American Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson announced his wildcard picks in a glitzy press conference in New York City the day after the conclusion of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Just a day earlier, Billy Horschel had the chance to tie clubhouse leader Chris Kirk with a birdie on the par-5 18th, but he chunked his second shot into the hazard guarding the green (and it was so bad that it almost came up short). That probably didn’t give Watson the best impression of Horschel.
However, less than a week later, Horschel redeemed himself with a two-shot victory over Bubba Watson at the BMW Championship. That likely caught Watson’s attention, but unfortunately, it was a few days too late. Or maybe it wouldn’t have. After all, he didn’t pick Chris Kirk, who played alongside the world no. 1 Rory McIlroy over the weekend at TPC Boston and came out victorious at the DBC. So perhaps it still wouldn’t have been enough to sway Watson (though it should’ve)
Kirk finished in the middle of the pack at the BMW, but he placed T4 at the Tour Championship. You see, Kirk is like a silent assassin, but that’s part of the problem — Watson didn’t seem to “get” the “silent” part of Kirk’s persona.
But now, you have Horschel, who won the last two FedExCup Playoff events, along with the $10 million bonus — he’s the hottest player on the planet right now and you’re telling me he’s not playing in the Ryder Cup?!? That’s crap, if you ask me.
Same deal for Kirk, who is probably right behind Horschel in terms of players that are in their best form at the moment.
Then, there’s Ryan Palmer, who placed T5 at the PGA Championship. While he didn’t impress at The Barclays, his last three finishes in the Playoffs were T16, T4 and 7.
Compare all three of them to Watson’s captain’s picks and don’t you wish he could’ve delayed his decision until after the Tour Championship? I sure do. I’d certainly feel more confident for the underdog American team if Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk and Ryan Palmer were going in place of Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Keegan Bradley.
Credit to Mahan for winning the first playoff event, The Barclays, but since then, he’s done squat. Bradley didn’t even qualify for the Tour Championship, finishing 33rd in the FEC points standings, after withdrawing from the BMW Championship last week because of some potential rules infraction.
Then, there’s Simpson, who won the first event of the 2013-14 wraparound season…back in October — yes, 11 months ago. He had nine top-10s, including the victory and finished T9 at the DBC, which apparently was enough for Watson to warrant picking him as a wildcard. Simpson placed T23 (out of 29 players) at the Tour Championship.
Now, it’s not these guys’ fault they got picked. I’m saying there’s a problem in the system. The whole point of having wildcard picks is to have players who perhaps didn’t play consistently enough over the two-year stretch to make the team based on points, but who are in the best form at the moment, right?
Well, the way I see it, that’s not how the American team was rounded out. It also shows how cliquey the team is and how favoritism probably plays a role. (Notice how the picks were all former teammates/pals of guys who made the team on points, and how the in-form players are outsiders? Well, if you don’t, that’s the way it is and the sense you get if you’re out on Tour — it’s hard to explain, but I’m not making it up.)
Even Rory McIlroy is glad he’s not going to have to face Horschel, among others, in the biennial team matches over in Scotland.
“There’s a few guys I’m glad I’m not going to see at Gleneagles: him, Ryan Palmer, Chris Kirk,” said McIlroy, after finishing tied for second, three shots behind Horschel at the Tour Championship. “There’s a few guys that are playing well that aren’t on this U.S. team that obviously had a great chance to make it.”