As part of the lead-up to the 2018 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:
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 each golfer made the team, what he brings to the squad and whom he might partner with.
World ranking: 10
Season stats: Two third-place finishes (including the Masters), five top 10s, 18 made cuts in 23 starts
Ryder Cup experience: Two appearances (2014, 2016), 4-3-2 record, 0-2-0 record in singles
How he made the team: Spieth entered 2018 in third place in the point standings after a three-win 2017 that included an Open Championship victory. He would go on to have a subpar 2018 season, at least by his standards, and one can easily make the argument that Spieth had his worst year as a professional. He finished better than ninth just twice, in back-to-back weeks in April at the Houston Open and then the Masters. That Masters solo-third finish all but clinched his spot on the team, as money earned from 2018 majors counts double in the points standings, but his best finish since then was a T-9 at the British Open, where he shot a birdieless 76 after entering Sunday with a share of the lead.
He missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career after finishing 31st in the FedEx Cup standings, a single spot outside the top 30 that get a spot at East Lake. Still, solid play in the majors—third at Augusta, T-9 at Carnoustie and T-12 at the PGA Championship—saw Spieth earn enough points to qualify sixth in the points standings.
What he brings to the team: When Spieth was playing his best, the former world No. 1's greatest strength was his putting. His struggles with the flatstick this season have been extremely well documented, but the stats are worth repeating: He was 136th in strokes gained putting for the season, 118th in total putting, 129th in three-putt avoidance, 85th in putts per round ... you get the picture. He looked generally uncomfortable on the greens all season, and despite showing occasional signs that he'd turned a corner, there is still significant concern.
On a more positive note, Spieth had one of the better ball-striking seasons of his young career. He was 13th in greens in regulation, 22nd in strokes gained tee to green, 10th in birdie average and third in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards. That final stat is particularly encouraging for his prospects at Le Golf National, a tight but not super long track that will give players chances to attack with wedges should they hit fairways.
It's sometimes hard to believe Spieth is just 25 years old given how long he's been in the public eye and how much he's already been through in his career. This will be his third Ryder Cup and sixth time represnting the U.S. in a team competition—he's already played in three Presidents Cups—and he's had terrific success in the fourball and foursomes sessions, going 4-1-2 in his two previous Ryder Cups. (It’s also worth mentioning that he has lost both his Ryder Cup singles matches, to Graeme McDowell at Gleneagles 2014 and Henrik Stenson at Hazeltine 2016.) He thrives on the team dynamic, and he and Patrick Reed have emerged as the U.S.' premier team. More on that in just a second.
Potential partners: It would be quite surprising to see Spieth play with anyone else besides Reed, at least on Friday (should they lose badly, Furyk could conceivably switch it up). They teamed up to go 2-1-1 at Hazeltine and 2-0-1 at Gleneagles, so look for them to play together again, probably in all four team sessions. If Furyk decides to break them up, Spieth could play alongside his good friends Justin Thomas or Rickie Fowler, as well as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both of whom he has a good relationship with.