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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Early Ryder Cup Power Rankings

Is it too early to talk Ryder Cup?  Probably, but as the U.S. gets ready to try and take back the Cup it lost at the K Club I thought it would be fun to periodically check in on how the team will be taking shape with some early predictions and people to watch.
It doesn’t make a ton of sense to look at the current standings because it only takes into account last year’s Majors.  In first place right now is Keegan Bradley, as he was the only American to win a Major last year.  Two years ago this time, Lucas Glover was in first place but went on to barely miss making the team; so even first now doesn’t mean all that much.
Here is my current prediction as to who will represent the U.S. in 2012.
·         Matt Kuchar
·         Steve Stricker (I’ll be keeping an eye on his health)
·         Dustin Johnson
·         Webb Simpson
·         Nick Watney
·         Hunter Mahan
·         Keegan Bradley (He’s going to need to back up a great rookie year)
·         Tiger Woods
·         Phil Mickelson (Captains Pick)
·         Bubba Watson (Captains Pick) (or Gary Woodland)
·         Jim Furyk (Captains Pick)
·         Lucas Glover (Captains Pick) (insert another Sea Island guy here if Glover struggles)
This list can and will be extremely volatile, especially when the Major season comes along, bringing with it double points.  Any American who wins a Major this year will vault way up in the standings. 
Other players to keep a watch on:
·         Brandt Snedeker
·         Bill Haas (I’m curious to see if he stays motivated)
·         Rickie Fowler
·         Zack Johnson
·         Jonathan Byrd
·         David Toms
·         Gary Woodland (He could have a big year)
·         Sean O’Hair
·         Anthony Kim
And a few dark horse candidates:
·         Kyle Stanley
·         Chris Kirk
·         Harris English
·         Bud Cauley

In terms of captain’s picks, I have already posted that I don’t expect a huge year out of Mickelson and Furyk, but I don’t think Davis Love III can pass on their leadership and experience.  This is why Scott Verplank and Stewart Cink were popular captain's picks in the not too distant past.  I think a captains pick could come down to Bubba Watson or Gary Woodland and I think a final captains pick could come down to one of Love’s Sea Island neighbors (Glover, Jonathan Byrd or Zach Johnson).
The way the points are stacked so heavily this year, it’s entirely possible for a rookie to make the team.  If the Presidents Cup qualifications were the same as the Ryder Cup it would have worked out for Bradley.  That brings Harris English and Bud Cauley into the equation.  It wasn’t all that long ago that Brett Wetterich went from Q School to Ryder Cup, and the points system makes it even more likely now.
I will be interested to see how all of this takes shape with some clarity probably starting to show up sometime after Augusta in early April.

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