The United States will be the defending champions when the 2018 Ryder Cup gets underway in Paris on September 28—this year’s 12-man team looks set to be laden with talent.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk is set to have a major head scratcher when it comes to deciding on his final line-up. While the younger talent drove America to a dominant 17-11 success at Hazeltine two years ago, there was also a smattering of experienced heads on the side.
There will be eight automatic qualifiers from the Ryder Cup points list—made up of performances in 2017 majors and WGC events as well as all 2018 PGA TOUR events and majors—and four ‘wild card’ picks. How will the United States side look in Paris?
With three of the top five players in the world rankings, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas—who will be a rookie on debut—are guaranteed spots. Yes, they need to earn sufficient points but they will be a part of the side even in the unlikely event of needing a wild card.
Rickie Fowler has a disappointing Ryder Cup record but will probably be one of the first names on the sheet, given his consistent performances on the PGA TOUR.
Following his performances in the last two Ryder Cups, Patrick Reed’s name is another definite for Paris. He might not be the biggest in stature but he has exactly the right attitude for the battle with the European Team in France, as was on display two years ago.
As things stand with two victories in February to his name, Bubba Watson is as close to being a guarantee as anyone. But there’s always time for the big hitting left-hander to implode and slide down the Ryder Cup points standings as the season progresses.
Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar have been fixtures of the U.S. team down the years, not gaining the kind of plaudits others have, but regularly contributing to successes and putting up fights in defeats. The pair will provide experienced heads in the party if making the final cut.
Several rookies will also be in the mix for selection for a Ryder Cup debut including Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Gary Woodland, Brian Harman and Xander Schauffele. One or two of them might just do enough across the course of the season to sneak into the automatic selection slots as they continue to make an impact on the PGA TOUR.
Possible wild cards
Phil Mickelson will hope to be in amongst the automatic qualifiers, but leftie is getting no younger and may have to settle for one of Furyk’s picks. He was an arm around the shoulders of some of his younger contemporaries two years ago and would be a popular selection.
The biggest question mark will hang over Tiger Woods. The former world number one has plenty of time to earn his place, but will he be a risky pick on form and fitness? Furyk will have to make a big call over Woods, but he might opt to include him.
There’s a high likelihood that Brooks Koepka will need a wild card if the major winner is to make a second successive Ryder Cup appearance. A wrist injury has kept him out of action for the opening months of the season. Despite his U.S. Open success last year, he might be edged out of the eight automatic berths.
Predictions for the United States Ryder Cup Team
Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler
Patrick Cantlay, Daniel Berger, Brian Harman, Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson
Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Jimmy Walker, Pat Perez, Tony Finau, JB Holmes and Ryan Moore