After two years of battling for a spot on the American Ryder Cup team, it all comes down to one tournament. For a select few in this week's Deutsche Bank Championship field, the second leg of the FedExCup playoffs represents the final shot players will have to make an impression before Davis Love III announces his four captain's picks on Sept. 4th.
Here's a look at where seven players stand heading into the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. We'll update the "Ryder Cup Rundown" following the midway point of the tournament.
Steve Stricker — If there's one guy you can bank on making the team, it's Stricker. Every team can use a couple wily veterans, and the 12-time PGA Tour winner certainly fits the bill. He's played on four Presidents Cup teams and two Ryder Cup teams. And if you didn't know it by now, Stricker and Tiger Woods have been a solid team over the years (they went 4-0 at the 2009 Presidents Cup). Love commented on the Stricker-Woods partnership at the PGA Championship, so I'd be stunned if Stricker isn't one of the four captain's picks.
Jim Furyk — Furyk has struggled to close the deal in the final round on two occasions this year (U.S. Open, Bridgestone Invitational), but once again, like Stricker, he has Ryder Cup experience, having played in the biennial matches on seven occasions. Seven. Not only that, he matches up well with some of the current names on the roster. Oh, and his name was also mentioned a number of times during Love's press conference at the PGA Championship. That doesn't necessarily mean he's a lock, but he's probably a solid No. 2 behind Stricker in the captain's pick pecking order.
On the bubble
Hunter Mahan — It's hard to believe Mahan's on the bubble following his red-hot start to the season. With two wins in his first seven events, he appeared to be a mortal lock for the squad. But for whatever reason, Mahan fell off the map after his Shell Houston Open win, posting only 1 top-10 in his last 13 PGA Tour starts. Love mentioned recently that Mahan was still "high on his list" based on his early season success and Ryder Cup experience, however, the way he's been playing recently, I can't get myself to put him in the "In" category ... yet.
Dustin Johnson/Brandt Snedeker — I'm grouping Johnson and Snedeker together right now because their games have been trending upward. Johnson has a win this summer (FedEx St. Jude) and a recent run of strong tournament finishes (T-9 British Open, T-19 Bridgestone and T-3 at the Barclays) that would lead you to believe he'd be a solid pick. Plus, he has Ryder Cup experience (2010). Snedeker, like Watney, would be a Ryder Cup rookie. But he finished T-3 at the British Open, T-2 last week at the Barclays ... and leads the tour in stroke gained - putting. As most know, having a great putter on the team is never a bad thing.
Nick Watney — I know, I know ... Watney is coming off a win and should be in the bubble category. But the thing is, I don't buy that one win is the cure-all for a guy who had only 4 top-10 finishes this season. He needs to show Love something this week, like a top-10 or top-20 finish that proves the Barclays wasn't a fluke. Unlike some of the other names on this list, Watney doesn't have Ryder Cup skins on the wall.
Rickie Fowler — Fowler made quite an impression with his singles performance at the 2010 Ryder Cup -- so much so that Love mentioned the 23-year-old as a great partner for Bubba Watson at Medinah. I like Fowler and he's had a lot of success in match play and the team format in the past, but like Hunter Mahan, he's struggled mightily this summer with only one top-10 since May. If he struggles this week at the Deutsche Bank, things could get very interesting.
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