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Friday, August 22, 2014
Making their Ryder Cup case

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Brendon Todd has watched every Ryder Cup since he was 10. It's one of his favorite tournaments. And now, after a 2-under 69 on Friday to finish 1 shot off the lead at the halfway point of the Barclays, the 29-year-old former Georgia Bulldog is making a strong case for why he should be one of Tom Watson's three captain's picks for the U.S. team.

Brendon Todd
Brendon Todd, who won the HP Byron Nelson Championship this year and also owns seven top-10 finishes, has been dreaming about the Ryder Cup since he was a kid.

The Cary, North Carolina, native has been waiting for this audition his entire life.

"I really think [Watson's] going to pick guys who have good form and who have proved it all season long," Todd said. "I'm sure he's going for some experience, too, if he can get it, but I feel like if you can just be the guy who is playing the best, you're probably going to get a pick."

Todd, who finished 12th in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings, is one of several American players at the Barclays with a realistic shot at being one of the three names that Watson calls on Sept. 2 in New York, when he completes his 12-man team. The U.S. will face Europe starting Sept. 26 in Gleneagles, Scotland.

At the top of that list of Ryder Cup hopefuls in the field this week are Todd, Keegan Bradley, Harris English, Ryan Moore, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker.

"Tom has made it very clear to those of us on the outside looking in on what we need to do to get picked," Snedeker said. "That's play well, win and prove that you can handle the pressure on Sunday."

Snedeker, 33, is very familiar with this pressure. In 2012, off the strength of a second in the Barclays and a sixth in the Deutsche Bank Championship, Davis Love III awarded the Nashville native one of his four captain's picks to the Medinah matches.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to make that team," said Snedeker, who missed the cut this week with rounds of 70 and 74. "Luckily, I performed well and got picked. Then I won the Tour Championship and the playoffs after he picked me. So it was sort of a release for me.

"This year I'm taking a little different approach to not put so much pressure on myself and try to have fun."

Bill Haas, who is vying for his first Ryder Cup team after two appearances in the Presidents Cup, finished 28th in the standings. Yet after a tie for second last week in Greensboro, he inserted himself into consideration for the team.

"It's less pressure on a guy like myself who is way down the list, because I have to play well," said Haas, who won the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2011. "I think if I were 12th on the list and I had a good year and playing poorly right now, it's more pressure because you should make the team because you're close to it.

"If you played poorly, then you feel like it's these tournaments that's losing it for you."

Haas understands the difficult choices facing Watson.

"In 2011, when I got the nod over Keegan Bradley for one of the Presidents Cup team picks, there were a lot of people who thought that Keegan should have been picked over me because he won the PGA," said Haas, who is 2 under at the Barclays heading into the final 36 holes.

Bradley is widely considered a lock to make his second Ryder Cup team after his spirited 3-0 record with Phil Mickelson at Medinah. But there are no clear frontrunners for the other two spots.

Ryan Palmer made a case for one of those two spots with a tie for fifth at the PGA Championship.

"I can't control what Tom is going to do," said Palmer, who is 2 under after his second consecutive 70 on Friday. "I'm going to go on his word that he's going pick hot players. So if I go out and play well these two tournaments after my finish at the PGA, that's a pretty good case."

Unfortunately, good play, experience and chemistry between players aren't always the only factors that a captain has to wrestle with in his decision process. Despite poor health, limited play and poor performances in 2014, Watson was seriously considering Tiger Woods for one of the captain's picks before the 14-time major champion took himself out of the running.

"Sometimes it seems like the media makes these picks," said Matt Every, who missed the cut this week at Ridgewood Country Club. "Next thing you know it's down the captain's throat and he's heard this guy's name the last two months. And now he's wondering why he shouldn't take him.

"There are a ton of guys out there who are getting no attention like Bill Haas. How is he getting no love? It seems like it's the same guys all the time who get all the love. There are so many good players.

"If we didn't have picks, there would be a lot less to talk about. And just take the top 12. That would be the fairest way to do it. But this way gives it so much excitement."

Snedeker has confidence that Watson will make his captain's picks for all the right reasons.

"I don't think politics or the media will have an impact on Tom's decision," Snedeker said. "He's not one of those kind of guys.

"One thing I know about Tom is that he's going to do what he thinks is best for the team, regardless of what's popular or what people are thinking on the outside."

For months, Watson has been a looming presence at PGA Tour events, meeting with perspective Ryder Cup players. At the PGA Championship, Kevin Na, who finished 17th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, met with the eight-time major champion after he missed the cut.

"I said, 'Tom don't worry, I have two more tournaments to get on your team,' " Na said.

Na, who is 2 shots off the lead after a 66 on Friday, said that making the team would be a huge star on his résumé.

"If you told me to win this week and not make the Ryder Cup team or finish second and make the Ryder Cup, I would take the latter," Na said. "People might say I'm crazy. But that just puts things into perspective of how important this is to me."

Snedeker, Simpson, English and Moore didn't help their causes by missing the cut at the Barclays, but there is the Deutsche Bank Championship next week outside Boston for them to make convincing cases for why they should be on the team. The others high up on Watson's list at the Barclays have the weekend to position themselves for the kind of Sunday push that the captain wants to see.

"I have been in the driver's seat all season to make that team and I kind of let it slip away," English said. "I have to make some noise."

Time is slipping away for Watson to make his three picks. Sept. 2 must feel like an eternity away for these players seeking to play for him and their country.

"Once you play on one Ryder Cup, you never want to miss another one," Snedeker said. "You realize what a big deal it is after being there. I have played on one on U.S. soil and I would like nothing better than to play one on European soil."