Ryder Cup: Top 5 Contenders for Love’s Final Pick

Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has just one more wildcard pick at his disposal, but several players are worthy of consideration.

The Ryder Cup kicks off in less than a week, but Davis Love III still has work to do to fill out his roster for Hazeltine. The American captain will make his final wildcard pick on Sunday evening, shortly after the conclusion of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.

Of course, Love probably has a solid idea of who the pick will be, but there are nevertheless a bunch of moving parts at East Lake this week. Whoever ends up in the winner’s circle will be able to make a compelling case for their inclusion, as will anyone else who finds the top five.

While Love can choose from a laundry list of American players, his choices have been effectively narrowed down to just a few. Let’s take a look at some of the main contenders for that last spot on Team USA.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Bubba Watson

Age: 37

PGA Tour wins: 9 (including 2012 and 2014 Masters)

Ryder Cup appearances: 3 (3-8-0)

The case for: Watson is among the most accomplished American players who hasn’t already been named to the team — to leave him off would be one of the most significant snubs in Ryder Cup history. A two-time major champ and nine-time PGA Tour winner, he’s proven his mettle under the spotlight. Furthermore, Hazeltine is a long and hilly course, so a long hitter like Bubba should be able to contribute.

The case against: Watson hasn’t notched a top 10 on the PGA Tour since March, and while he’s turned in other strong performances since then (T8 at the Olympics, T13 at The Barclays), it’s still not the most inspiring form in the world. He lacks a natural partner in team play, making him a tough fit for any squad. His Ryder Cup track record is, to put it mildly, lackluster.

Recent results: Watson found the top 20 in two of three events to kick off the FedEx Cup playoffs, but he’s scuffling at the Tour Championship. He sits in 25th place through the first two rounds.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Thomas

Age: 23

PGA Tour wins: 1

Ryder Cup appearances: 0

The case for: If team spirit is an essential part of the Ryder Cup, then Thomas just might be the ideal final pick for Team USA — months ago, the Alabama product attracted plenty of media attention for saying he’d rather win a Ryder Cup than a major. He also has an ideal game for Hazeltine, possessing plenty of length off the tee as well as a lights-out putting stroke. Universally acknowledged as one of the game’s foremost up-and-comers, it could be a wise move for Team USA to plan for the long term and give him some experience now.

The case against: Thomas is an inconsistent player. He’s notched four top 10 finishes this year, but not a one of them was directly preceded by anything inside the top 50. He’s also not a great ball striker.

Recent results: Thomas survived to two weekends in the first three playoff events, tying for 10th at The Barclays. He shot a 68 in the first round of the Tour Championship to sit in a tie for seventh.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Berger

Age: 23

PGA Tour wins: 1

Ryder Cup appearances: 0

The case for: Like Thomas, Berger is young and knocking at the door. The Florida native has been on a continuous upswing since joining the PGA Tour for the 2014-15 season, and at No. 37 in the world ranking, he’s got more than enough game to hold his own at Hazeltine. He’s a much more consistent player than most of the other contenders for the final spot.

The case against: The problem here is that Berger doesn’t have much going for him over Thomas. The latter has contended at more big events, has a better pedigree and is better friends with Team USA members like Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler. Berger doesn’t drive the ball as far or putt it as well, though he is better with his irons.

Recent results: Berger played his way into the Tour Championship by tying for 10th at the BMW Championship. He’s three-over through the first two rounds, sitting just outside the top 15.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Chappell

Age: 30

PGA Tour wins: 0

Ryder Cup appearances: 0

The case for: This California native might be the PGA Tour’s best player without a win. Chappell picked up three podium finishes in 2016, notably finishing just behind Jason Day at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship. He also tied for third at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. All told, he’s probably given himself more chances this year than anyone else in the running for the pick.

The case against: Neither an ultra-accomplished player nor a feisty up-and-comer, Chappell lacks the resume required to earn that final spot. A victory at the Tour Championship is probably his only path to Hazeltine at this point.

Recent results: Chappell survived to the weekend in each of the first three playoff events, tying for eighth at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He’s tied at the top through 18 holes at the Tour Championship.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Sucar-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Furyk

Age: 46

PGA Tour wins: 17 (including the 2003 U.S. Open)

Ryder Cup appearances: 9 (10-20-4)

The case for: Furyk looked solid in limited action this season. He notched five top 25s in 14 starts, tying for second at the U.S. Open and for fifth at the Travelers Championship, where he shot a record-breaking 58 in the final round. He’s also been around the block a few times, appearing in every Ryder Cup since 1997. The veteran would be able to team up with any number of the Team USA players and offer valuable advice on the course.

The case against: Already one of Davis Love’s vice-captains, it might be easier for everyone if Furyk simply focuses on his initial role. Team USA already has 10 returning players, so they don’t necessarily need his experience, and Hazeltine is probably too big of a ballpark for his game.

Recent results: Furyk finished outside of the top 40 in the first two postseason events and was bounced after the second leg. He hasn’t teed it up since Labor Day weekend.

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