The first Ryder Cup matches were held in 1927 at the Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Mass. The 39th Ryder Cup matches will be held Sept. 28-30 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
The European Team captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, will have a strong team. The Europeans currently hold the cup from their 14½-13½ win at Celtic Manor in 2010.
Eight USA Team members qualify automatically based on points earned through competition in PGA Tour events throughout 2011 to the conclusion of the PGA Championship on Aug. 12.
USA Team captain Davis Love will then pick four players to round out the team in September.
Captain’s picks help to fill voids in the team. Short game specialists are chosen to match up with long hitters for the two-man team competitions. Veteran players are chosen to match up with Ryder Cup rookies.
Davis Love will have some very interesting choices this year.
The top 15 golfers on the current Ryder Cup points list are all very strong and would be excellent choices to join the team.
Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson currently make up the top eight qualifiers.
The next seven players not on the team — Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, and Bill Haas — will be hoping for a call from Love.
Mahan has two wins in 2012 and one of those was the WGC-Accenture, a match play event. He took down Rory McIlroy in the final for his win. Ryder Cup is all about match play. Hunter will be on the USA Team.
Regardless of whether Stricker earns enough points next week to make the team, Love will certainly pick him to provide a partner for Tiger Woods in the team events. Woods/Stricker has been a very formidable duo in past Ryder Cup matches. Stricker makes the team.
This is where things get a little sticky: There are three quality players and only two spots left on the USA Team.
Furyk is next on the points list. He is a veteran who has been on seven Ryder Cup and seven President’s Cup teams. Furyk has 16 PGA Tour wins plus a U.S. Open trophy. He is a gritty grinder who makes an excellent partner in team matches.
He can still move into the top eight with a good performance at the PGA Championship this week. You have to think that Love wants Furyk on the team.
Dustin Johnson has one win in 2012, the St. Jude at Memphis, and would make a great team member. Injuries kept him out of action for more than two months early in the season. He missed the cut at the Olympic Club but was T-9 at Royal Lytham.
Fowler played very well as a captain’s pick in the 2010 Ryder Cup. He has a win in 2012 but has not been quite as consistent over the balance of the year. He had a second place finish at the Players and was T-5 at the Crowne Plaza but his last starts have been T-52, T-41, T-31, and T-60 at Akron. Rickie adds flash and brings young people to the party. Will he get picked again this year?
Two additional players with a long shot to make the team are Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker.
Haas won the 2011 FedEx Cup and picked up a win at Riviera in a playoff over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. In his last eight events, however, he has four missed cuts and only one top-25 finish. Unless Haas earns a bunch of points at the PGA Championship don’t expect to see him on the Ryder Cup team.
Snedeker has been injury-free in 2012 and has had a great year but he will need to finish very high at the PGA Championship to earn enough points to make the team in the next two weeks.
A sleeper pick is Bo Van Pelt, No. 15 on the Ryder Cup Points list. A good finish at the PGA or a win in one of the first two FedEx Playoff events could move him into the conversation.
Davis Love will make his four picks in September, probably after the second FedEx Cup Playoff tournament. A win at the Wyndham Championship or in the playoffs for any of these players will move them up the list.
The USA Team for the Ryder Cup is beginning to take shape. All of these choices for Captain Davis Love are good ones.
Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Bo Van Pelt or Bill Haas would all make excellent team members.
If one of them moves up into the top eight after the PGA the player that gets bumped down becomes the first Captain’s pick.
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Tags: Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Davis Love, Dustin Johnson, Fred Altvater, Hunter Mahan, Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Ryder Cup, Steve Stricker, The Back Nine, Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson