NEW YORK: United States captain Tom Watson, helped by a late “revelation”, opted for experience and form in choosing Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson as his wildcard picks for this month’s Ryder Cup against Europe.
Watson announced Bradley, Mahan and Simpson, all of them former Ryder Cup players, as his three selections during a glitzy news conference at Studio 8H, the home of ‘Saturday Night Live’, at Rockefeller Plaza.
The trio join automatic choices Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson on the 12-man American team. “There were several people in the mix for my three picks,” Watson said after the announcement. “Experience was a big factor. All three (wildcard) players have either an even record or a winning record playing in the Ryder Cup.
“A lot of players are starting to play well from the American side and that’s a good thing. We are going to need it.
“The Europeans, on paper, have been touted as being the favourites and we are the underdogs but I have a fundamental belief in my team.”
The Americans will take on Paul McGinley’s European team, the holders, in the 40th edition of the biennial competition from Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles in Scotland.
Bradley, 28, has won three times on the PGA Tour, including a first major crown at the 2011 PGA Championship, and was undefeated in Ryder Cup team play as a rookie after being paired with Mickelson at Medinah two years ago.
A passionate player, Bradley’s only defeat came at the hands of Rory McIlroy in the singles on the final day, when Europe staged an improbable comeback to retain the Cup.
“I’ve made no secret of how important this team is to me and how bad I want to go back and win the Ryder Cup,” Bradley said. “This is a redemption year for a lot of guys that were on the (2012) team.”
Mahan, 32, who made his Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla in 2008, missed out on selection in 2012 but returns to the team for a third time after winning his sixth PGA Tour title at The Barclays just nine days ago.
“That was a huge, timely win,” Mahan said of his victory in the opener of the four-event FedExCup playoffs. “I knew my game was coming around, I felt that things were right there.
“I had a calm, a great confidence, and I went out there and played well. That win was massive for the FedExCup and for the Ryder Cup team.”