Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain

Yesterday, the remaining six Ryder Cup participants were chosen by their team captains.  Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson will all now get the chance to compete in one of the greatest events in all of sports.  Most, if not all of them were not a surprise by the time they were picked.  Despite the lack of drama, I find myself really impressed with the picks that Tom Watson made the more I think about it.  The U.S. are still big underdogs in my opinion, but these three captain's picks will come to play.

The number one thing Tom Watson said he was looking for when making his captain's picks was golfers with "a fire in their belly."  That homespun Kansas City character trait may seem foolish or hard to quantify to some, but that is exactly why the U.S. has been getting their asses handed to them over the last 20 years in the Ryder Cup.  Look at a guy like Ian Poulter; he has never really amounted to much on the PGA Tour (two PGA wins in his career, and a handful of wins on the European Tour) but he is one of the most feared Ryder Cup players in the history of the event.  Poulter has that fire in his belly.  I think he would rather win another Ryder Cup than a major at this point.  That is not a trait shared by many Americans.  Tiger Woods has measured his whole career on major championships.  Dustin Johnson looked like he couldn't care less at the last Ryder Cup.  Phil Mickelson is a family man first.  Contrast those personality traits with the guy in this video:

See what I mean?  The U.S. needs guys like Poulter.  In Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley, I think Tom Watson has found them.

Keegan Bradley is one of the more fiery competitors there is on tour.  He wears his emotions on his sleeve more than just about anyone.  He is proud of where he comes from, and has treated participating in the Ryder Cup with the great respect and responsibility it deserves.  Tell me this guy doesn't live for this type of competition:

Webb Simpson is another guy that played in the Miracle/Meltdown at Medinah in 2012.  He has experienced the heartbreak of that loss and no doubt wants to be on the winning side this year.  Moreover, he also played particularly well in pairs with Bubba Watson.  He might not be as fiery as Keegan, but he no doubt is dying to erase the memories of 2012.

Finally, we have Hunter Mahan.  Mahan was not involved in the Medinah debacle, but played in the two Ryder Cups prior.  He has experienced being on the winning side, and was a crucial part of it.  Mahan famously sunk about a 50 foot putt to secure a half point for the U.S. on Sunday at Valhalla, which gave them enough points to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1999:

Mahan has also felt the lowest of the low, choking away a chance to retain the cup in 2010 at Celtic Manor.  Mahan was the anchor and the fate of all the matches and the cup came down to him:
Chili dip.  Mahan was so distraught at the loss that he was reduced to tears in the post match press conference.  I think he would be willing to do anything to make up for that.

Tom Watson has been a Ryder Cup captain before.  In 1993 he famously picked 51 year old Ray Floyd as a captain's pick, and Floyd responded by flogging Jose Maria Olazabal in a singles match on Sunday to win a crucial point in what ended up a 15-13 U.S. win.  Safe to say Tom Watson knows what he is doing.  Some of the guys on the U.S. team not withstanding, Tom Watson's captain's picks this year are exactly the type of guys the U.S. wants competing for the Ryder Cup.  They are all good players, the can all putt, and they all have had to watch the other side hoist the Ryder Cup in gut wrenching fashion.  This is what creates that "fire in the belly" and Tom Watson was right to pick them.  I am excited to see how these three guys respond.

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