News & Opinion

Will Ryder Cup captain have too many choices?

Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup

John Hawkins doesn’t think the U.S. needs more at-large picks for Steve Stricker, but Mike Purkey points out that this year’s matches will follow a season unlike any other, so flexibility is needed

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

The PGA of America announced last week that U.S. Ryder Cup skipper Steve Stricker would be given six captain’s picks instead of four, due to the nature of the 2019-20 PGA Tour season. Should Stricker be allowed to choose all 12 players on his team because of the shortened schedule?

Hawk’s take: It’s a sexy proposition, for sure, but it also downsizes the importance (and possibility) of someone playing his way onto the squad, which doesn’t sound like a good idea for a country that has beaten the Europeans just twice in this century. I’m not even sure that adding two picks makes much of a difference. Here’s America’s top eight in the latest standings: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Gary Woodland, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods.

Would you leave any of those guys out come September? That’s a tough call right now, but six of those eight were on the roster that got shellacked in France two years ago. Only Schauffele and Woodland didn’t represent the Yanks in 2018; you could make a case that Schauffele has been America’s most reliable player over the past 18 months. Woodland has piled up five top 10s in his past eight starts on the PGA Tour and often plays his best golf on tough courses.

Unless he completely disappears, he deserves a spot.

There are three factors that make this U.S. team weaker, at least on paper, than the ’18 crew. Koepka has cooled off considerably; Johnson hasn’t been nearly as productive as he once was; and Jordan Spieth can’t find a fairway. Adding more captain’s picks would only increase the likelihood that the squad will be stacked with veterans, and a lot of those vets have lousy Ryder Cup records.

Woods obviously is a huge question mark, but Stricker isn’t going to leave him behind if he wants to participate. America doesn’t need more at-large selections. It needs its biggest names to win more matches.

Purk’s take: Look, the Ryder Cup is going to be far less than perfect this year – if it even happens in September, which is still under discussion and debate. Certainly, there will be no fans, which is what makes the Ryder Cup the Ryder Cup, and Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka have been outspoken about such a proposition.

Perhaps the most flawed aspect of this year’s event is the selection process. Seasons on the PGA Tour and the European Tour have been truncated by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s difficult to say players have earned their way onto each team simply because the 2020 schedules are so upside down.

European captain Padraig Harrington has asked that he pick all 12 players, and he is likely to have that wish granted. Why not do the same for U.S. captain Steve Stricker? It was just announced that he will get six picks instead of the customary four, but there’s absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t choose the entire team.

The mission is to have the 12 best players who are in the best possible form. It’s not ideal, and you’d like to have players who deserve to be on the team. However, in this case, the good is the enemy of the best.

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