This weekend keeps getting better for the Georgia Bulldogs. After the No. 12 Georgia football team thrashed No. 18 Clemson 45-21, a former Bulldog golfer, Chris Kirk, surged on Monday to win the Deutsche Bank Championship for his third PGA Tour win and the biggest of his career.
In what turned into an SEC battle that featured Florida’s Billy Horschel and fellow Bulldog Russell Henley, Kirk’s final-round 66 got him to 15-under-par was good enough to push him ahead of Henley and Horschel who combined to shoot only three-under in the final round versus Kirk’s five-under-par total. Geoff Ogilvy posted the low-round of the day with a 65 and had a share of the lead at times on the back-nine, but he finished two shots back along with Henley and Horschel.
With the win, Kirk now sits at No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings with two events to go and his $1.44 million paycheck has got to feel nice, but some doubt likely persists in Kirk’s mind, as well as the mind of USA Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson: Should he be a Ryder Cup captain’s pick?
Before the week, Kirk was hardly talked about as one who could earn one of three captain’s pick. Before the tournament if I had to make the picks, I would have taken Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan. All three have Ryder Cup experience and are no strangers to international play, also competing in the President’s Cup.
Now, with Kirk’s win, things appear a bit murkier. Before the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Kirk was ahead of Mahan and Snedeker in the Ryder Cup points standings and likely would have shot ahead of Bradley if the standings were still going.
Captain’s picks are not meant to be a meritocracy, that is what the automatic qualifying is for. Watson wants players who are in peak form, especially for a team that will be the underdog at Gleneagles in Scotland later in the month.
With that said, I think Kirk has played well enough in the past calendar year (four top-10s, including two wins) to play his way in. Given that the Deutsche Bank Championship served as a makeshift playoff to try to impress Watson for his captain’s picks, which will be announced Tuesday, I think the way he rose to the occasion and handled the pressure is enough to earn him a spot. It will also be a way to develop another young American in what would be his first Ryder Cup. Players like Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson are all reaching the tail-end of their careers and younger guys will eventually need to step up. What better way to groom a young, talented player than throw him into the fire in Scotland?
Along with Kirk, if I were Watson I would also go with Bradley and Snedeker. Bradley paired phenomenally with Phil Mickelson, going 3-0 as a pair before dropping his single’s match 2&1 against Rory McIlroy, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Bradley also finished tied for 16th this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Nothing to write home about, but he certainly faired better than some other Ryder Cup hopefuls Ryan Moore finished 73rd, Snedeker and Brendon Todd missed the cut).
For my third pick, I would take Snedeker. Despite missing the cut this week, I just think he is a guy you would love to have. With putting at a premium at the Ryder Cup, it does not hurt to have one of the world’s best putters on your side. Not only is he an elite putter, but he is a great guy and has been vocal in saying he is willing to be paired up with anyone. He has the right attitude for international play, something that should be, but isn’t, consistent throughout the roster.
Regardless of who Watson picks tomorrow at 7 p.m. EST, there will be much debate, but I believe Kirk, Bradley and Snedeker will give the Americans the best chance to gain revenge over Europe and pull off the upset.