News & Opinion

‘Experience, camaraderie and chemistry’ aid Fowler

Rickie Fowler Golf Swing Finish

Hawk & Rude agree that Brendon Todd got shafted by U.S. captain Tiger Woods, but against an overmatched International team, it won't matter

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Jeff Rude are co-hosts of a weekly podcast, Hawk & Rude, in which they discuss and debate the hottest issues in golf. They also share their takes in this weekly installment.

Did Tiger Woods make the right call in choosing Rickie Fowler over Brendon Todd to replace Brooks Koepka on the U.S. Presidents Cup squad?

Hawk’s take: It’s hard to imagine that it will matter against a vastly inferior International team, but that’s not the point. We frequently hear captains talk about picking the “hot golfer” when the situation presents itself, as was the case here. Didn’t the Ryder Cup task force vote to hold America’s final at-large berth until the 11th hour for that very purpose? Fowler has done very little since winning in Phoenix almost 10 months ago. Todd has won back-to-back events against two of the weakest fields all season.

Fowler has been productive as a member of six Ryder/Presidents Cup rosters. Todd never has hit a shot in such competition. This was an excellent opportunity to work some fresh American blood into the mix, but Woods fell into the trap of favoring experience over current form, which makes this a nod to conventional wisdom more than a mistake.

Given the undermanned opponent (which captains never factor into the equation) and Fowler’s utter lack of performance since a T-6 at the British Open, the inclusion of Todd makes more sense. He might be beating a bunch of guys nobody’s ever heard of, but he’s still winning PGA Tour events. That makes him a more sensible option than a guy who hasn’t done much winning at all over the course of a 10-year career.

Rude’s take: Playing-captain Woods could have chosen John Hawkins or picked out of the Jupiter, Fla., telephone book and been just fine, given the lopsided edge in talent and depth the U.S. team has over the Internationals.

Fowler hasn’t played since a T-19 in the Tour Championship three months ago because of his early-October wedding and a recent intestinal infection. But he was 11th in PC points, is a veteran of numerous Ryder and Presidents cups, went 3-0-1 in the last PC, has the best putting stroke around and is well liked by his teammates.

As U.S. assistant captain Zach Johnson sensibly said, “I think you side with experience, camaraderie and chemistry.”

Todd, of course, would have been deserving as well, given his two PGA Tour victories this month after suffering three lost seasons (37 missed cuts in 41 starts during one stretch) and the full-swing yips.

Todd’s comeback story is wonderful, and perhaps it could have been an inspiration to teammates. Kevin Na, also a recent winner, is another hot hand worthy of consideration.

But Fowler was the safest pick.