Tony Finau secured the fourth and final captain's pick after a remarkably consistent season that lacked one thing: a win.
As part of the leadup to the Ryder Cup, which will be played at Le Golf National in France from Sept. 28–30, we'll be providing player capsules for each of the 12 members of Team USA.
As a reminder, here are the American players who will try to win the Cup on European soil for the first time in 25 years:
Captain: Jim Furyk
All of the capsules will follow the same format. We'll run through a few factoids (age, world ranking, Ryder Cup record, season statistics), look at how he made the team, what he brings to the team and whom he might partner with.
World ranking: 16
Season stats: Three second-place finishes, 11 top 10s, 18 top 25s, 24 made cuts in 27 events. Top 10 in Masters, U.S. Open, British Open.
Ryder Cup experience: None
How he made the team: Finau was the fourth and final captain's pick, and Furyk made his selection official right after Finau finished tied for eighth at the BMW Championship. While Xander Schauffele made things a little interesting by contending at the BMW, Finau's consistency didn't give Furyk much of a choice at all. He is in terrific form right now, having shot in the 60s in each of his last 15 rounds, a streak that's seen him move to third in the FedEx Cup standings and given himself a legitimate chance to win it all with a W at the Tour Championship. In that sense, Finau fills the prototype of the player the final captain's pick was designed for: an in-form young guy who's peaking at the right time.
But Finau has been solid throughout basically the entire season. He's missed just three cuts and is tenth on Tour in scoring average. The big Utahn has also shown a propensity to perform in the biggest of tournaments, having finished in the top 10 at the year's first three majors and posting top 30's in all four World Golf championships. There was some concern that his bomb-and-figure-it-out-later style—he's third on Tour in driving distance but just 176th in driving accuracy—wouldn't be a great fit for Le Golf National, a tight (by PGA Tour standards) track that puts a premium on hitting fairways. But when you've excelled at so many different courses, as Finau has this season—he has top-10 finishes at Augusta, Riviera, Carnoustie, Aronimink and Torrey Pines—that argument doesn't hold water.
What he brings to the team: Three main things—first-tee intimidation factor, birdie binges and a perfect attitude for match play.
Let's start with the intimidation factor. Finau is one of those new-age players who look more like an NFL player than the prototypical golfer. He's a solid 6' 4", weighs 200 pounds and had offers to play college basketball. He also takes the club back to about his waist on his backswing and still manages to easly fly it 300+ yards in the air .. .with a cut. He makes the game look so easy with such effortless power, and that's intimidating.
Next, the birdie binges. How's this for a Ryder Cup audition? While playing alongside Captain Furyk at the PGA Championship, Finau made a tournament record-tying 10 birdies in the second round. He only managed to shoot four-under 66, but birdies are the currency of match play, and Finau makes them in bunches. He's 11th on Tour in birdie average and sixth in eagle average.
Lastly, the attitude. Remember back in April, when Finau twisted his ankle after celebrating a hole-in-one at the Masters par 3 contest? It looked bad. Really bad. Like, bad enough that odds are he wouldn't play at all. He did better than just playing, finishing top-10 on an ankle the size of a softball. That kind of toughness and competitiveness will bode well in a team competition.
Finau's path to the PGA Tour is one of the more unlikely rags-to-riches stories in sports. He grew up without means in Salt Lake City, where he learned the game by hitting balls into a net in a garage because he couldn't afford instruction. He grinded on the mini-tours for years before breaking through. His selection to this team is the summation of a fantastic journey, and you better berlieve he'll be fired up to represent his country.
Potential partners: One would think Furyk will want to pair Finau with a steadier player who can make a bunch of pars, allowing Finau to be more aggressive. Webb Simpson seems like a good fit in that regard, though I'd bet Simpson sits out one and maybe two of the two-man sessions. However, Furyk might go the other way and put two long-ball hitters together, so don't count out Koepka or DJ as a fit here.