Davis Love III faced a tough decision when he filled out his Ryder Cup team with four picks, no different from the previous 11 US captains.
What helped is that he could not go wrong.
Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk were locks all along, and Dustin Johnson became impossible to ignore when his game rounded into shape over the past two weeks. Brandt Snedeker was the final choice over Hunter Mahan, but really, it could have gone much deeper.
“He was in a no-lose situation,” said Paul Azinger, the 2008 captain who was behind the changes of picking four players instead of two. “He could have picked Hunter, Bo Van Pelt or Nick Watney and not gotten slaughtered. He maybe could have picked Rickie Fowler and not gotten slaughtered. Really, has it ever been the case when you could look at 18 names and all 18 names would have been OK?”
The focus on Tuesday from Times Square in New York was on the four guys added to the US team. Not to be forgotten are the eight guys who previously earned a spot on the team. This might be the most talented US team since 1999 at Brookline, where the US staged the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
“I think we are extremely deep this time, I think deeper than we have ever been,” Love said.
The eight players who qualified have a combined 12 wins on the PGA Tour, including two majors (Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson), a World Golf Championship (Keegan Bradley) and The Players Championship (Matt Kuchar).
Even so, the strength is best measured by who will not be at Medinah.
The Americans are finally starting to look like the European team, which has won six of the past eight times in the Ryder Cup. What made the Europeans look so strong in Wales two years ago was not so much the guys who made the team, but those who got left out — Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Justin Rose.
Check out the US team from 2010. It had four players who had not won a tournament all year, and three of them were captain’s picks because Corey Pavin did not have many options from which to choose (except for Tiger Woods because, well, he is Tiger Woods).
Now consider the players Love left behind.
Mahan has won twice this year, including the Match Play Championship when he built a 4-up lead through 10 holes and beat Rory McIlroy, Europe’s best player. Mahan was leading the Ryder Cup standings after the Masters and still couldn’t make the team. Part of that speaks to Mahan’s form, another part to the quality of the US team.
Fowler finally got his first PGA Tour win — in a playoff over McIlroy (and D.A. Points) at Quail Hollow — and did not come close to making the team. Nick Watney won The Barclays, one of the strongest fields of the year.
“Davis had an enviable and difficult time,” said Curtis Strange, another former captain. “He had a lot of good players. Can’t go wrong there.”
Then again, Love’s picks were never going to determine the outcome in the matches from Sept. 28 to Sept. 30.
That is never the case.
Strange gets maligned for going 0-3 at Oak Hill in 1995, losing the last three holes against Nick Faldo. Then again, Peter Jacobsen, Jay Haas and Brad Faxon all came to the 18th with a chance to earn points and missed crucial putts.
There have been rumblings that Snedeker was helped by having a winter home at Sea Island, the longtime home base of Love, along with being in the same management group as Love and having the same equipment sponsor.