Sep
3
2012
Decision 2012
By Stephanie Wei under FedEx Cup

Reading Davis

American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III is making his phone calls tonight — you know, THE phone calls to the four chosen ones and then at least three to the guys who will be left behind. Love will formally make his announcement to the world at 10am in New York.

Until then, we can continue to play the guessing game. (Woot!) Technically, there are four remaining spots to fill, but there are really only three — Steve Stricker is a lock (good putter and Tiger’s designated partner). Even Stricker, who had a solid week with a T13 finish at the Deustche Bank Championship, seems to expect good news.

“I’m calm,” he said after posting a ho-hum one-under 70 in the final round at TPC Boston. “I have a good feeling I’m going to get that call. I’ve talked to Davis enough, I’ve talked to enough other players that are on the team, and it sounds good for me.”

Yep. Moving on.

Besides Stricker, the other three are up in the air and the leading candidates are Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan. (For some more background, I’d recommend reading this post from early in the week of the DBC.) Well, I guess Rickie Fowler and Nick Watney are technically in the conversation, but let’s be real — it’s probably not happening, even though DL3 has a man-crush on Fowler and Watney won The Barclays, the first leg of the FedExCup PLAYOFFS.

So, let’s break it down.

*Brandt Snedeker: It’ll be a crime if Sneds, the best putter on Tour this year (ranked 1st in strokes gained putting stat — yep, he’s ahead of Luke Donald), doesn’t make the team. (Putting is King at the Ryder Cup, obviously.) The point of making the change in 2008 to delay the picks from right after the PGA Championship to three weeks later is to get more players who are in form. Brandt is in form. Knowing he had to play his way on the team as a dark horse candidate at the time, Snedeker placed second at The Barclays, and after a slow start at The DBC, he rallied to finish sixth, firing 65-67 on the weekend.

He’s also laid-back and easy to get along with, and most important, he can be paired with anyone. Brandt is one of the fastest players on Tour and I’ve watched him many times when he’s been paired with the slower-than-average guys. Most recently, I walked a few holes with him and Webb Simpson on Sunday. Out of boredom and curiosity, I timed them on the 17th tee (started the stopwatch after they teed up the ball). Webb took 54.8 seconds to hit his drive (and I think I started the clock a second or two late), while Brandt only needed 13.1 seconds. Some guys get visibly frustrated and annoyed in these situations, but I’ve never seen Brandt fazed. Bottom line: he talks fast and plays fast, but knows when to slow down, and from my impressions and experiences, he’s a pretty happy-go-lucky guy.

The point of making the change in 2008 to delay the picks from right after the PGA Championship to three weeks later is to get more players who are in form. Brandt is in form. Knowing he had to play his way on the team as a dark horse candidate at the time, Snedeker placed second at The Barclays, and after a slow start at The DBC, he rallied to finish sixth, firing 65-67 on the weekend.

How much has it been weighing on his mind? A lot. Duh. Obviously, he tried not to think about it and felt the heat. Snedeker said after his round that he actually turned off his phone at one point this week because he was sick of people talking/asking him about it.

*Dustin Johnson: Speaking of being in form, DJ is hot right now with consecutive top five finishes at the first two PLAYOFF events. However, he’s not the best putter in the world and doesn’t hit the most greens in regulation (95th). Sure, he’s stupid long, which is always an advantage. He’s not the most accurate — 157th in driving accuracy — but he’s strong and a natural athlete. DJ has struggled in team competitions. At the 2010 Ryder Cup, he was 0-3 in the team format, but he dominated in singles. If the Presidents Cup counts, he was 1-3-1 (win-loss-ties) overall.

*Hunter Mahan: Leads the Tour in ballstriking. He has two wins this season, including the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he beat world No. 1 Rory McIlroy in the finals. He finished 9th in the points standings, narrowly missing out on making the team automatically. However, with the exception of placing T8 at the AT&T National and T19 at the Open Championship, Mahan has had a forgettable summer, and prior to DBC (T39), he missed the cut in his last two starts. As good a ballstriker as he is, he has struggled on the greens this year, ranking outside of the top 100 in strokes gained putting.

*Jim Furyk: He’s a grown-up and a veteran you can count on. Sure, he’s the only player on this list who hasn’t won this year, but he had some close calls with…errr…disappointing losses at the US Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he’s fifth in scoring average on the PGA Tour this season. Furyk is also coming off a 5-0 record at last year’s Presidents Cup, where he partnered well with Phil Mickelson, whose RC record is 11-17-6 (win-loss-ties) — he has the most losses for an American in RC history, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it means he’s played in a lot of them.

I know, I know, the exhibition matches against the Internationals don’t have nearly the same cachet or pressure as the RC, and Furyk’s record at the biennial matches against Europe is also nothing to brag about. In fact, he has the worst winning percentage as an American (with minimum of 15 matches played). Thing is, Furyk is a guy you can count on and throw into any situation.

When I talked with Fowler last Thursday, he mentioned being partnered with Furyk in foursomes (alternate-shot format). “If we had to lay up on par-5s, I’d ask (Furyk) if he wanted me to lay up to a certain number and he’d say, just hit it and I’ll figure it out,” said Rickie.

Again, let me emphasize the importance of having a grown-up team player.

*****

That’s all. We’ll find out in the morning. Personally, I’d take Snedeker, Furyk, Stricker and then toss a coin between Mahan and Dustin, but smart money is on Dustin (though I said differently in PGA Tour Confidential — I smartened up in the last hour).

Chime in, let Captain Love know what you would do.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)