The 2016 Ryder Cup is looking even better with Augusta National in the rearview mirror. Especially from this side of the pond.
A record-setting Masters victory by 21-year-old American Jordan Spieth elevated the golf-ball-barking Texan from 11th to the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup points list. He also jumped over Sweden's Henrik Stenson to No. 2 in the world golf rankings.
No. 1 is Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, leader of the European Ryder Cup team. With him being only 25, this marks the first week ever that the top two players in the world golf ranking are on the spry side of 26.
In 17 months, seven majors and many, many more qualifying points, the Ryder Cup will make its Minnesota debut at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska. The Europeans have won three in a row and six of the past seven Ryder Cups.
Of Sunday's top four finishers at Augusta, two were Americans, including 44-year-old co-runner-up and 10-time Ryder Cup veteran Phil Mickelson, and two were Europeans — Justin Rose and McIlroy, who closed with a 66 to finish fourth.
Of the top eight finishers, four were Europeans and three were Americans, including Dustin Johnson, the first player in Masters history to record three eagles in one round. And of the top 11, six were Americans and four were Europeans.
And, oh yeah, a certain 14-time major winner not only made the cut but finished tied for 17th while showing signs that he might just have the game to make a third trip to Hazeltine since 2002.
Yes, Tiger Woods will be 40. But the good news: He's got plenty of time to work on his game and he won't have to worry about Rich Beem and/or Y.E. Yang.
The following is a list of the current, albeit very early, point leaders and our captains picks (just in case U.S. captain Davis Love III and European captain Darren Clarke need a little advice from the amateur double-digit-handicap crowd):
Current top eight players
1.) Jordan Spieth
2.) Dustin Johnson
3.) Phil Mickelson
4.) J.B. Holmes
5.) Bubba Watson
6.) Bill Haas
7.) Charley Hoffman
8.) Zach Johnson
Our captain(-for-a-day) picks:
1.) Patrick Reed: Yeah, he's not the most likable guy in the world. But he's got guts. He's 14th in the world rankings and 17th in Ryder Cup points.
2.) Jim Furyk: Steady, 10th in the world rankings and a Ryder Cup veteran. Missed the Masters cut, but had back-to-back top-five finishes in previous two majors.
3.) Ricky Fowler: Sits 12th in Ryder Cup points, but finished top-five in every 2014 major and was tied for 12th at last week's Masters.
4.) Tiger Woods: Those who expected Tiger to skull chips off his caddie's shins while shooting a pair of 100s at Augusta found out the old fella can still play a bit. He's 15th in Ryder Cup points after one eligible event.
Current top nine players
1.) Rory McIlroy
2.) Henrik Stenson
3.) Victor Dubuisson
4.) Jamie Donaldson
5.) Sergio Garcia
6.) Justin Rose
7.) Martin Kaymer
8.) Thomas Bjorn
9.) Graeme McDowell
Our captain-(for-a-day) picks:
1.) Ian Poulter: Longtime productive and emotionally charged, fist-pumping pain in the U.S. backside. One spot below McDowell after best Masters finish (T-6).
2.) Lee Westwood: Best active golfer without a major. Also a nine-time Ryder Cup member with 23 career points.
3.) Miguel Angel Jimenez: Yeah, he'll be 52 next year. But the Ryder Cup veteran was fourth at last year's Masters at age 50. Plus, we just want to see the Mechanic's warm-up routine come to Hazeltine's driving range.