In the interest of spirited and collegial debate, I wish to differ with my great friend and colleague Ron Green.
But first a few stipulations: Webb Simpson is a prince of a human being – the kind of stand-up guy you would want to raise your kids if you were run over by Tom Watson’s golf cart at Gleneagles. He is compassionate, polite, open and fiercely competitive while remaining as humble and gracious as can be expected from a multi-millionaire major championship winner.
Chris Kirk on the other hand is … how shall I put it? … mercurial, bordering on difficult? Distant and self-involved? Oh, what the heck, let’s call it what it is: He can be a world class jerk – erudite to a fault , dismissive to people he’s known for years and downright rude to those he hasn’t.
But Kirk should be on this Ryder Cup team and Simpson should have to watch from home.
The reason captain’s picks come when they do, three weeks after the PGA Championship and three weeks before the matches get under way, is because Paul Azinger revamped the system in 2007 in order to see who got on a hot streak. Before that, captains made their final two picks the Monday after the PGA Championship, which meant a player who found some pixie dust in the last six weeks was left out of the mix. Too little, too late.
If the automatic qualifying process had extended beyond the PGA Championship Kirk would have made the team on points. He is, by far, the hottest player in the past month, and the exhibition he put on in Boston, holing putt after critical putt on the weekend while playing with Rory McIlroy, was nothing short of a clinic.
Kirk also has the kind of ego that works well in a Ryder Cup. He believes he’s great and that every putt is supposed to go in. That’s why he rarely gets excited on the course. When you know you’re going to make it, there’s nothing to celebrate.
That is exactly what this Ryder Cup team needs.
If Watson is to be believed, Simpson was chosen because of his record in the Ryder Cup two years ago. If that’s true, why wait until three weeks out to make the final picks? That call could have been made before the PGA.
Yes, Simpson partnered well with Bubba Watson at Medinah. But Kirk and Watson are both Georgia Bulldogs – Watson a member of the 2000 SEC championship team and Kirk a part of the 2005 national championship squad. If nothing else, the two could talk about Todd Gurley’s Heisman chances and the new nickel defense Jeremy Pruitt has working for the Dawgs.
Watson called Kirk and said he took the news “like a man.” You would expect nothing less. But you can also expect that if the U.S. gets shellacked yet again, this decision will be one of several that Captain Watson will be second-guessed on for a long, long time.