News & Opinion

U.S. Ryder Cup pairing begins to add up

It’s never too early to talk Ryder Cup, but this time it’s warranted. Something popped up that could change the complexion of the U.S. team for the matches in September outside Paris. When the points standings came out the day after he won the Memorial, Bryson DeChambeau turned up eighth on the U.S. list. After the U.S. Open, he stands ninth.

If he makes it into the top 8, he’ll be an automatic qualifier. We know that a lot will change on the list now that we’re in the midst of major-championship season, but DeChambeau could be a puzzle piece that fits on more than one level.

He will turn 25 by the time the Ryder Cup comes around in late September, which makes him a fit with the anticipated twentysomething team members: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed.

Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau plays his way into the Ryder Cup picture.

© GOLFFILE/KEN MURRAY
Bryson DeChambeau plays his way into the Ryder Cup picture.

DeChambeau has succeeded at match play, having won the U.S. Amateur in 2015, shortly after he claimed the NCAA Division I individual title as a junior at Southern Methodist. He already has won twice in his young PGA Tour career, including the recent Memorial.

But perhaps the most important reason – and listen closely here – is that he would be a perfect partner for Phil Mickelson – foursomes or four-ball or both. Mickelson ranks 10th on the U.S. list, but be assured that if he is anywhere close to the top 12 when it comes time for captain Jim Furyk to make his four wild-card selections, Mickelson will be on this team. No matter what you might think of Mickelson playing fast and loose with the Rules of Golf at the U.S. Open, he’s a Ryder Cup lock.

You might be wondering, What does DeChambeau have to do with the 48-year-old Mickelson? Glad you asked. DeChambeau is known as the Mad Scientist for good reason. He knows Homer Kelley’s unreadable “The Golfing Machine” from cover to cover. He knows more about angles of attack, launch conditions and spin rates – and that’s the easy stuff – than almost anyone on the PGA Tour.

Almost means that one other player is as knowledgeable: Mickelson. He knows how to read a lie better than anyone, Fred Couples said on a podcast recently. He knows what water, wind and temperature do to the distance that a golf ball travels. And that’s the easy stuff.

Mickelson and DeChambeau were cut from the same bolt of cloth when it comes to the science of the game. On the Tuesday before the Masters, Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were joined by DeChambeau for a practice round.

“Bryson and I were talking about some of the science of an uphill putt and a downhill putt and the break and why it's most from this point and that point and so forth,” Mickelson said. “He was using some pretty scientific terms, and Dustin kind of shook his head and he said, ‘If I hang around you guys much longer, I'll never break 100.’ ”

That’s way truer than anyone will know.

So, maybe you’re thinking, What’s that have to do with being partners in the Ryder Cup? They speak the same language. In fact, they will know what each other is talking about more than anyone else on the team. Foursomes – alternate shot – would be a prime example. Which ball should they play? How do you calculate yardage in the early morning chill? If there’s moisture, how does that affect contact with the club and the way the ball flies? And that’s the easy stuff.

Furyk could send the two of them off by themselves for practice rounds to figure out the science without having to subject the other players to what would sound like a foreign language to them.

As far as the non-mathematical aspects of this partnership, Mickelson is almost twice DeChambeau’s age and would be the perfect mentor to the young scientist as to what to expect with heart rates, crowd noise and playing on the road. It will be a European home game at Le Golf National.

DeChambeau also would learn how to handle trash-talking in the team room at the feet of the master. Mickelson and Matt Kuchar – who ranks 11th on the list – are the two best Americans at sticking in the needle. And DeChambeau would need to learn how to take it and when is the best time to give it.

It’s possible that DeChambeau would be the only rookie on the U.S. team, unless someone gets on a run over the next two or three months. But if DeChambeau makes the team, it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

It all depends upon how you calculate it. 

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: golfedit@gmail.com; Twitter@mikepurkeygolf