Does it make sense for Ryder Cup captains to stagger their wildcard picks?September 9, 2018 Opinion
The USA captain picks three wildcards then gives himself a week to mull over the fourth. But does anyone really benefit? Mark Townsend and Alex Perry discuss in Alternate Shot
Last week Jim Furyk named three of his wildcards and kept one back for seven more days. This all came about when Billy Horschel wasn’t part of America’s effort in 2014 despite a magical late run of form. So, in 2016, Davis Love III was allowed to make his final pick after the Tour Championship and Furyk will add his 12th man on Monday, the day after the BMW Championship was supposed to finish.
So is it sound thinking to give the captain as long as possible to get his team just right or is it over-thinking things given how long the qualification process is?
Two of our writers cross swords…
Yes, says Mark Townsend
The old Billy Horschel rule. Four years ago Horschel began the Deutsche Bank well outside the Ryder Cup picture but he finished second at TPC Boston. He then won the next week at the BMW and doubled up at the Tour Championship.
So you have the most in-form player on the planet who isn’t part of a team of 12 a fortnight later. And all for what? Surely there’s enough time to get the admin bits sorted and, if you were to miss out, you couldn’t have too many complaints about losing out to Horschel.
As the last man in you’re unlikely to be playing in every session so a bit of late maths and it’s not too hard to shoehorn someone into your plans, the chances are that your mind was made up weeks ago anyway.
Two years ago Ryan Moore, 20th on the standings, was the recipient of the late pick having lost in a play-off to Rory McIlroy at East Lake. No real complaints and Moore went on to win two out of his three matches the following week.
This year Tony Finau is the form horse after a brilliant set of finishes in the majors, as well as some more dazzling form in the past few weeks, while Xander Schauffele is the one who needs to do a Ryan Moore. What’s the problem in holding one back? It gives Finau the chance to prove himself, which he has, and Schauffele the chance to make one last go at it, which he has, under some pretty trying circumstances.
For all we know Furyk might have wanted Kevin Kisner on his side so a big week from him would have been a great reason to fit the final jigsaw into his team.
As things have played out Furyk’s four have seemed very straightforward, and far more than Thomas Bjorn’s, but that’s just the way it is this time around. Even Schauffele thinks Finau will get the nod and he’s almost certainly right but that doesn’t mean we won’t get another Horschel happening again.
But this way the captain will be able to pick his perfect team rather than have his on-song stud twiddling his thumbs thousands of miles away back in Florida.
No, says Alex Perry
It’s all fun and games trying to work out who the captain is going to pick, and of course it adds to the drama. But is it practical? Not for me.
First of all, there’s the rumour mill. This year’s captain, Jim Furyk, was apparently going to name Ryder Cup veterans Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar in his first round of picks. But then Bryson DeChambeau, who missed out on automatic qualification by a whisker, won back-to-back at the Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship.
So if Kuchar was going to get in, Furyk either had to make DeChambeau wait a week, or save Kuchar back for the final pick, thus making the delay completely pointless.
In the end, it seemed like even Furyk couldn’t be bothered with it all and just came out, named Woods, Mickelson and DeChambeau within 10 seconds of sitting down and spent the rest of the night looking like he couldn’t wait to get home.
And Kuchar isn’t getting the pick, because he’s taken Tiger’s place as a vice-captain, so now it’s Tony Finau to get the nod, surely?
Well, you’d think, but now Xander Shauffele is tied 2nd and having a brilliant tournament at the BMW Championship – so now he is in the mix. And a handful of other players could have played their way in, too, like Kevin Kisner and Brandt Snedeker.
It’s all just too much and if I’m the Ryder Cup captain I want my team sorted well in advance of the matches so I can think about pairings and the like, not get within two and a half weeks of the opening tee shot and still be umming and ahhing over my final pick.
I get why the USA do it this way, I just think it overcomplicates matters.