Davis Love III, after weeks of speculation, chose Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, and Rickie Fowler as the first three of four captain's picks for the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup squad
The three join the eight players who automatically qualified for the team, which includes newly crowned BMW champion and the favorite to win the FedEx Cup in two weeks, Dustin Johnson. Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson head up the list of other veterans and one rookie, Brooks Koepka.
Unlike the European team, which Darren Clarke finalized last month, the Americans still have one spot to fill. While that position may remain something of a mystery to those outside the task force conference room, Mickelson hinted last week that, along with the three named Monday, the other guy will be a "fairly obvious" option.
Kuchar, with an Olympic bronze medal on his resume, seemed to be the most evident pick. He also posted his 10th top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season with a T4 at last week’s BMW Championship.
Despite a final-round 74 at the BMW on Sunday, J.B. Holmes made a strong case for his candidacy with three previous rounds in the 60s and a tie with Kuchar, Adam Scott, and three others for fourth.
"I’ve played great all year," said Holmes, who has six top-10s in 2016 and played his way into the FedEx Cup finale. "I feel like I've played well enough to get that shot. We’ll see, it’s out of my hands. All I can do is wait and if it happens then it was supposed to happen and if it doesn't I guess I get another week off."
.@JBHolmesgolf has played on 4 US national teams (1 each - Walker, Palmer, Presidents & Ryder Cup). Those teams are 4-0.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) September 12, 2016
Certainly the popular choice among fans was Fowler, who was a one-man cheerleading squad in Rio and will likely play the same role at Hazeltine. The problem is his actual playing, which has been ice cold of late, after failing three times to close games he could have won.
Most recently, Fowler fell out of the running for the FedEx Cup — as well as a tee time at the Tour Championship — when he came in with an uninspired 59th place at Crooked Stick. Love will unveil the 12th player after the Tour Championship, an event at which Fowler won’t have a chance to burnish his credentials, but that did not matter in the end.
"I’ve done basically everything I can do as far as schedule and playing," Fowler said from Crooked Stick. "Obviously, it would have been nice to play better to make the pick a lot easier on him, but whether he has his mind made up or is still thinking, that’s up to him."
Watson has been similarly chilly since his Northern Trust Open win in February and a runner-up outcome in his subsequent start at Doral. Jim Furyk and Kevin Na were other potential wild card picks.
.@DavidDuval on Jim Furyk's Ryder Cup chances: "I do believe he's a lock." Why? "The experience & leadership...you want him there."— Randall Mell (@RandallMellGC) September 2, 2016
Furyk, who would have been a playing assistant captain, made the short list because of his final-round 58 at the Travelers last month. Even the possibility that the man with the most losses in Ryder Cup history (20) might make the team lit up the Internet.
Hey @chambleebrandel, I don't understand. If Jim Furyk ends up a Ryder Cup captain's pick, what was the point of the task force?— Geoff Russell (@GeoffRussellGC) August 26, 2016
Na captured the imagination of some in the golf community, not for of his consistency and numbers, which are solid, but because his, um, deliberate pace of play and odd tics could drive the Euros completely 'round the twist.
While Love made Monday's official announcement, Mickelson suggested that vice captain Tiger Woods’ fingerprints were all over the blueprint.
"I am so happy to see how well he has thought this through," Mickelson told GolfChannel.com’s Ryan Lavner about Woods’ involvement in the details of the biennial event. "I can’t believe our conversations just this week, how detailed he is and the pairings, the possibilities, the players. Not just what matches they’re going to play, but where on the list. He has got us really a good, solid game plan that is easy to buy into and get behind. I’m very impressed."
Kuchar, Holmes and Fowler will join the eight players who were automatic team members based on points. Here is a roster of those eight, by rank:
1 — Dustin Johnson
2 — Jordan Spieth
3 — Phil Mickelson
4 — Patrick Reed
5 — Jimmy Walker
6 — Brooks Koepka
7 — Brandt Snedeker
8 — Zach Johnson