So now we know the complete rosters for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
U.S. captain Tom Watson and European head man Paul McGinley each made their three captain’s picks on Tuesday to supplement the nine players that already qualified for each squad via a two-year point system.
There wasn’t a lot of drama involved in any of the captain’s selections despite some last-minute movement with the ongoing FedEx Cup playoffs.
The only U.S. player that probably deserved consideration was last week’s Deutsche Bank winner, Chris Kirk. But Watson, as everyone expected, chose experience over youth. He picked three Ryder Cup veterans — Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley — to round out his squad when the matches are held Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland.
McGinley went with a couple of no-brainers, Ryder Cup whiz Ian Poulter, who is 12-3 in Cup play, and Lee Westwood, who has the third-most European Ryder Cup wins of all time (18).
The choice of Ryder Cup rookie Stephen Gallacher of Scotland, who has moved up to 33rd in the world rankings, was a bit of a stretch. Yet, Gallacher just missed automatically qualifying by a few points and actually had a more consistent year than the other two captain’s picks.
That leaves three Ryder Cup rookies on each squad. Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker will make their first appearance for the U.S., while Gallacher is joined by fellow Scotsman Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson of France on the European roster.
The big question now is who will be paired together in the U.S. team matches, which players are under the most pressure to perform well, and can the Yanks somehow negate the huge home-course advantage enjoyed by the Europeans?
Watson, who was the captain the last time the U.S. won on foreign soil at The Belfry in England in 1993, has some intriguing possibilities for the four-ball and foursomes matches the first two days.
One of the twosomes will surely be Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. They were the top U.S. pairing at both the last Ryder Cup in Medinah in 2012 and the President’s Cup last year.
Despite the fact that neither has won this season, they seem to feed off each other.
It’s a good bet the long-hitting but enigmatic Bubba Watson could play alongside straight-shooter Mahan.
Jim Furyk, making his ninth Ryder Cup appearance, second only to Mickelson’s 10, could see himself alongside Rickie Fowler. Those are the two most consistent U.S. players this season.
I like the Zach Johnson-Spieth pairing of two cool customers. And Matt Kuchar, on his third Ryder Cup squad, figures to draw one of the rookies, possibly Walker. He won three times on tour this season and plays a lot like Kuchar.
That leaves Simpson and Reed as possibly the odd men out in the early matches.
McGinley will surely run out the Northern Ireland buddies, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, as many times as he can. And look for Englishmen Justin Rose, Westwood and Poulter to be mixed together somehow.
Sergio Garcia, who owns a 16-8-4 Ryder Cup mark, will probably draw one of the rookies, Dubuisson or Gallacher. A Henrik Stenson-Martin Kaymer duo would pair two great ball-strikers.
With no Tiger Woods, Mickelson certainly carries the weight of the U.S. team on his back. He seems to be rejuvenated by this event and thrives under the pressure-cooker that is the Ryder Cup.
On paper, Europe looks like a solid choice to make it eight wins in the last 10 matches. But strange things often happen in this format, and the favorites sometimes can’t stand the pressure of the whole golf world watching.