Who will make the U.S. Ryder Cup team? Predictions for Koepka, Spieth, Fowler, others

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ATLANTA — When Keegan Bradley returned home from his first Ryder Cup appearance in 2012, he couldn’t open his suitcase following the Europeans’ stunning 14½-13½ victory at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.

Nearly 11 years later, the unopened bag, which holds an uncorked bottle of champagne, still sits in Bradley’s garage.

“I thought for a while I’ll never open it again,” Bradley said this week. “So hopefully I get a chance to play on this team. If I don’t, I’m going to be rooting hard. In years past it’s been really hard for me to watch the Ryder Cup because I just haven’t been in the conversation to be on the team. But this year if I don’t make the team it will be different. I’ll watch and I’ll be pulling for the guys just as if I was playing.”

Bradley remains in the mix for one of U.S. team captain Zach Johnson’s six captain’s picks. Six players — world No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler, U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, Open Championship winner Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele — have already qualified for the team that will compete against Europe at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club outside Rome on Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

Johnson will announce his six captain’s choices from the PGA of America headquarters Tuesday.

The U.S. hasn’t won a Ryder Cup away from American soil since a 15-13 victory at The Belfry in Warwickshire, England, in 1993.

Here are the top candidates for Johnson’s captain’s picks and predictions for who will and won’t make the team:

Brooks Koepka (seventh in points, 9,421.145)

Why he should be on the team: The LIV Golf League star returned from a career-threatening knee injury and looks like the old Koepka, who intimidated opponents and strutted around events that mattered most. He tied for second at the Masters and picked up his fifth major championship victory at the PGA Championship in May. He tied for 17th in the U.S. Open and 64th at The Open. He was only 29 points behind Schauffele for the final automatic roster spot.

“Brooks? I mean, I looked at the points list the other night,” Scheffler said earlier this week. “I think he was 30 points shy? I think it was the equivalent of like $30,000 throughout the year. So if he played one tournament on tour, I think he probably would have been on the team.”

In three previous Ryder cup appearances, Koepka has a 6-5-1 record, including 2-0-1 in Sunday singles.

Why he shouldn’t be on the team: Yes, Koepka left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf in June 2022. But he was among the last players to defect, didn’t sue the PGA Tour and has refrained from disparaging his former circuit. Because Koepka is healthy and has played well, the only reason he wouldn’t make the team would be a political one, which could raise some legal concerns for the PGA of America.

Prediction: On the team

Jordan Spieth (eighth in points, 8,188.332)

Why he should be on the team: The Americans are going to carry a number of Ryder Cup rookies to Italy, including Harman, Clark and Homa. Spieth, 30, would be the most experienced U.S. player with four past appearances in both the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. He has an 8-7-3 record in the Ryder Cup, including 1-2-1 at Whistling Straits.

Why he shouldn’t be on the team: Spieth had a solid but not-so-spectacular season on tour with seven top-10s and 10 top-25s in 22 starts. His best finish was a playoff loss to Matt Fitzpatrick in the RBC Heritage.

Spieth is a magician around the green, but his putter tends to run hot and cold. He ranks 76th in strokes gained: putting (0.102). If Spieth is paired with his close friend Justin Thomas, would either one of them make any putts? JT ranked 141st in strokes gained: putting (-.222).

Prediction: On the team

Cameron Young (ninth in points, 8,127.208)

Why he should be on the team: Young, the 2022 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, is one of the longest hitters off the tee on tour, averaging 316.9 yards. That might come in handy at Marco Simone, which has a couple of drivable par-4s.

Young was runner-up to Sam Burns in the WGC-Dell Technology Match Play in Austin, Texas, earlier this season. He took down Billy Horschel, Kurt Kitayama and Rory McIlroy to reach the finals. He tied for seventh at the Masters and eighth at The Open.

Why he shouldn’t be on the team: Young suffered a bit of a sophomore slump on tour this season. He still hasn’t won on tour, which isn’t easy, but had five top-10s and nine top-25s in 22 starts. He went 1-2-1 in his Presidents Cup debut at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, last year.

While Young has a lot of power, he isn’t a very good putter. He ranks 150th in strokes gained: putting (.280) and would probably need to be paired with an exceptional putter like Homa or Harman if he makes the team.

Prediction: Off the team

Why he should make the team: The 26-year-old has already won two major championships and has five PGA Tour victories. He’s one of the best with an iron and hits a lot of fairways. He went 3-0-1 as a Ryder Cup rookie at Whistling Straits.

Why he shouldn’t make the team: Morikawa hasn’t won on tour in more than two years, but he’s still one of the top players in the world.

Prediction: On the team

Keegan Bradley (11th in points, 7,642.974)

Why he should make the team: The 37-year-old put in the work and certainly deserves it. He changed his diet and committed to a fitness regimen. He won the Zozo Championship in October and the Travelers Championship in June. Then he tied for ninth at the Tour Championship.

“I think about it every second,” Bradley said this week. “I would like to sit here and lie to you guys and say I’m not thinking about it, but like periodically throughout the round it will pop into my head. But it’s impossible for me not to think about. So I’m sort of trying to embrace it. I’m playing good golf.”

Bradley has experience in the Ryder Cup, but it came nearly a decade ago, in 2012 and 2014. He went 4-3 in two appearances. He struggled on the greens after the United States Golf Association banned anchoring in 2016, but he now ranks 26th in strokes gained: putting (.429).

Why he shouldn’t make the team: Bradley is a bit older than everyone else on the team. Much of his Ryder Cup success came when he was playing with Phil Mickelson, who will only be watching on TV this year.

Prediction: Off the team

Sam Burns (12th in points, 7,334.703)

Why he should make the team: Burns won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, beating Cantlay, Mackenzie Hughes, Scheffler and Young along the way. It was his fifth PGA Tour victory. He had five top-10s and 12 top-25s in 26 starts. He’s one of the best putters on tour; he ranks 11th in strokes gained: putting (.579).

Whether Bradley or Burns makes the team — if it comes down to those two players for the last captain’s picks — might largely depend on what Scheffler wants. Scheffler and Burns are close friends, and the world No. 1 golfer might be more comfortable playing with his buddy. Put it this way: If Greg Maddux wants Eddie Perez as his personal catcher and not every-day starter Javy Lopez, you probably make it happen.

Why he shouldn’t make the team: As good as Burns has been on the green, he has been inconsistent with an iron from the fairway. He ranks 130th in strokes gained: approach (-.129). Burns went 0-3-2 at the 2022 Presidents Cup, his debut in a team event as a pro. His play was better than his record in Charlotte.

Prediction: On the team

Rickie Fowler (13th in points, 7,116.241)

Why he should make the team: He’s among the most popular players on tour and deserves a reward after his remarkable resurgence. In mid-September 2022, Fowler was ranked 185th in the world. On July 2, he picked up his first victory in more than four years at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. He’s now ranked 25th in the world.

Why he shouldn’t make the team: He’s only 13th in points, but most of his good work came this year. He has eight top-10s and 17 top-25s in 24 starts. Fowler has appeared in four Ryder Cups since 2010, and his results aren’t great. He is 3-7-5 in the biannual event, including 1-3 in his most recent one in 2018.

Prediction: On the team

Why he should be on the team: If you need somebody to sink a putt to win a match in Italy, there might not be a better candidate than McCarthy. He ranks third in strokes gained: putting (.752) and first in putting inside 10 feet (91.61% made).

Why he shouldn’t be on the team: McCarthy doesn’t hit as far off the tee as most players on tour. He ranks 103rd in strokes gained: putting (-.039) and 130rd in driving distance (295.9 yards). The former Virginia star competed in the 2015 Walker Cup as an amateur, but has never played in an international team competition as a pro.

Prediction: Off the team

Justin Thomas (15th in points, 6,539.195)

Why he should be on the team: Thomas has been a match-play monster for the Americans. He has a 6-2-1 record in two previous Ryder Cup appearances and a 10-3-2 mark in three Presidents Cups, tallying 17.5 points for the Americans. He is a vocal leader and would be well-liked in the locker room

Why he shouldn’t be on the team: He probably doesn’t deserve to make the team because of his form and results this season. JT had three top-10s in 20 starts. He missed the cut in three of four majors. He carded an 81 at the U.S. Open and an 82 at The Open. Along with his putting woes, he is 138th in driving accuracy, hitting 56.24% of fairways.

Prediction: On the team

Lucas Glover (16th in points, 6,341.609)

Why he should be on the team: The 43-year-old had better form than almost anyone on tour at the end of the FedEx Cup season. He captured the Wyndham Championship and the FedEx St. Jude Championship in consecutive weeks. He tied for 22nd at the BMW Championship and tied for 18th at the Tour Championship.

Why he shouldn’t be on the team: From September 2022 through June, Glover missed 11 cuts in his first 20 starts. His best finish was a tie for 20th at the RBC Canadian Open. He didn’t even qualify for any of the four majors. Was his recent heater a flash in the pan? Could he maintain it after a monthlong layoff before the Ryder Cup?

Prediction: Off the team

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