NEW YORK — Brandt Snedeker had nothing more than big hopes and another strong finish when he left the TPC Boston, expecting to wait deep into the night for a phone call from Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III that would determine if he was on the U.S. team.
“I had no clue one way or another,” Snedeker said Tuesday. “Got on the plane, got here to Indianapolis and got a voicemail from Davis just asking if I brought my putter from Boston and if I wanted to be on the team. I was just so excited. Couldn’t hardly sleep last night. Just a huge, huge thing for my career.”
Snedeker was among four players whom Love selected to fill out his 12-man Ryder Cup team. The captain also took a pair of veterans, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, and Dustin Johnson, who showed the hottest hand over the past two weeks and who Love said was “perfect for Medinah.”
The Ryder Cup is Sept. 28-30 at Medinah outside Chicago, which has hosted the PGA Championship twice since 1999 and is known as a power golf course. Tiger Woods won two majors there.
More than power, however, Love emphasized putting.
Stricker is regarded as one of the best in the game, and Snedeker is not far behind, as he showed at the British Open and during his charge up the leaderboard the past two weeks at Bethpage Black and the TPC Boston.
“I’ve been saying a lot that we need hot putters, and there really has not been a hotter putter on tour since the British Open,” Love said, referring to Snedeker, one of four Ryder Cup rookies for the U.S.
There was just as much talk about who didn’t make the team.
Hunter Mahan, whose two PGA Tour wins this year included the Match Play Championship when he beat Rory McIlroy, was leading the Ryder Cup standings after the Masters and still didn’t qualify for the eight automatic spots.
He had to rely on a pick after he missed the cut in the PGA Championship, and then he missed the cut at The Barclays and was in the middle of the pack at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“The Ryder Cup has been a goal for every American player, and it’s disappointing not to be a part of it,” Mahan said Tuesday from the BMW Championship in Indiana. “I’ve been part of the last five teams, so it hurts not to be a part of it, and it feels a little empty right now. It’s tough because I’ve still got two events to play, and they don’t feel quite as important as I want them to be right now.”
Also left off was Rickie Fowler, who picked up his first PGA Tour win this year at Quail Hollow and turned in the most dynamic American performance at Wales two years ago when he won the last four holes to earn a halve that kept alive the American chances. Fowler has not had a top 10 since a tie for fifth at the Colonial in May.
“I definitely felt like I was kind of on the outside looking in,” he said.
Fowler took a month off between the U.S. Open and British Open to try to stay fresh for the end of the year, and he could only wonder if it cost him. He missed four tournaments, including the Travelers Championship and AT&T National, where he could have earned points.
“I can obviously say that maybe we should have went a different route, but obviously you can always say that when something doesn’t work out,” Fowler said. “Just didn’t play as well as I would have liked to this summer.”
Love said all the players who didn’t make the team handled the news well.
“It was tough to leave anybody off,” he said. “This is probably the deepest, strongest year of earning points that I have seen. There was a lot of guys that played a lot of really good golf, and you can analyze the number up and down and back and forth. … There’s four great players that we picked that are all playing very well and bring a lot to the team. And it was definitely a tough call for me.”
Indeed, both teams are as stacked as ever.
The eight players who qualified three weeks ago for the U.S. team are Woods, Jason Dufner, Masters champion Bubba Watson, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. They have combined to win 12 times this year, including two majors and a World Golf Championship.
It’s a far cry from last time, when none of the picks by Corey Pavin was playing particularly well.
Never before has the Ryder Cup featured so many of the best players. All 24 players from both teams are among the top 36 in the world; the Ryder Cup will have 13 of the top 15 players.
“To have 24 players of the top 36 is mind-boggling,” Furyk said. “As Davis said, really happy with our team. It’s really strong, but we have our hands full. There’s a strong team on the other side, and we’ll have to play them real tough.”
Europe has won six of the past eight times, but only twice on American soil in the past 20 years.
If some of the picks were a surprise, Love sounded as though this was the group he wanted all along. He had dropped strong hints that Stricker and Furyk, who had qualified for the past 14 U.S. teams (Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup) would be on his side. Turns out he was leaning toward Snedeker and Johnson, too.
“I laid it out early on what I thought we needed, and we stuck with it,” Love said. “I need Jim Furyk. I need Steve Stricker. All of the guys on the team will benefit from those guys being in the team room, being in the locker room. And then you can’t argue with the golf that Brandt and Dustin have been playing.”
Love said his idea for how the team was coming together did not change much from Kiawah Island, the final qualifying event.
“Who we were thinking about didn’t really change much,” he said. “I think it just solidified with Brandt and Dustin, that they really played well under the pressure. They just confirmed what we were thinking. They held up under tough pressure. They played a lot of great golf since the PGA Championship. I think we were just delaying the inevitable, waiting until the last minute to study for the test. I think we were pretty close back at the PGA.”
Furyk is the only player on the U.S. team who has not won this year.
Snedeker and Johnson had a short season to qualify for the team. Snedeker had a rib injury that forced him to miss five tournaments he typically plays, including the U.S. Open.
In his second event back, he tied the course record at Royal Lytham & St. Annes with a 64 to take the 36-hole lead, and wound up tied for third with Woods. After failing to make the team, Snedeker was runner-up at Bethpage Black and sixth at the TPC Boston.
“Needless to say, it’s been a couple pressure-packed weeks for me but it’s all worth it,” Snedeker said. “I look forward to getting to Medinah and trying to make Davis look like a genius.”
Johnson missed nearly three months in the spring, including the Masters. Two weeks after he returned, he won the St. Jude Classic, extending his streak of winning at least one PGA Tour event every season since leaving college.
Not since Woods has a player had a streak that long. Johnson tied for third at The Barclays and tied for fourth with Mickelson last week at Boston.
“I thought I made my case pretty solid,” Johnson said.
Europe completed its team last week — McIlroy, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Peter Hanson, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer. Jose Maria Olazabal used his two captain’s picks on Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts.
Europe will have only one rookie — Colsaerts, one of the game’s longest hitters.
“They’re going to be tough, they are every year,” Love said. “I’ll tell you this, I love my team.”