After the pain of losing in the Miracle at Medinah, the U.S. is seeking redemption at Gleneagles in this month’s Ryder Cup golf matches.
U.S. captain Tom Watson yesterday selected Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson to complete his 12-player squad that will face Europe from Sept. 26-28 in Scotland.
Two years ago the Europeans equaled the 13-year-old U.S. record for the biggest comeback in the competition’s history to win at the Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. Europe entered the 12 final-day singles matches trailing 10-6 and outscored the U.S. 8 1/2 to 3 1/2 to win 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
“All the players that I talked to, every one of them, without a doubt, had one thing to say about the Ryder Cup: they want to go back and they want to make amends for what happened at Medinah,” Watson said at a news conference in New York last night. “Our team has that one focus.”
Bradley, Mahan and Simpson join nine automatic qualifiers: Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson. Those spots were determined by a points system based on prize money that started after the 2013 Masters Tournament.
The comeback at Medinah gave Europe its fifth win in six editions of golf’s premier team event. The only American win in that span came in 2008 when Tiger Woods was sidelined by injury.
‘Kicked Our Butts’
“Redemption is going to be a strong word among all the players,” Mahan said. “Europe has flat kicked our butts the last 10 or 15 years and that’s just the way it is.”
Woods won’t participate in the matches as he rehabilitates a back injury. The U.S. squad is also without Dustin Johnson, who took a leave of absence from golf to deal with what he described as personal issues. Johnson was No. 5 in the U.S. standings when he was ruled out.
Watson hinted that he may play Mahan, 32, in all five matches at the Ryder Cup because of his proficiency in the match-play format. Mahan won the World Match Play Championship in 2012 and was second at the World Golf Championships event last year.
“Match play seems to be his forte,” Watson said. “Hunter has also had just a wonderful stretch of golf recently.”
Mahan has a 3-2-3 mark from two Ryder Cup appearances, in 2008 and 2010.
Watson said he was impressed that Bradley, 28, took time out of his preparations for the British Open in July to join him at Gleneagles for a practice round.
“He’s the epitome of someone who wanted to get on the team,” Watson said. “He has struggled with it, honestly, he wanted to make the team so badly, and I commend him for playing under the amount of pressure he put on himself.”
In 25 starts on the PGA Tour this year, Bradley’s best result was second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. He also had six top-10 finishes and was tied for fourth place at the U.S. Open. The world No. 23, Bradley went 3-1-0 at Medinah in his Ryder Cup debut.
“This is a redemption year for a lot of guys that were on the team,” Bradley said.
Watson’s last pick also played at Medinah, going 2-2-0 in an experience he said he wants to forget, but can’t.
“It felt like we were going to win,” Simpson said. “It was kind of a shock on Sunday afternoon. I’ll never forget the feeling I had watching the other team celebrate. They were all smiles, laughter, having fun and we had our heads down and it wasn’t a good feeling.”
Watson said he only decided on Simpson yesterday morning after “a revelation.”
“Last year he had a really good stretch in the fall,” Watson said.
Simpson, 29, tied for 25th place in the PGA Championship in August 2013 before finishing 11th, 15th and 24th in three U.S. PGA Tour playoff events and ending the season placed fourth in the Tour Championship.
European captain Paul McGinley also added three players yesterday. He selected Stephen Gallacher, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood to join automatic qualifiers Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
“I’m very excited by the team we have,” McGinley said at a press conference. “The picks were always going to be tough. With the success that we’re having in Europe on the European tour, every Ryder Cup captain going forward is going to have a difficult time.”
Watson selected one fewer player than the U.S. squad has added in the past two editions of the matches. Watson changed the selection policy three months after being named the team’s leader.