The numbers 6 through 9 are causing the casual observers to sit up with a jerk. Numbers 1 through 5 - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell and David Toms ' are all recognized warriors. So is No. 10, Davis Love.
But Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich, Vaughn Taylor and Lucas Glover? Hey, where did those guys come from?
Those guys happen to be playing darn good golf, and doing it on a consistent basis. With the new way of selecting the U.S. team ' heavily weighting the points to reflect whos playing well this year ' a lot of new guys are making a decided impact.
I think this is a reflection of what the point system was set to do, which is to reflect who's playing the best golf this year, said Tom Lehman, the American captain. The guys who are on there have really been playing a bunch of great golf this year. I'm very impressed with nearly everyone.
The numbers coming out of the U.S. Open were definitely not good for the U.S. ' only two players in the American top 30 got Ryder Cup points. And those two didnt need them ' No. 2 Mickelson and No. 3 Furyk. So, the rankings changed none at all in a week in which the final results of the Open could have made a huge difference.
The top five in the list have a spot in the Cup virtually sewed up. But those new faces are anything but assured of a position. The gap between the fifth and sixth spot ' more than two hundred points ' is as big as the difference between No. 6, Johnson, and No. 14, Arron Oberholser.
That includes No. 11, Fred Couples; No. 12, Tim Herron; and No. 13, Tom Pernice ' all veterans with plenty of name recognition, by the way. Players can go into the top 10 ' or slide out of the top 10 ' in rapid fashion.
Yeah, the volatility comes with the huge number for guys who are winning, says Lehman ' himself No. 19 on the rankings. You win a tournament, it's a huge number, so you can jump way up in a hurry.
But what you see is still, even though the points system is different and there's more points, the guys who play well for one week do make a jump but then they definitely start backing up again. The guys who are consistently playing well week after week after week are the ones that are near the top. If you go right down that list, that's exactly what you're going to say.
And who might be on that list? Brett Wetterich is No. 7 - he's been playing as good as anybody for the last three months. Vaughn Taylor has been playing great all year, Lucas Glover has been playing well for a year and a half, Zach Johnson, same way. None of these guys up there, kind of new faces, but none of them surprise me, says Lehman.
One player who surprises the captain is Chris DiMarco, who was a stalwart on the last two national teams, the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. However, DiMarco is still rehabilitating from injury suffered in the spring, and at No. 17 is by no means out of the running. And he has to be on Lehmans mind as one of the two wild-card picks. Time is running out, however, of which DiMarco is acutely aware.
But everybody - you just back up to what's wrong with the American teams, said Lehman. Part of it is that the guys not only care a great deal, they almost care too much, and they want to be a part of it so badly that you can definitely try too hard. You can definitely try too hard.
My message to everybody is set your goals high and go after them. And if you make the team it's a big deal - which is what it should be - then you do whatever it takes. But you can definitely try too hard. Once you've been there a few times, you know what it's all about and you know what you'd be missing if you weren't there. Especially this one in Ireland will be something extra special.
The European squad which will await them in Ireland in September looks like a team of mostly veterans ' which is an interesting change. Europe takes the top five from the European Tour and adds the top five from the world rankings, since many of its players are competing in the U.S.
David Howell is No. 1 on both qualifying rankings. The only newcomer at present is Swede Henrik Stenson.
They've got a very strong team, said Lehman. You look at the names that are qualified, plus add two more picks, it's quite a strong team. They're always strong.
Email your thoughts to George White