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Punch Shot: Who should captain Watson pick?

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U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson makes his three wild-card picks Tuesday night in New York. Who will he take? That won't be announced until 7 p.m. ET (on Golf Channel). Who should he pick? Our writers offer some advice.

By RYAN LAVNER

Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, Billy Horschel.

Bradley is the no-brainer pick of the trio, given not just his form this season but his potential pairing with Phil Mickelson. He eats, breathes and sleeps the Ryder Cup, and Tom Watson could use as many of those guys as possible.

Mahan makes sense, too, after his playoff-opening victory at The Barclays and back-to-back top-15s at Bridgestone and the PGA. More than that, though, it’s worth exploring the redemption factor. During the last Ryder Cup overseas he was America’s last hope in the final match against Graeme McDowell, and his chunked chip has been replayed hundreds of times since.

Despite his ghastly chunk on the 18th hole Monday, I’d also take Horschel. He’d be the U.S. team’s Ian Poulter – screaming, fist-pumping, eyes bulging. All along Tom Watson has said that he wants guys on his team who have “heart.” Billy Horschel’s is roughly five times the normal size.


By REX HOGGARD

If silence is golden the only certainty heading into Tuesday’s U.S. Ryder Cup picks is that captain Tom Watson could go anywhere with his selections. But where he should go is straight to Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Chris Kirk.

Although Bradley is more than two years removed from his last PGA Tour victory, his play at the 2012 matches, when he went undefeated paired with Phil Mickelson, is proof enough he has the match-play goods and his fiery demeanor make him the U.S. side’s answer to Ian Poulter.

As for Mahan, his victory at The Barclays broke an inexplicable winless drought and his record at the WGC-Match Play – where he has finished first, second and T-9 the last three years – is proof of his match-play prowess.

As for Kirk, who would be a rookie on the team, Paul Azinger’s entire motivation in 2008 when he overhauled the U.S. selection process was to put a focus on the hot player and after his victory at TPC Boston Kirk is simmering. That he played the final round at the Deutsche Bank Championship paired with Rory McIlroy, who will be the European side’s team leader, is also worth noting.

To put Kirk’s performance on Monday in context, he would have beaten McIlroy, 4 and 3.


By JASON SOBEL

In the immortal words of former Ryder Cup captains Snoop Dogg, Ice-T and Big Daddy Kane: Pickin’ ain’t easy.

That’s about all I know in assessing Tom Watson’s recent role, one which will culminate with him selecting three captain’s picks to the U.S. squad on Tuesday.

I’m a firm believer that picks should be players who will best help the team win, rather than simply a reward for who barely missed automatically qualifying or played well in the past few weeks. And yet, guys who I like – fiery competitors such as Billy Horschel and Erik Compton – just didn’t do enough to make me feel secure in picking them.

On the other hand, I also don’t think the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship should be a de facto Monday qualifier. Great win for Chris Kirk, but I don’t think that means he’s any better equipped to win points at Gleneagles than he was before.

So I’m going to split the difference with three players who I think give the team both a chance to earn points and have showed solid form as of late: Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson.

I don’t think there’s a “right” answer to the question of who should Watson select, but I can take heart in believing that these three very well might also be the answer as to who he will select on Tuesday, too.


By RANDALL MELL

Give me three players who have beaten nerves and formidable foes on grand stages.

Give me three players with some good form going for them.

Give me Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan.

Bradley’s a major championship winner with Ryder Cup experience who will bring some fire to a potential pairing with Mickelson again. Bradley finished T-4 three times this summer and is coming off a T-16 at Deutsche Bank.

Simpson is another major championship winner who finished third at Greenbrier in July and T-5 at Wyndham and T-9 at Deutsche Bank over the last month.

Mahan just won Barclays and has Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup experience. Stage presence without form doesn’t matter. Form without stage presence can work. But I’m liking my chances better with both.


By WILL GRAY

While Tom Watson doesn’t exactly have a bevy of viable candidates for his three picks, the names I would pull out of the hat would be Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.

Bradley seems like the consensus pick – a team guy who pairs well with Phil Mickelson and who, if Medinah is any indication, thrives under the pressure and the spotlight of the Ryder Cup.

He’s a major champion, has had a solid if unspectacular season, and his length off the tee will be an asset in early matches.

While Snedeker missed the cut in each of the first two playoff events, he reeled off a stretch of seven top-25 finishes in eight starts before that. I’m willing to chalk up some of his poor play in the last 10 days to fatigue, since his last off week was in mid-July. Snedeker’s putter is the key, as it has been heating up throughout the summer and an underdog American team will need someone that can go lights-out on the greens, a la Ian Poulter in 2012. Sneds could be that guy.

The Koepka pick won’t happen, but hey – this is about what should happen, right? The Americans face an uphill battle at Gleneagles, so if I’m Watson I get risky with my final addition and take a rising star.

He also happens to hit the ball a mile off the tee, has a pair of top-10 finishes in majors this year and having played the Challenge Tour in 2013, has more recent experience on the other side of the Atlantic than any other prospective pick.

Koepka could pair with fellow rookies Jordan Spieth or Patrick Reed and embrace the environment of matches on foreign soil like a football team traveling for a rivalry game in hostile territory.

I mean, since conventional pick methods haven’t fared that well over the past 10 years ...