Bradley, Simpson off to hot starts in final Ryder Cup audition
By Stephanie Wei under FedExCup

The Deutsche Bank Championship isn’t just the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs. It’s also — perhaps more importantly for a handful of players — the last chance for guys in the running to impress U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson before he announces his three wildcard picks next Tuesday, September 2nd. In other words, it’s a big week for those hoping to get a phone call on Monday evening.

Among those names are Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, both of whom are off to sizzling starts at TPC Boston.

Bradley didn’t waste any time, birdieing the first hole on his way to shooting a bogey-free, six-under 65 in front of his home-state crowd. He has the early clubhouse lead among those who teed off early in the first round Friday.

Afterwards, he wasn’t shy about expressing how much being a captain’s pick has occupied his mind.

“Every second,” said Bradley when asked if making the team was rattling in his brain. “When I’m sleeping, I’m dreaming about it. When I wake up, I’m thinking about it. When I’m on the course, I’m thinking about it. But I’ve just made the decision that it’s going to come up and I’m not going to try to block it out.”

Instead, Bradley has decided to embrace the added pressure with the distraction of playing in front of his friends and family.

“I’m just trying to embrace it,” he said. “I’m trying not to think about the Ryder Cup. I’m trying to think about all my friends and family that are here. I’m just trying to be aware of. I’m just trying to do the best I can to embrace it.

“I’m not going to sit up here and say any cliches that I’m not thinking about the Ryder Cup or any of that. I am very aware every second of the day that I’m being watched by the Captain. And I’m just trying to embrace that and be aware of it and enjoy it, if I can.”

Well, he’s doing what he needs to do at the moment. Personally, I think if he can just hang on and finish decently, he’ll be a lock on the team. After all, Phil Mickelson needs a partner (well, I guess you can put him with Rickie, too, possibly).

Simpson is also fully aware that it’s a massive week for him to dazzle Captain Watson.

“I know I need a really good, consistent week to show him my game is there,” said Simpson after firing a five-under 66. “I think it’s there. But for someone outside yourself, you need to see results for you to believe that the game is there. So I’m hoping that I can have four good rounds.”

Simpson’s approach to handling the additional stress is to try and realize it’s pretty much out of his control to a point.

“There’s a point of freedom that you feel that you can only do what you can do,” he said. “Whether you get picked or not is in someone else’s hands, essentially. I feel good about it. I feel at peace about it. I feel in control of my game.”

Webb hasn’t had the most consistently stellar year, despite winning very early in the 2013-14 season. He placed T5 at the Wyndham Championship, but missed the cut at last week’s Barclays, along with the PGA Championship. (Ryan Palmer, who finished T5 at the PGA, hasn’t been in the conversation, nor has he heard from Watson, but he just took the solo lead at seven-under with four to play.)

Simpson knows the competition is going to be tough, though, with several guys on their games at the moment.

“I feel like there’s honestly seven to 10 guys who can make the team still,” he said. “And I know I’ve got to have a good week, for him to pick me, for the most part. It’s in the back of my mind, but you can’t control it. I can’t control what he’s going to do. Hopefully I keep playing well.”

I still haven’t made up my mind on who the three picks should be. Get back to me in three days. But, what about you guys? If you’re Captain Watson, who do you choose to fill out the American team?