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Here's who Tom Watson picked for his Ryder Cup team, and why

September 02, 2014

NEW YORK -- Tom Watson ended months of speculation and officially announced his three Ryder Cup captain's picks at Rockefeller Center on Tuesday. Earlier in the day European Captain Paul McGinley announced Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood as his three selections. Watson opted for Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson.

The rundown of Watson's picks

Keegan Bradley was essentially a lock for the team. He went 3-1-0 as a rookie in 2012, and even though he hasn't won this season, he's still 23rd in the FedEx Cup rankings. Hunter Mahan's form was a little patchy in 2014, but his ball-striking hit a remarkable hot streak in recent weeks, culminating in a win at the Barclays. It would have been a surprise if he didn't make the team

The third name was the pick that was the true wildcard, with a combination of big-name players not playing well and some inexperienced players showing some solid form. In the end, Watson opted for former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. He finished 2-2-0 in the 2012 Ryder Cup, and even though Simpson hasn't won on tour since last October, Watson was drawn by his overall experience. And there are signs that things are turning around: Simpson has two top-10s in his last four starts.

Of course, there was one decision he decided not to make. . .

Idle thought while waiting (and waiting) for Tom Watson's Ryder picks: Imagine the Twitter meltdown if he punked everyone and picked Tiger.

— Mike O'Malley (@GD_MikeO) September 2, 2014What Watson said about his picks

"Keegan can go real low, and he teamed up great with Phil Mickelson," Watson said of Bradley, "but the most important thing he brings is his unbridled passion to play on the Ryder Cup team."

"Match play seems to be his forte," Watson said of Mahan, highlighting his recent success at the WGC-Accenture Match Play (win in 2012, runner-up in 2013). "He's coming into his own right now, and he's really playing some great golf."

"It came to me this morning . . . I kind of had a revelation," said Watson on his final pick. "I took a look the last time the Ryder Cup was played and I just realized Webb was the guy."


There's no denying that Keegan brings emotion to Watson's squad, something the Americans need if they hope to overturn Europe's recent dominance in the competition. Mahan even spoke about the potential atmosphere after his selection was announced.

"It feels like an Alabama-Auburn game," he said. "There's a lot of respect there, but there's a lot of fire there. It brings something out of you that you didn't even know you had."

Simpson may not be in his best form, but like Bradley, he's a major winner with Ryder Cup experience. He knows the guys on the team and is well liked, which is always a bonus, and his consistency makes him compatible in the various different formats.

And let's not forget how happy Phil will be with Watson's selection.

And why they could backfire

Did we mention Simpson hasn't won since last October? And while he has those two top-10s in his last four events, he also missed the cut in the other two starts. Meanwhile, Chris Kirk may well feel hard done being passed over fresh off a FedEx Cup playoff win, something Watson acknowledged during his press conference. Kirk, it's fair to say, is the form pick.

Bradley hasn't won on tour in nearly two years, which is an obvious concern. And when he has appeared near the lead this season he's quickly dropped away -- not an encouraging sign for the looming pressure of the Ryder Cup. Mahan's a safe pick given his superior  ball-striking, but his putting is streaky at best. That's why he didn't register a top 10 in any tour event between April and July.