are in front of him.

Kyle Stanley

Ryder Cup ranking: 16th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he will be picked: He’s quietly earned more than $3 million this year, anchored by a T2 at the Memorial and runner-up to Justin Thomas at the WGC-Bridgestone. He was on the 2007 winning Walker Cup team. Stanley is T20 in Strokes Gained Off the Tee.
Why he won’t be picked: Too little, too late? He has no Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup experience.

Brian Harman

Ryder Cup ranking: 17th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he will be picked: Harman has eight top 10s this season, although his best finish is a 3rd at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which was ages ago. He’s been on two winning Walker Cup teams as an amateur. Does he have the clutch gene needed for this event? Maybe. His biggest win of his career came at the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship, when he drained a 30-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole to deny Dustin Johnson a fourth straight victory.
Why he won’t be picked: Like others on this list, he’s never been on a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. Has he done enough to stand out and deserve a pick?

Kevin Na

Ryder Cup ranking: 18th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he might be picked: Na ended a lengthy winless drought by taking the Greenbrier last month. He also had a fourth at the Fort Worth Invitational. Na, obviously knowing what’s at stake, played a practice round with Furyk at the PGA.
Why he might not be picked: Na never played on a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. He’s known for his slow pace of play, and would that irk playing partners?

Gary Woodland

Ryder Cup ranking: 19th
Ryder Cup history: None
Why he might be picked: The winner of this year’s Phoenix Open, the big-hitting Woodland put together his best career week at a major, leading the PGA Championship after the first and second rounds and finishing T6. He also ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained Off the Tee, which goes a long way in foursomes.
Why he might not be picked: Like Stanley, is it too little too late? He’s never played in a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.

Zach Johnson

Ryder Cup ranking: 20th
Ryder Cup history: 5 appearances, 8-7-2
Why he might be picked: Johnson has been on the last four teams, and in three of them he earned at least two points. His form is solid, with top 20s in five of his last six starts. He flirted with contention at the PGA.
Why he might not be picked: Is it time to pass on a veteran like Johnson and bring in a new face like Finau or Schauffele?