Following an embarrassing loss to the Europeans in 2014 -- the team's eighth loss in the last 10 tries -- there's been a renewed energy surrounding the U.S. effort for this year's Ryder Cup. From assembling an autogenic "task force" to team meetings months in advance, the Americans know what's on the line at Hazeltine National Golf Club this fall, and are preparing as such.
Which begs the question: What players will tee it up for Team USA?
As the Ryder Cup nears, Golf Digest will project the American roster for the 2016 event. Reminder: The top eight in Ryder Cup points will earn selection to the team after The Barclays on August 28th. Davis Love III will then add three captain's picks at the end of the BMW Championship (September 11th), with his final player choice coming after the Tour Championship (September 25th).
Updated: July 26
LOCKS: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, J.B. Holmes
As Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner pointed out, only three players in the Top 50 World rankings have multiple top-five finishes in majors this season: Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia...and J.B. Holmes. And it just isn't on golf's biggest stages where Holmes has delivered. The 34-year-old has made 13 of 15 cuts this season, finishing inside the top 25 on nine occasions. As he showed in last fall's Presidents Cup, his driving aptitude (second longest on tour at 312.7 yards, seventh in SG: Off-the-Tee) makes him a formidable opponent in team events. That he notched 2.5 points in the 2008 Ryder Cup -- the last winning effort by the Americans -- doesn't hurt his chances.
Worth noting in this section: Bubba has quietly had a disappointing year. Since winning at Riviera and coming in second at Doral, Watson's best finish is a 14th place in Akron, and he's been a non-factor in majors (37th-51st-39th). But his track record (three Ryder Cups, two Presidents Cups) and brand recognition make up for his so-so summer.
LIKELY IN: Brandt Snedeker, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar
Missing the Bridgestone Invitational and Open Championship hasn't helped Koepka's chances, and it wouldn't be shocking if he struggles in return from torn ankle ligaments. Though he's fallen down to ninth in the Ryder Cup standings, his strong season -- five top 10s, eight top 25s in 16 events -- can't be ignored. As long as he showcases some semblance of the game we've seen in the first half of 2016, Koepka should get the nod.
The newest arrival is Snedeker. He stumbled on Sunday at the RBC Canadian Open, yet still recorded a T-5 finish, his sixth top 10 of the campaign. He ranks fifth in the FedEx Cup heading into Baltusrol, and his grind-it-out makeup (third in scrambling from the rough, first in scrambling from less than 30 yards) is a disposition sought after in the Ryder Cup. Don't expect a lack of team experience (just one Ryder Cup appearance for the 35-year-old) to keep Snedeker off the USA squad.
WORK LEFT: Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Scott Piercy, Kevin Chappell, Jason Dufner
Despite logging the most sanctioned starts that earn Ryder Cup points and recording nine top 10s this season (tied with Kuchar for second-most behind Dustin Johnson), Reed sits 11th in Ryder Cup standings. How? An iffy record at the majors and World Golf Championships is likely the culprit. It appeared Reed would finally contend at a major following a first-round 66 at Royal Troon. Alas, he played the final three days in four-over par, leaving him T-12 and still looking for his first career top 10 in a major. Reed's No. 14 in the world, and it's hard to envision him not teeing it up at Hazeltine. Still, he'd make Captain Love's job a lot easier by playing well in August.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Bill Haas, Daniel Berger, Charley Hoffman, William McGirt, Kevin Na
One could make the case that Haas belongs in the tier above thanks to a T-9 at Royal Troon, albeit a showing that was soured by a rough performance on Sunday. Haas has been all over the map in 2016, but is ranked 25th in the FedEx Cup coming into Springfield. One area that's hurting Haas is his putting, evidenced in every relevant short-game statistic. Though he's never been comfortable on the dance floor, the Wake Forest product is better than he's played this season. A laudable effort at the PGA Championship will push him towards the right side of the bubble.
WILD CARDS: Jim Furyk, Justin Thomas, Steve Stricker
No joke: If he's in contention going into the weekend, Stricker could make the other captain's pick candidates sweat. The 49-year-old followed up his T-2 at the St. Jude Classic with a fourth-place showing at the Open Championship. He has eight Team USA appearances, and his lights-out flatstick (second in SG: Putting) and tee-ball accuracy are enviable traits for Ryder Cup competition. To clarify, he remains a long shot. But that he's even in this discussion is amazing in itself.