GREENSBORO, N.C. – With the top nine positions on the U.S. Ryder Cup team finalized at last week’s PGA Championship, the race is on to catch the attention of Tom Watson, who will fill out the squad with three captain's picks.
It's a competition that widened significantly Wednesday, when Tiger Woods removed his name from consideration because of health concerns.
While many notable names will begin their audition at The Barclays, bubble boys Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker are getting a head start this week at Sedgefield Country Club.
“I feel like there’s a host of things for me to play for this week,” said Simpson, who finished 15th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list.
Simpson won earlier this season in Las Vegas, and he has seven top-10 finishes in 2013-14. But his game cooled off this summer as he missed the cut in four high-profile events – the Masters, Players Championship, Open Championship and PGA Championship.
“Super frustrating,” he said. “I had two good tournaments last fall to start the year, and I had a decent West Coast swing. March, April and part of May were just tough.”
This is a familiar position for Simpson, who last year failed to earn a Presidents Cup automatic berth. He was added as one of two selections by captain Fred Couples, and he hopes to get a similar phone call from Watson prior to the Sept. 2 announcement of the three captain’s picks.
“I texted with Tom a little bit, and I want him to know I want to be on that team,” Simpson said. “Hopefully I’ll play well the next three weeks, or at least solid golf, to make it hard for him not to pick me. That’s my goal.”
Snedeker is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Simpson. The 2012 FedEx Cup champ didn’t notch his first top-10 finish this season until the Arnold Palmer Invitiational, but since the U.S. Open he has reeled off six top 25s in his last seven starts.
That stretch was capped by a T-13 finish at Valhalla, where Snedeker closed with 66-67. He heads into this week’s event with no shortage of confidence.
“I feel like I’m playing the best golf of the year,” said Snedeker, who finished 20th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list. “I feel like I’m doing a lot of really good stuff, and I’m excited about my chances this week and going forward.”
Like Simpson, Snedeker has been in touch with Watson, but he knows his game will speak louder than his words.
“I’ve talked to him numerous times, just letting him know that I know I need to play well, and I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to show him that I want to be on that team,” Snedeker said. “Besides that, it’s in my court. You can talk to Tom all you want to, but you’ve got to prove it to him. He’s not going to pick you because he likes you, he’s going to pick you because he thinks you have the best chance of winning.”
Snedeker was in the same position two years ago, when captain Davis Love III made him one of his four picks for the Ryder Cup team at Medinah. While things went in his favor that year, relying on a captain’s pick is hardly a position that Snedeker finds comfortable.
“It’s tough. You hate being on the outside looking in,” he said. “There’s no certainty. I’ve been on the outside looking in on quite a few of them.”
At No. 69 in the FedEx Cup standings, Snedeker has his eyes on a return to East Lake for the third straight year, with confidence that strong play will take care of his other goals.
“I’m putting everything into making the Tour Championship,” he said. “I know if I do that, that means I’ve had to play some pretty darn good golf, and that would give me a good chance to make the Ryder Cup team as a byproduct.”
Back in 2012, Snedeker was en route to the BMW Championship when Love called to tell him he was on the team. Snedeker still has the message on his phone.
“Really short and sweet,” he said. “Still listen to it every once in a while when things aren’t going good, so I remember what that felt like. Pretty cool phone call to get.”
The chase for another voicemail begins Thursday at Sedgefield.