Ryder Cup: Sky Sports looks at Tom Watson's three wildcard picks for Gleaneagles
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SportsPaulH
Last Updated: 03/09/14 3:06pm
Tom Watson went for Ryder Cup experience when selecting his three wildcard picks for Team USA's bid to finally win back the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Although Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson have just four Ryder Cup appearances between them, they still represented a more experienced choice than the likes of Bill Haas and Chris Kirk.
They've also all been in form of late, with Mahan grabbing the first FedEx Cup play-off event title, while both Bradley and Simpson showed signs of their major-winning form in Boston last week.
Redemption is the key word for these three, with Simpson and Bradley part of the team at Medinah and Mahan famously doffing a chip in losing the crucial match at Celtic Manor – so all three will be determined to make amends in Scotland.
Here's a closer look at America's three wildcards…
Keegan Bradley (Record W3 L1 H0)
Showed enough in his Ryder Cup debut in 2012 to suggest he could become a big talisman for the team over the next few years. Similar to Poulter in that he's got a bundle of energy, loves a fist pump and also just seems to get how different event is to a regular tournament.
Striking up such an enjoyable and successful partnership with Phil Mickelson also helped – as they went 3-0 at Medinah before opting out of the Saturday fourballs strangely due to tiredness. Watson will hope to get four matches out of Bradley if he’s anything like two years ago.
The 28-year-old has not been in the same kind of form that won him the 2011 US PGA Championship, but he did finish fourth at the US Open this year and recent FedEx displays suggest he’s finding some touch.
Went to Gleneagles with Watson before the Open so already had a good look at the place, and obviously a favourite of his captain. His quirky and fidgeting style of play can also sometimes rub opposition players up the wrong way – no bad thing in a Ryder Cup. His one defeat out of four last time was to Rory McIlroy, who almost missed their tee-time, in the singles.
Hunter Mahan (Record W3 L2 H3)
Mahan basically secured his spot with that big win at The Barclays last month, as winning a big event at the right time is key to getting a wildcard if you're on the fringes of qualification. He also finished seventh at the US PGA Championship so has been playing well for a while.
He’ll be another with 'redemption' on his mind. Although he didn't play in their sickening loss at Medinah, perhaps nobody will be more fired up to make amends than Mahan – after his famous loss to Graeme McDowell in Wales that handed Europe victory in 2010.
A duffed chip on the 17th ended up handing the match to McDowell and the Ryder Cup to Colin Montgomerie, and anyone who saw his tearful press conference in the immediate aftermath was left in no doubt just how much that hurt. The question for Watson is whether those mental scars will come back to haunt him or if that will add extra motivation in Gleneagles.
Mahan will no doubt get a reminder of 2010 from one or two of the European fans in attendance, so he'll need to be rock solid to make it through. He does have a good Ryder Cup record though to call on, and went unbeaten during America's emphatic triumph at Valhalla in 2008.
Webb Simpson (Record W2 L2 H0)
By Watson's own admission, Simpson was the final wildcard chosen and only settled on the former US Open champion on the morning of his big selection announcement – after taking another look at his record from Medinah and noticing the emphatic nature of his two victories from four matches.
Playing with Bubba Watson, Simpson won two fourball matches 5&4, so don't be surprised if that partnership again crops up in that format up at Gleneagles after the captain’s eye lit up upon seeing that stat on Tuesday morning.
Came up against Ian Poulter in both his losses at Medinah, so no disgrace there, and he also has a decent Presidents Cup with 5.5 points from 10 matches. A bit quieter and laid back than Bradley, he offers a calm and steady partner but is also well capable of shooting low scores especially when on song with the putter – the most crucial club in the bag during the Ryder Cup.
Two top 10 finishes in his last three events also helped ease Watson’s mind about Simpson's form, while conversations with the North Carolina man also revealed his burning desire to get back into the fold and make amends for 2012 – so another man heading to Scotland with a point to prove.
Watch all the action live on Sky Sports' dedicated Ryder Cup channel - the build up starts on September 18 ahead of the first day's play on September 26.