The Sorry State of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2014

AUCHTERARDER, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Tom Watson, the American Ryder Cup team captain, addresses the asseembled media during The Ryder Cup Captains' Joint Press Conference at Gleneagles on September 24, 2013 in Auchterarder, Scotland.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 2006 United States Ryder Cup team is widely regarded as the worst team assembled since Great Britain and Ireland merged with continental Europe back in 1979.

The 2006 selection, which was captained by Tom Lehman, contained players such as Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Brett Wetterich and Scott Verplank, and wound up losing by a score of 18.5 to 9.5 to a far superior European side.

While it is hard to believe that the United States could assemble a team of a lower quality than the one that traveled over to The K Club for the 2006 matches, the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team could certainly give that 2006 team a run for its money.

If the 2014 Ryder Cup were held back in May, the United States would be bringing a very strong side over to Gleneagles to try to regain the cup for the first time since 2008.

But fast-forward four months, and the U.S. Ryder Cup team is in a sorry state with the matches looming just four weeks away.

Tiger Woods certainly did U.S. captain Tom Watson a favor by taking himself out of the running for one of Watson’s three captain’s picks when he released the following statement through his website two weeks ago:

I've been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed. They've advised me not to play or practice now. I was fortunate that my recent back injury was not related to my surgery and was muscular only.

I have already spoken to Tom [Watson] about the Ryder Cup, and while I greatly appreciate his thinking about me for a possible captain's pick, I took myself out of consideration. The U.S. team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best.

Although Woods could have been seen as a distraction for Watson based solely on the amount of media coverage that accompanies the former world No. 1's every move, Woods was actually the least of Watson’s problems.

Watson is currently leading a U.S. team filled with cold, injured and out-of-form golfers, and his prospective captain’s picks at the moment include Ryan Moore, Brandon Todd, Chris Kirk and Harris English.

Bubba Watson is the No. 1-ranked player in the U.S. Ryder Cup team point standings, and he has notched just one top-10 finish since his victory at the Masters. In his last three events, Watson missed the cut and finished T37 and T64. At the three majors played after the Masters, Watson missed the cut at both the U.S. Open and The Open Championship and finished tied for 64th at the PGA Championship.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

And if Watson’s poor play as of late isn't concerning enough, what may be even more concerning for the U.S. side is the fact that Watson has a tendency to turn into one of the most ornery rabbit-earned golfers you will ever see walking a PGA Tour fairway when things are not going his way, which is not the best temperament to carry into a hostile Ryder Cup environment.

As it is, Watson has managed to notch just three points for the U.S. Ryder Cup team in eight career matches, and he has yet to win a singles or foursomes match in Ryder Cup play.

Matt Kuchar, who is ranked sixth in the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings, has posted just two top-10 finishes since his win at the RBC Heritage back in mid-April. He also withdrew from the PGA Championship two weeks ago with back spasms that came about while he was out shopping for a Slip 'N Slide toy for his children, per

His back issues seem to have subsided, though, as he is currently tied for 16th through 36 holes at The Barclays.

With all of the hoopla surrounding Rory McIlroy and his two consecutive major wins, the Jordan Spieth story has become so last year. Spieth, who is seventh in the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings, has just one top 10 since The Players Championship back in May, and that came at the very weak-fielded John Deere Classic.

In his last three events, he has a T36 at The Open Championship, a 49th-place finish at the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational and a missed cut at the PGA Championship. Spieth could turn things around and mount a charge for the FedEx Cup title in the coming weeks, but as of right now, his game is about as cold as it’s been at any point during the past two years.

Patrick Reed, who secured a spot on the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team by finishing eighth in the point standings, has recorded just one top-10 finish since he infamously labeled himself one of the top five players in the world after his victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship back in March.

In fact, Reed has missed the cut in nearly half of the events he has attended since Doral. If the 2014 Ryder Cup were held in March, Reed would have been a force to be reckoned with at Gleneagles, but fast-forward six months, and Reed would have a tough time convincing anyone that he is one of the top 50 players in the world, let alone one of the top five players.

Zach Johnson, who was the last player to automatically qualify for Watson’s Ryder Cup team based on points accumulated over the past two years, has just two top-10 finishes since the Humana Challenge back in January.

Yes, that is correct, folks; a player was able to secure enough points to automatically earn a spot on the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team with just two top-10 finishes in the past seven months and just one top-20 finish since The Players Championship back in May.

Phil Mickelson, who will be making a record 10th appearance in the Ryder Cup matches this September, is on something of a hot streak if you consider his second place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago. However, that was also his first top-10 finish all year.

Watson will more than likely select Keegan Bradley as one of his three captain’s picks to play alongside Mickelson, which may be something of a saving grace for both players, as the two have had a great deal of success in team matches in the past.

While the current U.S. Ryder Cup team leaves a lot to be desired, Watson does have a few hot players heading into the matches in Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk and Jimmy Walker.

But three players will not be enough firepower for the U.S. team to wrestle the cup away from a very strong European side in September, and Watson’s potential captain’s picks are certainly nothing to write home about.

On paper, the U.S. team will be grossly overmatched heading into the 2014 Ryder Cup.

That being said, there are two potential points of optimism for the American side.

The best team on paper doesn’t always win the Ryder Cup. The U.S. team has been a far superior team on paper for many of the matches since the mid-1990s but has managed to win just two of the last nine Ryder Cup matches.

The other potential bright spot for the American side is the team’s captain, one Tom Watson.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

Watson is an old-school, hard-nosed, no-nonsense type of guy, and one can only hope this personality becomes contagious and spreads like wildfire throughout the American team prior to the opening tee shots being struck on the morning of Friday, September 26th.

However, those two potential bright spots are more hypothetical and hopeful than anything else.

At this point, the U.S. team’s goal should simply be to play well enough to not supplant the 2006 squad as the worst Ryder Cup team ever assembled.


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