by Ryan Isley
One thing that can be said about United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love II is that he did not let player popularity cloud his judgment when making his four captain’s picks for the 2012 Ryder Cup team. If he would have listened to fans, he may have chosen Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan – and that would have been a mistake.
A lot can happen between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Unfortunately for Fowler and Mahan, most of what has happened to them since the end of May has not been positive.
There has been so much negative in their games that Love III did not choose either of them as captain’s picks to represent the United States when they take on the Europeans at the end of September. On the Tuesday following Memorial Day, it didn’t seem fathomable that not only would Fowler and Mahan not be on the United States Ryder Cup team, but also that it was the right decision not to include them.
Mahan was one of the hottest golfers on the PGA Tour early in the season and even led the FedEx Cup points standings after the Masters on Easter weekend. Included in his hot start was a win in the World Match Play Championships, when he took care of Rory McIlroy in the finals – something that seemed to favor Mahan heading into the Ryder Cup.
Mahan then had another good stretch of golf at the end of June and beginning of July when he finished tied for 11th at the Traveler’s Championship, tied for eighth at the AT&T National and then tied for 16th at The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
That is where the good play ended for Mahan, who has missed the cut in two of his last five tournaments and finished no higher than a tie for 39th in the other three.
Fowler had a three-tournament stretch in May in which he won his first career PGA tournament at the Wells Fargo Championship, finished tied for second at The Players Championship and then finished tied for fifth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. At that point, Fowler was looking the best he has in his PGA Tour career.
Unfortunately, there have been very few highlights for Fowler since Memorial Day, where he finished tied for 52nd in the Memorial Tournament. In fact, Fowler has finished in the top-30 in only one of the seven tournaments he has played in since that fifth-place tie at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
Since the final round of the Memorial Tournament, Fowler has shot as many rounds in the 80’s as he has in the 60’s (three each).
Meanwhile, Love III had already made up his mind that two of his four picks would be Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker. With two picks already made, it came down to Fowler, Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Martin Kaymer. Love III tabbed Johnson and Snedeker to round out his team.
The picks of Johnson and Snedeker made more sense for the American team, both because they have played well of late and because they rank high in important categories for the Ryder Cup that is being played at Medinah Country Club – driving distance (Johnson) and putting (Snedeker).
In his last five tournaments, Johnson has three top-10 finishes, including tied for third and tied for fourth in the last two weeks. Snedeker has also had recent success, finishing in the top-6 in three of his last seven tournaments including a second and a sixth place finish in the last two weeks.
The results in the past two weeks have moved Snedeker to fourth and Johnson to sixth in FedEx Cup standings, while Mahan is now 14th and Fowler is 24th.
While Mahan and certainly Fowler are probably the crowd favorites, Love III made a tough choice – but the right choice in my opinion – when he selected Snedeker and Johnson.
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