Tom Watson picks Bradley, Mahan, Simpson for U.S. Ryder Cup team

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U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson went with both form and experience when selecting his three wild-card picks. 

Live Tuesday night from NBC’s famous Studio 8H – the home of “Saturday Night Live” in downtown New York City – Watson announced that Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson would round out the 12-man team that likely will be a significant underdog when the biennial matches begin Sept. 26-28 in Scotland.

Bradley, 28, seemed destined for a pick months ago. Though winless since August 2012, he recorded six top-10 finishes this season and possesses the kind of aerial attack that should play well at Gleneagles. Still fresh in many fans’ minds is Bradley’s spirited play alongside Phil Mickelson during the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, when the duo combined to go 3-0 while energizing the crowd.

“I made no secret of how important this team is to me, and how bad I want to go back and win the Ryder Cup,” Bradley said. “This is a redemption year for guys who were on the team (in 2012). It’s going to be an unbelievable trip over to Boston.” 

Mahan sealed his spot on his third team with his superb play over the past month, when he ran off three consecutive top-15 finishes, including a victory at the playoff-opening Barclays. 

Plus, Watson said, “Match play seems to be his forte.”

Mahan, a former winner of the WGC-Match Play Championship, was one of the central figures during the Americans' last trip overseas. In the final match against Graeme McDowell in 2010, Mahan stubbed a chip on the 17th hole that gave Europe a one-point victory.

“I think ‘redemption’ is going to be a strong word amongst all the players,” he said, before adding: “For some reason losing lingers. It hangs with you. It still bites at you a little bit.” 

Like Bradley, Simpson was also part of the 2012 team that saw a 10-6 lead disappear on the final day in Chicago. He went 2-0 in four-balls with long-hitting partner Bubba Watson, the No. 1 points-earner for this year’s squad.

Watson admitted that the final decision came to him Monday morning, when perusing the results from the 2012 matches. 

“I had a revelation,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s gotta be the guy.’”

The list of disappointed players is a long one.

Bill Haas and Chris Kirk warranted serious consideration – Haas for his good standing with his Tour frat brothers, Kirk for his 11th-hour victory in Boston. Of the six multiple winners this season, Kirk, 29, is the only one who will not participate in the Ryder Cup.

Other players left playing the “what if?” game included Brandt Snedeker, one of the world’s best putters but a player who missed his last two cuts in the FedEx Cup playoffs; Ryan Moore, a decorated match-play performer in his amateur days and a winner earlier this season in Malaysia; and Ryan Palmer, who led both the PGA Championship and Deutsche Bank in the early stages. 

Looking to give the American side a spark, the PGA of America went outside the box with the selection of Watson, who turns 65 later this month. He was the captain the last time the Americans won on foreign soil, in 1993. The U.S. has lost five of the past six Ryder Cups, though each of the past two matches has been decided by one point.  

- Ryan Lavner, Golf Channel

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