Now that the 2018 Ryder Cup is in the books, it’s time to start thinking about 2020.
The next Ryder Cup will return to American soil, specifically the Wisconsin coast and Whistling Straits in Kohler, when Steve Stricker leads a new group of 12 Americans who will be trying to recapture the Cup after an embarrassing defeat in France this past weekend.
Not only did the U.S. get beat handily by an underdog home European squad that featured five rookies. But the post-event drama that has unfolded in the days since involving Patrick Reed, Jim Furyk, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hasn’t been a good look, either.
The task force that was supposed to have fixed all of the Americans’ problems? It was exposed and the U.S. team exited Europe in disarray.
Now, it’s Stricker’s job to fix it. It might start by not including Phil Mickelson on the team in two years time. Mickelson, who will be 50 years old when the next Ryder Cup is played, went 0-2 and was a major liability at Le Golf National. Unless he is playing unbelievably – and Mickelson hasn’t in the lead-up to the last two Cups – Stricker can’t afford to include him. Another tough decision might be keeping Reed off the team unless he qualifies on his own. Team chemistry is a big part of winning formulas and Reed obviously does not excel in that department. After publicly calling out Spieth, Furyk and even Tiger Woods, it will be hard for Reed to earn the trust of his U.S. teammates ever again.
On the other hand, Thomas will likely be the new face of American Ryder Cup teams for the foreseeable future after a 4-1 showing in Paris. And Tony Finau, who shined in his rookie debut, showed he has what it takes to be a team player. But who else could make Stricker’s 2020 squad? Here’s a prediction:
Justin Thomas: There’s no reason why Thomas won’t have several more wins and major championships in these next two years to easily make the team.
Jordan Spieth: Had a down year in 2018, but the three-time major winner is still one of the top U.S. talents and has found a new partner in Thomas.
Brooks Koepka: Hasn’t exactly wowed anyone in his first two Ryder Cups, but he is a respectable 4-3-1. His ability to win majors will likely earn him plenty of points to make this team automatically.
Dustin Johnson: The World No. 1 is still one of the most skilled golfers on the planet and a good bet to again qualify automatically, even if his Ryder Cup record isn’t as good as it should be. Also, this reported feud between he and Koepka should be smoothed over by 2020.
Bryson DeChambeau: Went 0-3 in his Ryder Cup debut, but also paired with struggling players in Mickelson and Woods. He showed some fight in his singles match and didn’t seem to have any problems fitting in with the team.
Tony Finau: His performance in Paris as a rookie proved that he can handle this stage. Whether he qualifies or not, he would be deserving of a pick assuming he continues to play well. With top-10s in all four majors last season, Finau should continue to develop and win more on Tour.
Rickie Fowler: Maybe the biggest question mark among the Ryder Cup veterans. Fowler has yet to really take off and win majors, and he hasn’t been great in Ryder Cups, going 3-7-5 now for his career. But here’s to thinking he’ll finally break through and win a major, and then play his way onto another team.
Xander Schauffele: Was probably the first man out of this year’s team, but his ability to play well in big events could land him on the squad in two years.
Patrick Cantlay: Strong ballstriker who was quietly risen to 22nd in the Official World Golf Ranking. Doesn’t have many relationships with the top American players, but he may be too talented to not make the team automatically or not be picked.
Beau Hossler: With so many Americans being strong ballstrikers and streaky putters, the U.S. team could use Hossler’s steady flatstick. He knows how to win in match play, too, even winning a match for Texas in the NCAA Championship with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He had a strong rookie season in 2017-18 and should only continue to get better.
Sam Burns: He’s the most promising young American golfer right now and will play his first full season on the PGA Tour beginning this fall. The LSU product has all the tools to win golf tournaments on Tour – even major championships – and he’ll be 24 years old if he tees it up at Whistling Straits. He also has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after being snubbed from the U.S. Walker Cup team in 2017. He did play in the 2014 Junior Ryder Cup.
Tiger Woods: Why not? Sure, he isn’t the best Ryder Cup player and he went 0-4 in Paris. But Woods, who will only be 44 for the next matches, is likely only getting started on this latest comeback. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason he won’t win more events, maybe even majors. Also, it will be hard for anyone to keep a healthy Tiger off the team.