What Bryson DeChambeau, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson add to the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will attempt to win on European soil.
"I'm going to cut to the chase—The three members of the team are Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods."
With that characteristically succinct declaration, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk put an end to months of speculation in naming the first three of his four captain's picks. In the end, the decision wasn't all that difficult. DeChambeau is the hottest player on the planet, having won the first two FedEx Cup events and now sitting higher in the world rankings than Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. Mickelson is still a birdie machine and an integral locker room presence. Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods.
So, 91.6% of the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will travel to France to play Europe at Le Golf National on Sept. 28-30 is set in stone. As a reminder, the eight guys who qualified on points are, in order: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson. Furyk will name his final selection after this week's BMW Championship, and he's widely expected to name Tony Finau as the 12th and final player for his squad, which will try to win on European soil for the first time in 25 years.
Now that Furyk has done the inevitable by making these three plainly obvious picks, let's see how each player earned his pick, what they'll bring to the team and who they could potentially partner with.
World ranking: 7
2018 stats: Three wins (the Memorial, Northern Trust, Dell Technologies Championship), seven top 5s, 20 cuts made in 22 starts
Ryder Cup experience: None
Why he got picked: DeChambeau was ninth in the points standings, meaning he was the first player left off when the points locked after the PGA. Since then, he's been the hottest player on the planet, winning the first two FedEx Cup playoff events by a combined six shots. The young, quirky Californian—he's deeply interested in biomechanics and all his irons are the same length, to name just a few of his idiosyncracies—has stated this year that making this team was a goal of his, and the last two weeks couldn't have gone any better toward that end.
Interestingly enough, there was a period of time when DeChambeau seemed unlikely to make the team unless he qualified on points. At the British Open cameras caught him having a meltdown on the driving range. The next week at the European Open he gave the eventual winner a petulant handshake on the 18th green after blowing the lead. He was viewed as fiery to a fault, a player who had some maturing to do before he could be selected as a rookie for a road Ryder Cup. But all that became irrelevant when he started playing the golf he has this past fortnight.
What he brings to the team: First and foremost, incredible form. And with that form comes extreme confidence. DeChambeau knows he's as good as anyone in the world right now, and that's the exact type of attitude you need to have in match play. He's driving it straight, hitting his irons beautifully and has found a rhythm with his unorthodox putting technique.
DeChambeau is also a fiery competitor who is pretty demonstrative on the course. Expect some big reactions from him when something postive—or negative—happens. He could be a target for heckling by European fans, though European fans don't tend to be as confrontational as American ones during Ryder Cups.
Potential partners: DeChambeau has become good friends with Woods, as the two self-proclaimed golf nerds have played a number of practice rounds this year. Just last week the two played together on Saturday at TPC Boston, with DeChambeau firing 63 to Woods's 68. There is clearly a level of comfort there. He's also played practice rounds with Mickelson. Expect him to pair up with one of those legends in the team formats.
World ranking: 24
2018 stats: One win (WGC-Mexico Championship), five top 10s, seven top 15s, 19 cuts made in 22 starts
Ryder Cup experience: 11 appearances; 18-20-7 overall record; 8-5-1 in singles
Why he got picked: There was a period of time early this season when Mickelson was one of the five best players in the world. From the Waste Management Phoenix Open through the WGC-Mexico Championship, a span of four events, Mickelson's finishes were as follows: T5, T2, T6, 1. Any time a player with Mickelson's pedigree is playing that well, he's a virtual shoe-in for the Ryder Cup. But then things cooled down considerably, coming to a head with a subpar summer of golf and golf etiquette. He has no top 10s since May, he missed the cut at the Players, U.S. Open and PGA and famously putted a moving ball at Shinnecock, sending the golf world into moral outrage! He's turned it around a bit, with top 15s in both of the first playoff events, including a 67-63 finish last weekend to virtually seal his spot.
Mickelson is third on the tour this season in birdie average, and most of his struggles have been with big numbers. That bodes well for match play, where a triple bogey often doesn't hurt any more than a bogey would. He was the most controversial of the three captain's picks given his relatively mediocre form, but don't doubt Mickelson's ability to ramp up the focus when it matters most.
What he brings to the team: Unparelleled experience, plain and simple. This is Mickelson's 12th Ryder Cup appearance, and he's been on every U.S. team since 1995. Think about that for a second.
Mickelson, likely a future Ryder Cup captain himself, has embraced mentoring the younger players and has fared well when paired alongside them in recent team competitions. He remains competitive as ever at 48 and relishes the big stage. He's the kind of guy you want to have out there in a must-win situation.
He's also having one of the best putting years of his career. Lefty is second in strokes gained putting this season (behind only short game savant Jason Day), fourth in one-putt percentage, first in overall putting average and first in putting from 15-20 feet. Good putters are vital in match play. Mickelson fills that role.
Potential partners: Phil went 2-0-1 alongside Kevin Kisner at last year's Presidents Cup, but Kisner is unlikely to receive the fourth and final captain's pick. At the 2016 Ryder Cup, he partnered twice with Rickie Fowler, going 1-1, and won his lone match alongside Matt Kuchar, who also won't be playing in Paris (though he was named a vice captain). Fowler will likely partner with Justin Thomas, so it's a bit unclear who Mickelson will play with. Perhaps DeChambeau. Maybe Dustin Johnson. Or maybe, just maybe, Tiger Woods—the two rivals turned buddies have played practice rounds together and would provide some serious first-tee intimidation. Golf-wise it's probably not the best fit, because both are erratic off the tee, plus the two went 0-2 as partners in the 2004 Ryder Cup. But still, how sweet would it be to see the two legends paired together?
World ranking: 26
2018 stats: Two seconds, five top 10s, 14 cuts made in 16 starts
Ryder Cup experience: Eight appearances; 13-17-3 overall record; 4-1-2 in singles
Why he got picked: All Tiger needed to show during his comeback was that he was healthy and playing decently well. If he did that, he'd likely make this team largely on reputation (he's earned it). He's done exactly that and more, having contended for two major championships this summer and working his way all the way up to No. 26 in the world rankings. His stats are impressive: ninth in scoring average, 22nd in birdie average, fourth in strokes gained appraching the green and 13th in strokes gained around the greens.
But limiting Tiger's impact on a team to just his play on the course is overly simplistic. He is arguably the greatest golfer of all time; he inspires other people to be better around him. He's good friends with basically every guy on the team. After he contended on the back nine on Sunday of the British Open, he became a lock. Furyk simply couldn't not pick him.
What he brings to the team: Experience and intimidation, mostly. A trusted locker room presence whom the captain and co-captain's will want to bounce ideas off. Mentorship to the younger players. And still one of the best iron players on the planet. The big question mark is his putting—it's been inconsistent this year, and he's used three putters in competition after using just two for the first 21 years of his professional career. What putter will he have in the bag in France? And will he have one of his good or bad putting weeks?
Potential partners: My money's on DeChambeau, but Mickelson is a possibility. So is Webb Simpson, whose steady style could pair well with Woods. Tiger likely won't play in all four team matches—Furyk said as much on Tuesday—but he's sure to be the main attraction, as always, in the matches he does play.