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Filling out Team USA roster spots

8/24/2014 - Golf Hunter Mahan

Only one tournament remains for American players to put their best foot forward in the hopes of earning a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup. So who's stepping up their game in advance of Tom Watson's decision on Sept. 2?

And as we head into the second week of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, several big names are skipping the Deutsche Bank Championship. Should the PGA Tour do more to make sure everyone plays in the postseason?

Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. If you had to make your three Ryder Cup captain's picks after the Barclays, who would they be?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Ryan Palmer. The first two were easy, but the Palmer pick might surprise people. My argument for Palmer is two-fold: First, he has made the biggest jump in the past few weeks and makes a great teammate to pair with anyone on the team. And second, you're not just getting the player, but the player-caddie combo and James Edmonston is one of the best caddies in the business.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Keegan Bradley: He went 3-0 with Phil Mickelson at the Medinah matches in 2012.

Hunter Mahan, a two-time Ryder Cupper who was also a member of the last winning U.S. team in 2008, won this week at the Barclays. This comes after a tie for seventh at the PGA Championship.

Erik Compton: The two-time heart transplant survivor would provide a great emotional boost to the U.S. team. Plus, he has played well recently in some high-pressure situations on Sunday, most notably with a tie for second at the U.S. Open. He's a long shot to make the team, but he's worthy of Tom Watson's consideration.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan. Bradley wasn't able to play his way onto the team, but he is the perfect partner for Phil Mickelson. Snedeker missed the cut at the Barclays, but has played a lot lately and shown progress in his game. And of course Mahan just won the Barclays, an important factor in that Watson could use players who are playing well.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Most candidates that finished near the top nine in the automatic points standings haven't fared well since the PGA Championship, so I'll go with Keegan Bradley (pencil him in three to four times with Phil Mickelson), Hunter Mahan (who posted five back-nine birdies to claim his first win in two-plus years at the Barclays) and Brandt Snedeker, with the hope that his putter gets hot in the next few weeks. Next week's winner in Boston could easily supplant one of these players, though.


2. Where during the final round did Hunter Mahan win the Barclays?

Collins: When Mahan made the 30-footer for birdie at the 13th on Sunday, you could see his demeanor change walking off the green. He went from hoping for a chance to win, to knowing he could win. That's why there was no panic with the wayward drive at the 14th, followed by the turkey (three birdies in a row). That ultra-confidence switch got turned on.

Evans: Mahan won the Barclays with a second-nine 4-under 32 that included five birdies.

Harig: It was when he made three straight birdies starting at the 15th. He broke out of the pack and gave himself a cushion going to the 18th tee.

Maguire: If you start Sunday around the lead and post five birdies on the back nine, you'll usually be near the winner's circle as Mahan was on Sunday. He nearly let Jason Day and a few others back into the mix with a bad bogey at the last, but Mahan held it together to earn that elusive first victory in more than two years.


3. Thumbs up or down to some big names skipping any playoff events?

Collins: Thumbs up! If the PGA Tour wants a 47-week bed (schedule), sleep in it. I will not feel mad at any player who doesn't want to play more than three in a row. Just because it's "the playoffs" doesn't mean a guy's going to change his routine. Players didn't make the schedule, be mad at the tour.

Evans: Thumbs up. Any player that's on one of the Ryder Cup teams should consider skipping at least one playoff event. Five events in six weeks is too much golf for any player who wants to be rested and sharp for the biggest event of the year.

Harig: Thumbs up. It's unfortunate, but that is what should be expected when you schedule four big events like this just prior to the Ryder Cup -- and following such an important stretch of golf.

Maguire: Thumbs down. It's their call obviously as they are independent contractors, but one would hope the biggest stars in the game (such as Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose) would have enough time to rest in the off week between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup. Of course Graeme McDowell and Paul Casey get a pass since their wives are having babies, but short of an excuse like that, let's hope more players don't follow their lead.


4. Who was the biggest surprise that didn't advance to TPC Boston?

Collins: Maybe it doesn't seem like much to anyone right now because he didn't play this week, but Steve Stricker, who didn't advance to TPC Boston, has been in the Tour Championship every year since 2007. That's seven straight. And last year had his best finish (T-2). The thought of a Stricker-less Tour Championship seems almost surreal. While Tiger and Phil might have been the Jordan and Pippen, Stricker was the Paxson or Kerr.

Evans: Nick Watney. The five-time PGA Tour winner had three top-12s in three of his past four events coming into the Barclays, including a tie for fifth last week at the Wyndham Championship.

Harig: Lee Westwood. The Englishman has had a tough year, and not making it past this tournament has also put his Ryder Cup hopes in doubt for Europe.

Maguire: Nick Watney. He contended for the victory a couple of weeks ago at the Wyndham Championship, but his missed cut at the Barclays sealed his fate. He dropped 11 places to fall to 105th in the FedEx Cup standings. Only the top 100 advanced to the Deutsche Bank Championship.