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Who's The Most Glaring Guy Missing from Steve Stricker's Captain's Picks?

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
 2021-09-10
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Sam Burns has a legit case for being the biggest omission, writes Mike Purkey. USA Today

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the Hawk & Purk podcast, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Who is the most surprising omission from the U.S. Ryder Cup team?

Hawk's take: Webb Simpson comes the closest to qualifying as a snub, which is another way of saying captain Steve Stricker used each of his six picks sensibly and purposefully. Any player who fails to win a PGA Tour event during a Ryder Cup calendar year has no legitimate reason to gripe. Such was the case with Simpson, who finished 13th in the U.S. standings and would never complain about failing to get an at-large berth, anyway.

He’s currently 20th in the Official World Golf Ranking — one spot behind Patrick Reed, who also didn’t make the team, and one ahead of Scottie Scheffler, who did. Simpson’s best finish in 21 starts was a T-4 at the Sony Open. He didn’t have a poor season by any means, but it wasn’t among his best, either. His 4-4-1 record in three previous Ryder Cups wasn’t enough to persuade Stricker, and the fact that Simpson ranked 177th in driving distance probably killed any chance he had of making it to Whistling Straits.

Strick digs the long ball. Simpson’s lack of inclusion testifies to the strength of this U.S. squad from top to bottom.

Purk’s take: Frankly, I was perplexed that Sam Burns wasn’t chosen by Stricker, especially over Scottie Scheffler.

It can’t be that Burns isn’t a good putter. He’s fourth in total putting, fifth in putts per green in regulation and ninth in strokes gained (putting), all of which are miles better than Scheffler. It can’t be because he isn’t long enough off the tee. Burns is practically identical with Scheffler in driving distance. And it can’t be that he hasn’t won yet on the PGA Tour. Burns won the Valspar Championship In May on a tough Copperhead Course at Innisbrook. Oh, yes. Scheffler still hasn’t won on Tour.

And it certainly can’t be his recent form. Burns’ last four starts, which include the WGC-FedEx St. Jude and all three playoff events, are T-2, T-21, 8 and T-18. Scheffler, in those same events, was 14, T-43, T-22 and T-22.

Maybe it’s not what you’ve done but who you know, if you get what I’m saying.

Who is most deserving of being named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year?

Purk’s take: There’s no debate whatever that Patrick Cantlay is the PGA Tour Player of the Year. None. He won four times in the 2020-21 season, including the final two events, one of which – the BMW Championship – was in a thrilling, epic six-hole playoff over Bryson DeChambeau.

Some people want to discount Cantlay’s win at the Memorial because Jon Rahm was forced to withdraw after 54 holes with a positive COVID test – with a six-shot lead. If Rahm had been injured, would the same argument be made? Besides, Cantlay beat Collin Morikawa, the other POY contender in this forum, in a playoff at the Memorial. Still others want to wave off his win at the Tour Championship because of the format. Cantlay won the net and was two shots out in the gross.

Still, you can only beat those who show up to be beaten and under the rules by which everyone plays. Fair enough?

Hawk's take: Only three guys are realistic contenders: Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm. Cantlay won three tournaments and claimed the FedEx Cup overall crown. Morikawa won the British Open and a premium-field WGC. Rahm is the best player in the game but won just once. Given how POY criteria is a very subjective matter, this award has become a popularity contest more than a measure of superiority in recent years, which is a shame. It should be a big deal.

Morikawa gets my vote, and the decision wasn’t even close to difficult. You should have to win a major to earn POY honors, factor in the weekend mix on a consistent basis and get the job done at events that feature the most top-tier players. Morikawa checks all three of those boxes with a sharper pencil than the other two guys.

Cantlay will probably claim POY honors, which is determined by a vote of the player themselves, which is a big reason it has become silly, almost meaningless. Do all those pretty young ladies gather in a conference room to elect a new Miss America?

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