Ryder Cup: Pressure on U.S. boss Jim Furyk with several Americans showing shaky form

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Ryder Cup: Pressure on U.S. boss Jim Furyk with several Americans showing shaky form

2018 Ryder Cup

Ryder Cup: Pressure on U.S. boss Jim Furyk with several Americans showing shaky form

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – This is why Jim Furyk gets the big bucks.

Before you light up the switch boards, no, he’s not paid. But just a few weeks ago the Team USA captain appeared to have the strongest team on paper. Top to bottom, a case could have been made for every player on his squad showing some form in advance of this Ryder Cup.

Then Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson clogged up the Tour Championship leaderboard cellar, with Mickelson a ghastly 13 over and 24 strokes worse than winner Tiger Woods.

Suddenly, the U.S. has vulnerabilities.

Ordinarily, this should make a captain’s job easier in making pairings, but question marks around these four will add pressure to Furyk’s already-difficult task of finding playing opportunities for all. So far, the captain does not seem bothered.

He pointed to how many Americans played well at East Lake and suggested that Le Golf national is “a different golf course, different venue, totally different type of golf tournament coming into a match-play event.”

In the case of Koepka, the U.S. Open and PGA champion posted three decent rounds at East Lake, firing one lowly 78 that Furyk will draw a line through. The inevitable PGA Tour Player of the Year has two majors on his 2018 resume and should still be a huge asset.

Watson’s status is not ideal on multiple fronts. Since his Travelers Championship win, Watson has only one top 10, at the Dell Technologies Championship, and three missed cuts. The restricting setup of Le Golf National will almost certainly discourage Furyk from writing in Watson’s name for foursomes play, with the four-balls increasingly looking dicey, too.

Reed has not landed in the top 10 of a tournament since a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open. Captain America’s resume in match play normally would have him locked into tee times alongside Jordan Spieth, who he is 4-1-2 with in Ryder Cup play. But Captain Furyk might have to break up that duo even as they are just a half-point away from becoming the most productive partnership in U.S. Ryder Cup history.

Spieth and Reed have said they try to beat each other on course, and with neither player at top form, that unusual partnership dynamic could prove unhealthy for maximizing the abilities of each player, even as Reed is the reigning Masters champion.

Which leaves the trickiest decision of all: Mickelson.

Having played 45 Ryder Cup matches with 21 1/2 points won, Mickelson is just 2 1/2 points shy of becoming America’s all-time winningest Ryder Cup player. He is only four points from becoming the event’s most successful player based on points won. (Nick Faldo leads with 25 points in Ryder Cup play).

Politically, Mickelson is practically a vice-captain who helped drive the task force concept that put Furyk in place as captain. But how Mickelson spawned the task force — texting Tom Watson after being benched and later blasting the 2014 captain — suggests Mickelson does not like watching matches.

The difference this time?

Furyk and Mickelson are friends, from the same age group and if there is one captain who can convince Mickelson he doesn’t have the game to play every session, it’s Furyk. But Mickelson also stated Tuesday that he expects he is playing his last Ryder Cup on foreign soil and chalked up his recent struggles the last two weeks to a balky putter. He’s pretty convincing.

Yet the damage may be done. Furyk sent out the unusual Day 1 practice-round pairing of Mickelson and Reed alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Woods.

Given the anticipated coupling of Woods and DeChambeau, Furyk could be sending a message to his struggling Ryder Cup stalwarts: Play better or expect to spend more time watching these matches than playing them.

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