Barring Phil Mickelson, whose form has completely deserted him – he finished rock bottom at the Tour Championship and was also last after two rounds at the BMW Championship prior to that – and is likely to play three matches at most, you could make a good case for backing any of the remaining 11 USA players to top score.
OK, maybe not Bubba Watson, who was almost as bad at East Lake and whose Ryder Cup record makes Tiger’s look like Poulter’s.
There is generally a greater depth to their squad than the Europeans and this is perhaps a reason why only six players since 2008 have played in all five matches. So trying to decipher who will have the opportunities to play for the most points this year is a tricky task.
Unlike the Europeans, form in the FedEx Cup, and particularly the Tour Championship the week before, doesn’t necessarily correlate to a successful Ryder Cup.
Since 2008, when the FedEx started preceding the Ryder Cup, the top scoring American has always collected 3 or 3.5 points and each of these had a points conversion rate of at least 70%.
During this period, 17 Americans have finished inside the top 10 at East Lake, with 13 of these recording at least two top 10s during the FedEx stretch, and only Dustin Johnson in 2012 went on to have a conversion rate of better than 67% (he went three from three at Medinah).
In fact, only seven won more than 50% of their potential points. Looking at the 13 other players to convert at least 70% of their points for the USA since 2008, only three had at least two top 10 finishes in the FedEx tournaments and five even missed the Tour Finals altogether. Patrick Reed finished 19th and 24th at East Lake respectively before going on to lead the way in the last two Ryder Cups.
This doesn’t mean we’re rushing to discount any of the guys that have fared well this last month, but rather there could be extra value in those who haven’t.
Dustin Johnson leads the betting but the uncertainty of how mentally tuned in he’ll be following the persistent rumours surrounding his relationship with Paulina Gretzky off the course is enough to put us off.
It could be dangerous under-estimating Tiger Woods, but he could be mentally and physically drained after his historic East Lake victory and given his injury record he’s unlikely to be risked in all five sessions. Brooks Koepka won three from four points on debut, but Hazeltine couldn’t be more suited to him and his power will be negated here while his recent form suggests he’s gone off the boil.
Justin Thomas had a decent FedEx and should go well having made the effort to play here in July, finishing 8th. He is an important member of the new breed of stars that make the American squad a far more harmonious place than in the recent past. While he tempts, he is still a rookie and has proven performers Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler behind him in the betting.
Fowler has come back to form but such is his easy-going nature, captain’s find him easier to leave out than others and there is every chance he could be paired with the wayward Mickelson. Reed and Spieth were the only members to play all five matches in 2016 and they’re W4-L1-H2 overall together.
Preference is just for Spieth though as the course suits and we can’t see him having a weak partner. If it’s not Reed, then it will be one of best buds Thomas or Fowler. After failing to make it into the final 30 he missed the Tour Championship which may just be a blessing in disguise.
The switch to matchplay could be just what he needs to revive his season and on a course that requires the players to strategically plot their way around, there are none better in the American squad.
*all odds are subject to change