This is a conversation that comes up before every Ryder Cup. This year, however, it seems there is more controversy about the picks than there normally is. It hasn't been just about who was picked but why is half the team a captain's pick?
While recovering from knee surgery it has afforded me some extra time to read more articles and see more social media posts about the Ryder Cup. I even saw a video of Hank Haney ranting about Justin Thomas being picked. (watch here). He basically states how Justin Thomas should not have been picked based on his playing performance. It's a bit much but he makes a good point. Especially the fact that Thomas didn't even qualify for the Fed-Ex Playoffs.
I am a personal fan of Justin Thomas and trust Zach Johnson knows what he is doing as captain. I had the pleasure of meeting Zach and playing golf with him back in 2007. He is a great guy, loves golf, and understands the importance of playing for your country. I'm not second-guessing his decisions but I would point out, just like Hank Haney the stats for a few players don't add up to be on the team. On the surface, the picks seem like a popularity contest.
Now, if you look at the Ryder Cup qualifying points standings (above) compared to the USA Team Roster that has been selected they are pretty identical. Where I would argue there is a discrepancy is that Cameron Young was not selected. You could even argue Keegan Bradely should have made the team over others. Both Young and Bradley have more qualifying points than others selected and both have been playing very well all year. Young may not have made the Tour Championship but Bradely finished T9 in the overall playoffs. When two players have seasons like they have and do not make the Ryder Cup it makes one question why.
Are 6 captain's picks too many? I personally think so. Why is half the team selected by meeting specific criteria and the other half is a random selection?
When it comes to representing your country we should take more golfers playing their way in. Regardless of the tour or even professional status if a golfer can somehow manage to get the points required they should be able to represent their country. Granted we all know the best play on the PGA Tour and outside of Majors the only way you can get Ryder Cup points is by playing in PGA Tour events. When we have certain criteria that golfers must meet to be eligible and there are at minimum 20+ golfers every two years that should be considered why does only 50% of the team qualify?
Personally, I would like to see only 2 captain's picks and have 10 golfers automatically qualify based on their points earned. Golfers should be rewarded for their play and the points they accumulated. If you look closely Cameron Young (9th in points) has just under 450 points more than Colin Morikawa (10th in points) while Morikawa only has just over 40 points more than Keegan Bradely (11th in points). When golfers are that close in points it can be hard to justify why they were not picked, especially when they are 1,000+ points higher than other picks. The purpose of the points earned is, after all, based on how well those golfers have been playing and how consistently they have been playing all year.
I like every player on the Ryder Cup team and they all have the talent and passion to represent the USA. We will find out come September 25th if the captain's picks work out or not. If the USA wins no one will question anything. If they lose, however, everyone will blame the captain for his picks. This is another reason I believe there should be fewer captain picks. If more golfers are selected based on qualifying this could relieve some stress on the captain and let him focus more on the event itself. It could also reduce the social media circus such as the rant from Hank Haney. Even the regular media has tried to write drama with articles about Bradely and Young being snubbed. Take these two posts from Golf Magazine as an example.
Instead of talking about the positive side of the captain's picks, everyone is questioning them. We should be celebrating the team and preparing to cheer them on. With more golfers automatically qualifying and fewer captain's picks we would be able to do just that each year the Ryder Cup is played.