U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has a daunting job ahead of him: filling the four spots on his squad reserved for wildcard picks. Who’s on DLIII’s short list? Presumably he already has his favorites — and we have ours. Each day in the run-up to Sept. 12, when Love will announce three of his picks (he won’t name his final pick until Sept. 26, the Monday after the Tour Championship), a GOLF.com staffer will make the case for a player who deserves the nod. Up next, Jim Furyk. Who do you think belongs on the team? Let us know here.
No, that’s not the last time Tiger Woods won a major title (6-16-08, in case you’d forgotten) — it’s Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup record. That stat line is trotted out plenty by the legion of fans and commentators who believe the 46-year-old 58-shooter is past his prime and not worthy of one of Davis Love III’s four captain’s picks.
And who can blame them? On paper it is a lousy mark. But it doesn’t mean Furyk is a lousy match player. (Remember Raymond Floyd? He was regarded as one of the fiercest match-play players of his era. Remember his Ryder Cup record? A meh 12-16-3. And that bulldog-in-spikes Paul Azinger, who bled red, white and blue in his four Ryder Cup starts and whose 2008 captaincy has earned him all but sainthood from the PGA of America? Zinger’s all-time record? An unremarkable 5-7-3. Many contend Bubba Watson belongs on the U.S. squad this year but you won’t hear his supporters mention Watson’s underwhelming 3-8-0 Ryder Cup mark. Others are behind Rickie Fowler, who has won exactly zero Ryder Cup matches in eight tries. Zero.)
Here are three more numbers: 48-50-7. That’s Furyk’s cumulative match-play record over his professional career, including nine appearances in the Ryder Cup, seven in the Presidents Cup and 15 in the WGC-Match Play. (His cumulative singles record at those events: a solid 27-25-1.) That’s an insane amount of match-play hours logged, which means however you feel about Furyk’s Ryder Cup hiccups, he has reams of experience, which appeals to the conservative minded Love. Furyk just hasn’t always executed, just as Tiger Woods (13-17-3) and Phil Mickelson (16-19-6) didn’t always execute. If either Tiger or Phil finished 15th on the U.S. points list in 2016 despite missing two months of the season, would you leave one of them off of the team? You would not.
69.09: Furyk’s driving accuracy percentage this season (8th best on Tour)
33.1 feet: his average proximity to the hole (also 8th best)
38: his longest GIR streak this season (tops on Tour)
7: his longest birdie streak this season (second-best on Tour)
58: we already covered that one
These numbers tell you two things about Furyk: He’s not only remarkably steady but he can also catch fire in a hurry. Both qualities are useful in a Ryder Cup. To be sure, these tools haven’t done Furyk many favors in his four-ball campaigns, where he has compiled a woeful 1-8-1 record. But there’s an easy fix for that, Capt. Love: Limit him to foursomes and singles.)
Furyk’s fate is out of his hands. With his missed cut in Boston last week, he failed to collect enough FedEx Cup points to advance to the third playoff event. Which means his season his over, and with it, any more chances to dazzle Love.
Will it matter? It might not, because it’s possible Love already has made up his mind about Furyk. In DL3’s recent meetings with the press, Furyk has been one of his favorite talking points. “Jim Furyk missed a lot of tournaments that he [has] played really well,” Love said in August, referencing Furyk’s early-season wrist woes. Without the injury, Love said, Furyk would have easily made the team on points. (That’s according to high-level computations by Love’s mysterious Moneyball guys.)
Love’s remarks came before Furyk’s uninspired run in the playoffs, but in weird way the fact that Furyk’s season is over could actually work to his advantage, because he can no longer unimpress Love. Think about it: If Furyk qualified for the final two playoff events and continued to play middling golf, Love would have a much harder time justifying a Furyk pick. Meanwhile, if Bubba and Rickie and the other captain’s pick hopefuls don’t distinguish themselves in the next two weeks, Furyk’s stock could actually rise.
Stay tuned. You know Furyk will.