Tour Confidential: Who Should Receive Davis Love’s Ryder Cup Captain’s Pick?

September 19, 2016
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Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors.

1. Davis Love III will announce his fourth and final Ryder Cup captain’s pick next Sunday night after the conclusion of the Tour Championship. Two questions: Who will Love pick, and who should Love pick?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Task force member Jim Furyk will be the pick, at the urging of fellow Task Forcer Phil Mickelson, made official by Davis Love, a member of the Task Force that made him captain. I will be happy if he takes literally any other player than Furyk, the biggest loser in Ryder Cup history.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, GOLF (@JoshSens): I was hoping for James Hahn, Ryan Moore, Tony Finau or Kevin Na, in part just to continue with the influx of new blood. It certainly couldn’t hurt, and it would be fun from a fan’s perspective to see new faces in the mix. I agree with Alan that it will be Furyk, a pick, that is, in a counterintuitive way, kind of bold, because Love risks taking tons of heat if Furyk has another poor showing in the event.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): I still think it will be Bubba Watson if only because of his world ranking. I don’t see Furyk on a long, potentially soft Hazeltine track as a pick. Who should Love take? He should take an American player who showed up when it counted in August and September and got hot. Oops, there isn’t one.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@markgodich): It’s going to be whoever fits in best in the team room, because we all know that’s where matches are won. I’m guessing that eliminates Kevin Na.

Jeff Ritter, Digital Developement Editor, (@Jeff_Ritter): Since Bubba was reportedly out there practicing with the team last week, I assume he’s the pick. But I’d like to see Love hand the final spot to any American not on the team who wins the Tour Championship. (And if none of them deliver, fine, pick Bubba.) Wasn’t the whole point of sliding the picks later in the schedule to get that hot golfer who emerges at the end?

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF (@joepassov): Jeff, that’s the question there–why have those late picks if not for the opportunity to pick the hot golfer? The problems here, are that there aren’t any truly hot golfers near the Top 20, nor any true proven winners at match play or on Tour. Ryan Moore is probably closest on all counts. But I’m not sure that those late, “hot” wild cards picks have done all that much anyway in recent years. That’s why my pick is Bubba Watson, who finished ninth on the points list. He earned his spot–and why can’t he get hot for three days?

2. Matt Kuchar last week said that Tiger Woods “could potentially be a pick.” Do you believe that?

GODICH: Not for a minute.

RITTER: Not for a second.

SHIPNUCK: Hey, there is a showbiz element to all of this, so in that context it makes sense. Can you imagine how big a deal it would be if Tiger teed it up at Hazeltine?!?!!? But realistically, how could anyone expect him to make that his first event coming off the couch? I don’t see any way it happens.

SENS: He could definitely be a pick. So could I. TV ratings, already sure to be sky-high, would spike even more with Tiger in there. But no way it happens after such a long, injury-addled layoff.

VAN SICKLE: If Tiger wants to be a pick, he should play in a series event or in Europe. I suppose Tiger could be a pick if he’s shooting 64s every day somewhere. Actually, I hope he is a pick because the Ryder Cup would get 10 times more interesting.

PASSOV: Pure fantasy. Tiger’s competitive spirit is second to none, and I’m certain he’d want to be as prepared as he could be to make an appearance on such a big stage. But, yes, Gary, it sure would make it fun.

3. Jack Nicklaus recently said this of the Ryder Cup: “We make a little bigger deal out of it than I think we should. … There’s a lot of nice things about it, but I wish we wouldn’t make such a war out of it.” He also called the U.S. Ryder Cup task force “overkill.” Is Jack right? Does the golf world put too much emphasis on the biennial matches?

SHIPNUCK: I think he’s forgotten how intense the Ryder Cup is. Everything about the event is overkill, but that’s just how we do sports nowadays.

SENS: If you want to talk overkill, it’s the amount of money that top Tour pros get paid. To see them play their hearts out for something other than financial riches is a large part of what makes the event so compelling. It is, as Alan said above, entertainment, fueled by a very powerful mix of tribalism and big corporate bucks. At this point, some players might like to see it played down a bit if for no other reason than to relieve some of the bell-jar pressure. But the genie is out of the bottle, that ship has sailed and the horse has left the barn, among other cliches suggesting that there is no going back.

VAN SICKLE: The task force wasn’t overkill, Jack. It was necessary. The shoe clerks running this show weren’t getting the job done. For the Ryder Cup to thrive, it needs to be competitive, not one-sided. That said, I’m not a fan of a task force that selects one of its few members as the captain. I also don’t see the sense in waiting until this week to make the last pick. If you don’t know who your four best available players are by now, you deserve to lose. But the task force was necessary to overhaul the process so the new American captain wasn’t starting over from scratch, something the Europeans never have to do.

GODICH: It’s only become overkill because Europe has won eight of the last 10 matches. I’m confident that the task force has determined that the Americans need to play better golf, and more specifically, hole more putts.

RITTER: It means the world to the players, and the rest of us are just following their lead. Agree with Sens that it’s refreshing to watch them play for something other than a paycheck and personal glory.

PASSOV: Josh, can I borrow a cliche or two? I’ve been on pins and needles more often merely watching the Ryder Cup than most majors I’ve witnessed combined. I love how huge the choke factor is on the first tee for all of these millionaires. Yes, it’s an exhibition…but Jack is likely calling on memories from the late 60s and 1970s when it wasn’t as competitive and didn’t mean so much. Kiawah changed everything 25 years ago. It’s a big deal, and I hope it stays that way.

MORE: 9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Ryder Cup

4. In Gee Chun of South Korea set a scoring record in the majors, with a dominating 21-under-par performance at the Evian Championship, in France. Put Chun’s mark in historical perspective.

SHIPNUCK: It’s like Greg Norman going 24 under to win the Players Championship – a great accomplishment, but not that big a deal in the context of the major championships, because the Evian is only the fifth major, and barely that.

VAN SICKLE: A great week by In Gee, who has one of the sweetest swings in golf. But it’s not really a major, and it’s on a course in France. Two asterisks, please.

SENS: Gary, qu’est-ce que vous avez contre la France? The Norman analogy is a good one. Another thread between them: The Shark also beat the next best by four.

GODICH: The Evian is played in September in the middle of football season. Make that three asterisks, Gary.

RITTER: Asterisks or not, it goes in the books as Chun’s second major title. In women’s golf hierarchy, it takes her up a peg.

PASSOV: I’m out of asterisks. Josh, can I borrow an asterisk? It’s unfortunate that somehow, even in a week when there’s no PGA Tour event, the Evian Championship gets completely overshadowed. As well it should be. It’s bad enough that the LPGA claims that it’s a major, even though it’s not the championship of any country or association, but to hold it during mid-September’s football season takes away any chance it has of gaining traction. Lovely spot, much-improved golf course, great field, but move it up by a couple of months in the calendar to get us to pay attention.

5. The season-ending Tour Championship begins Thursday at East Lake GC, in Atlanta. What’s the most compelling reason to tune in?

SHIPNUCK: I’m really curious to see if the defending champ, Jordan Spieth, can somewhat salvage his year with a victory. Three wins is nothing to sniff at, and if he gets it done at East Lake, Spieth could also steal the FedEx Cup. He’s been saying all summer that he’s really close to playing great golf. This is the last chance to prove it.

SENS: I’m interested to see whether someone makes Davis Love’s last captain’s pick a little tougher to decide on. Ryan Moore? Justin Thomas? Kevin Na? If any of those guys catches fire and wins big, does Love still go with Furyk, the player most people seem to expect him to pick?

RITTER: I’m with you, Josh. What if Brandt Snedeker wins by four? What if Bubba finishes 30th? I’m interested to see if a scenario unfolds that causes Love to call a late audible.

GODICH: I wish Love would pull Moore, Thomas, Na, Daniel Berger and Kevin Kisner aside on Wednesday and say, “O.K., guys. Here’s the deal. Low man wins an all-expenses paid trip to Hazeltine.”

VAN SICKLE: Forget the $10 mill, it’s the 30 players, most of whose names even a casual golf observer will know. The FedEx Cup has worked because of exciting individual finishes, not the points system. Good fields lead to good finishes a lot of the time. How about watching to see how much more interesting the new finishing hole (par-5 former 9th) is than the old one (par-3 former 18th)?

PASSOV: Well, Gary, yes, I’m interested because they’ve reversed the nines, but I’m not sure I’m THAT interested. I’m with Mark–What a great idea! I’d tune in for that battle royale all four days. I’m such a fan of East Lake as a course and history spot (Bobby Jones’ old stomping grounds) but in the end, even with the fantastic field, it just strikes me as a cash grab. It’s great for the accountants, but I don’t see a guy’s Hall-of-Fame prospects climbing simply because he won an obscene amount of money in Atlanta.

6. Former USC player Stewart Hagestad capped a remarkable comeback to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship on the 37th hole, and with it, a 2017 Masters invitation. Give us your best Billy Payne impression and choose another tournament you would like to see reward its winner with an invite to the Masters.

SHIPNUCK: The Uncle Tony Invitational. Loyal readers of Golf Magazine will surely agree.

RITTER: Golf Magazine’s prestigious, intraoffice CEC Cup.

GODICH: How about the medalist from the previous year’s media play day? Or the Augusta National club champion?

SENS: The U.S. Women’s Open. Or whoever takes my weekend fourball.

VAN SICKLE: If the Masters adds another, it’ll probably be one in Asia somewhere. Marketing, you know. But I really like that U.S. Women’s Open idea. Brilliant!

PASSOV: I’d like to see the men’s NCAA individual champion get a Masters berth. That would make us all pay more attention to college golf.