Nothing fans the flames of the social media aristocracy like Ryder Cup wildcard picks and this week’s announcements left plenty of room for arm-chair captaining. This selection edition covers it all, from the can’t-miss (Jim Furyk) to the downright curious (Thomas Bjorn).
Jim dandy. Let’s face it, for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Furyk this was a tap-in. Although some suggested Captain America should break protocol and name all four selections on Tuesday there was otherwise no real drama.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have both played well enough this season to deserve a pick – they finished 10th and 11th, respectively, on the U.S. point list – and bring an invaluable wealth of knowledge to the team room; while Bryson DeChambeau is a three-time winner this season on the PGA Tour and arguably the hottest player in the game at the moment.
As for the final pick, Tony Finau is an equally obvious choice following top-5 finishes in his last two starts and will get his rubber stamp after the BMW Championship – regardless of whether or not Xander Schauffele wins this week.
Most captains say the wildcard selection process is the most difficult part of the gig, but if that’s the case Furyk is about to enjoy the most stress-free turn in the history of the matches.
Dissecting DeChambeau. The game’s undisputed mad scientist recoiled at the question. “I don't think it was a meltdown,” he said. “I was just frustrated on the driving range. Come on, guys.”
DeChambeau was explaining how he’s been able to transform his game from the PGA Championship, where he endured an extremely public and particularly frustrating practice session, to winning back-to-back playoff events.
On Monday at the Dell Technologies Championship, DeChambeau explained that his greatest joy in golf is executing the perfect shot under pressure, like the 3-wood he hit to 8 feet on Monday at TPC Boston’s 15th hole. Conversely, he acknowledged that the not-so-great shots can have an equally negative impact.
“It’s a relative level. If I have a good response mechanism explaining why that failed, I’m totally fine with it,” he said. “If I don’t know it’s like, OK, what’s going on? That’s what I’ve tried to figure out all year.”
DeChambeau is an enigma in the modern game, but that “meltdown” helps to at least partially explain so much about him. Where many saw a frustrated and lost player at Bellerive, the mad scientist saw progress.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
The Bjorn identity. If Furyk’s picks were low-hanging fruit, European captain Bjorn had some much more demanding choices to make on Wednesday.
Bjorn went with Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson in a clear response to a team that already had five rookies. But experience might have come at a cost.
Both Poulter and Casey have won this year on Tour and add a pair of veteran voices to the team room. Garcia, and to a lesser extent Stenson, were not so obvious.
Garcia failed to qualify for this year’s FedExCup Playoffs and he has just a single top-10 finish anywhere in the world since March; whereas Stenson has been more consistent, but the Swede has been slowed by an elbow injury this summer.
Ryder Cup captains tend to get far too much credit in victory and blame in defeat, but if things don’t go well for the Continent in Paris expect the second-guessing of Bjorn to begin early and often.
Boston bon voyage. Of all the swansongs on Tour this season – from the final Tour event played at Firestone in Akron, Ohio, to the last tournament in the Washington, D.C., area – the final Dell Technologies Championship is the most curious.
Since joining the Tour schedule in 2003 the Boston area event has been a must-play for many players despite a golf course that was continually in flux. It’s also worth noting that the event’s former tournament director Jay Monahan is now the Tour commissioner.
But all of that history meant little when the time came to trim the schedule to make room for next year’s pre-Labor Day finish. Tour golf will return to the area every other year with The Northern Trust rotating between TPC Boston and New York, but losing a marquee event in a major market never seems to pass the smell test.
Don’t press send. Former ESPN analyst and current Arizona State head football coach Herm Edwards famously coined the phrase, and it felt like apropos advice for Patrick Reed last week.
Reed posted an item to his Instagram account that was immediately filed under “PGA Tour player problems” by many.
“Thank you [PGA Tour] for the tickets to the [Boston Red Sox] game tonight. I love how you put my wife, sister in law and myself in the line drive section. We paid $650 to upgrade our seats and ended up in the same section as the rest of the [PGA Tour],” he wrote.
Reaction on social media was predictably negative and we can only imagine the fun European fans will have with the episode next month in France.
Tweet of the week
Who said Tour players don’t police their own?