Ryder Cup 2014: Predictions for Tom Watson's Team USA Picks

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 11:  Tom Watson the 2014 Ryder Cup captain talks with the media Ryder Cup News Conference on August 11, 2014 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With the 2014 Ryder Cup on the horizon at the end of September at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland, Team USA captain Tom Watson has a major decision to make Tuesday night as he selects three names to round out the 12-man roster.

Nine players automatically qualified, and one Tiger Woods has already withdrawn his name, so Watson's job is not all that difficult given the players he has to choose from to complete his roster.

Let's take a look at the nine men who have already qualified and predict who Watson will add to finish things off based on form and fit with the rest of the team. Fans can watch Watson's announcement at 7 p.m. ET on NBC or stream it at RyderCup.com.

2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Roster Automatic Qualifiers

1Bubba Watson
2Rickie Fowler
3Jim Furyk
4Jimmy Walker
5Phil Mickelson
6Matt Kuchar
7Jordan Spieth
8Patrick Reed
9Zach Johnson

Keegan Bradley

Stew Milne/Associated Press

The No. 23 player in the world seems a lock for Watson's squad at this point.

While Bradley has no wins this year, one second-place finish and six top-10 performances, a cut at the PGA Championship and an overall up-and-down season have some down on his prospects for the team.

It is easy to forget, though, that Bradley brings a 3-1-0 record to the table at the Ryder Cup and in 2012 went 3-0 in team matches with one Phil Mickelson.

Outside of stellar recent play (he finished tied for 16th at the Deutsche Bank Championship) and the fact he is a superb teammate, Bradley also has the desire to be named a member, which is always a plus when it comes to roster construction in any sport. 

“Every second,” said Bradley, per Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe. “When I’m sleeping, I’m dreaming about it. When I wake up, I’m thinking about it. When I’m on the course, I’m thinking about it.”

As far as locks go, Bradley may be the most obvious. 

Hunter Mahan

Mel Evans/Associated Press

Although, Hunter Mahan may have something to say about that. 

The man who resides in third in the FedEx Cup points chase has been on fire as of late. He tied for seventh at the PGA Championship, finished tied for 32nd at The Open Championship and tied for 15th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

All of that was outdone in one simple weekend, though. At The Barclays, Mahan notched his first triumph of the season thanks to a 14-under mark and a superb 1.040 strokes gained putting average.

Not enough to convince doubters? How about this set of facts, by way of USA Today's Chris Chase:

The match-play standout competed in the 2008 and 2010 Ryder Cups, playing eight matches and scoring 4.5 points. That’s a ratio of .563 points per match, which is higher than both Phil Mickelson (.447) and Tiger Woods (.439). Of active golfers with two or more Ryder Cup starts, only Zach Johnson (automatic), Matt Kuchar (automatic) and Dustin Johnson (withdrawn from consideration) have been better.

Mahan is a sure thing when one takes into account his strong track record and recent form, arguably the top two factors for Watson as he makes his final decision Tuesday.

Brandt Snedeker

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Don't be the one to write off Brandt Snedeker because he has been cut his last two starts.

Every roster needs a wild card and, more importantly, a specialist. With so many names behind Bradley and Mahan diluting the talent pool for that final spot, Snedeker's prowess on the greens is what sets him apart.

Will Gray of GolfChannel.com expands on this popular notion best:

While Snedeker missed the cut in each of the first two playoff events, he reeled off a stretch of seven top-25 finishes in eight starts before that. I’m willing to chalk up some of his poor play in the last 10 days to fatigue, since his last off week was in mid-July. Snedeker’s putter is the key, as it has been heating up throughout the summer and an underdog American team will need someone that can go lights-out on the greens, a la Ian Poulter in 2012. Sneds could be that guy.

For his part, Snedeker hopes that Watson concurs with this line of thinking, as captured by Gray.

“I know I’m playing well, I know I’m doing the right stuff. It didn’t come through the last two weeks, which is frustrating on my part,” he said. “I think [Watson] realizes golf is what it is. Sometimes you don’t get out of it what you put into it, and hopefully he sees that part of it.”

There are other names Watson could go with such as Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk and more, but there is an obvious allure to Snedeker's propensity to hit on a hot streak of epic proportions, not to mention his sound form when it comes to putting.

Regardless of who Watson goes with, there are no wrong answers. But the three above give Watson a balance and add a dash of positive chemistry to the roster, which seems to be the top pursuit each time this process rolls around.

All info courtesy of RyderCup.com unless otherwise specified. Stats via PGATour.com.

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