Watson Adds Bradley, Mahan, Simpson to Ryder Cup Team

Tom Watson

Tom Watson went with experience when making his Ryder Cup captain’s picks on Tuesday, but what that means isn’t straightforward and whether or not it will pay off is debatable.

A captain for the second time, Watson selected Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, and Webb Simpson for the U.S. Ryder Cup team with his three picks.

“Experience was big,” Watson said. “All three players have an even record or a winning record in the Ryder Cup.”

That may be true but of the three, only Mahan has been on a winning side, 2008 when the U.S. rode underdog status to a convincing win at Valhalla, and none of the three has ever won a Ryder Cup singles match. In fact Bradley and Simpson’s “experience” includes them being among the Americans that failed to come through at Medinah two years ago when the Europeans staged a memorable Sunday comeback to beat the U.S. by a point.

Bradley, Mahan and, Simpson join Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Jim Furyk, and Jimmy Walker, who all automatically qualified for the 12-man team.

“I made no secret how badly I want to go back and win the Ryder Cup,” Bradley said. “This is a redemption year for a lot of guys who were on the team last year.”

Bradley and Mahan were not surprises with Bradley combining with Phil Mickelson to win three matches at Medinah and his game and power are suited to the event. Mahan has been rounding into form and won the Barclay’s two weeks ago but the selection of Simpson was a slight surprise and appears to have come at the expense of Chris Kirk.

Watson’s insistence on experience doomed Kirk and meant Watson wasn’t interested much in the 29-year-old’s recent form. Kirk won the Deutsche Bank Championship and did so in impressive fashion, holding off Rory McIlroy over the final 36 holes while paired together. It’s hard to imagine making a better last minute statement than Kirk did, considering McIlroy ONLY won two majors this season and will be THE focal point of the European team.

Kirk being left off the team is debatable, but hardly controversial and the captain’s picks made by Watson are not raising many eyebrows because so few players made cases for themselves down the stretch. Injury took Tiger Woods out of the mix as it did former PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner. Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Moore, Bill Haas, and Brendon Todd all had a chance to make a case for themselves at different points but failed to do so, leaving Watson to really only choose between Simpson and Kirk.

Europe has won seven of the last nine times, and it will be heavily favored in Scotland having players that won three majors and the Players Championship this season but maybe Watson’s experience gamble will pay off. At 65 when the event starts, Watson will be the oldest captain in history and looking to recreate the magic of his first time around in 1993 at The Belfry, which is the last time the Americans won the Ryder Cup in Europe.

“I have a fundamental belief in our team and more importantly our players believe they can win the Ryder Cup,” Watson said.

Watson announced his captain’s picks Tuesday evening at Studio 8H at Rockefeller Center in New York, the home of “Saturday Night Live,” in front of dozens of reporters and TV cameras. Earlier in the day on Tuesday, at the European Tour headquarters in Wentworth, European captain Paul McGinley chose Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Stephen Gallacher as his captain’s picks. Gallacher will be 39 when he makes his Ryder Cup debut in his home country.

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John Nestor
John Nestor is a Philadelphia sports fan and veteran sportswriter trapped in Connecticut. Tweet him @nestorjdn