With one exception, Tom Watson and Paul McGinley went with experience in announcing their three captain’s picks on Tuesday for the upcoming Ryder Cup.
Watson added Vermont native Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, and Webb Simpson to the US team. McGinley, a three-time Ryder Cup player for Europe who is serving as captain for the first time, selected Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Stephen Gallacher.
Of the six players named to the teams on Tuesday, five have previous Ryder Cup experience. The only one who doesn’t is Gallacher, a Scot whose inclusion will be most welcome to the partisan home crowd, since the biennial matches are being held Sept. 26-28 in Scotland, at Gleneagles.
It will be the first road Ryder Cup for both Bradley and Simpson, who made their debuts two years ago, when the matches were held near Chicago and won by Europe, which erased a 4-point deficit heading into singles to win, 14½-13½. It was the fifth win in the last six meetings for Europe, which has also won seven of the last nine. The last time the US won on foreign soil? Try 1993, when Watson was the captain.
All told, the six players added by Watson and McGinley have combined for 16 Ryder Cup appearances.
Of the three Americans added, Bradley seemed to be a shoo-in. He went 3-1-0 at Medinah, and partnered with Phil Mickelson three times, winning all three matches. Mickelson is one of the nine US automatic qualifiers, so count on that duo getting the call in both team formats: better-ball (four-ball) and alternate shot (foursomes).
“I’ve made no secret about how important this is to me,” Bradley said. “This is a redemption year.”
Mahan was also expected to get the call, especially after he won the Barclays. Mahan has played in two Ryder Cups: He was part of the last US victory, in 2008, and also tasted defeat at Celtic Manor in 2010, when he lost the anchor singles match to Graeme McDowell, which decided the competition.
The third captain’s pick wasn’t going to be easy. Bradley was 13th on the points list and Mahan 25th. Watson also was expected to consider Brandt Snedeker (20th) and a number of players with no Ryder Cup experience: Ryan Moore (11th), Brendon Todd (12th), Ryan Palmer (18th), Bill Haas (28th), and Chris Kirk (14th), who bolstered his case by winning the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday at TPC Boston.
Instead, Watson selected Simpson, who was 15th on the points list, despite missing the cut in three of the four majors (he tied for 45th at the US Open), and missing the cut at the Players Championship. He’s played better of late, though: third at Greenbrier, T5 at Wyndham, and T9 at the DBC.
In Westwood and Poulter, McGinley has added two players who have appeared in 12 Ryder Cups and have been on the winning side in 30 matches: Poulter is 12-3-0, while Westwood is 18-13-6.
“To accept the call [Monday] night from Paul was amazing, and I just can’t wait to get to Gleneagles,” said Poulter, who tied for 23d at TPC Boston. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic team. I’m very, very proud to be a pick. Ryder Cup means a lot to me, and I guarantee I’ll be ready to perform to my best.”
Gallacher nearly played his way onto the team off Europe’s two points lists, and finished third in last week’s Italian Open. The odd man out for Europe was Luke Donald, who correctly hunched that the final pick would come down to two Englishmen: Donald and Westwood.
How would he react, Donald was asked at TPC Boston on Sunday, if Westwood got the nod?
“The reaction is if you don’t make it automatically, you’ve only got yourself to blame,” Donald said. “I wouldn’t hold it against Lee, I wouldn’t hold it against Captain McGinley, for sure. I lobbied hard for him to be the captain, I think he’s going to make the right choice, whatever it is, and I’ll respect whatever decision he makes. Because again, you can’t blame anyone else when you don’t make the team yourself, it’s only on you.”