Myrtle Beach, S.C.
1 Until this season, he was known for all the majors he could have won but didn’t. Here in 2016, in his ninth PGA Tour season, all has aligned for the longest of hitters. He followed his first major victory at the U.S. Open by winning the WGC-Bridgestone and BMW, too. Headed toward Player of the Year, he’s also back in the Ryder Cup after he took leave from the game to resolve “personal challenges” and missed it in 2014. Johnson calls his determined performance at Oakmont a kick start. “With all the things that happened to me in the majors, I’ve been so close,” he said. “I think that was a big deal.”
World Rank: 2 • Ryder Cup record: 4-3-0
2 Approaching the end of a season that hasn’t become what he had hoped, Spieth has searched to rediscover the “gunslinger” he’d always been growing up. Would you expect anything else from a Texan? So close to winning his third major at the Masters, his best major finish since April is a T-13 at the PGA. He calls the way he learned to play “just step up and hit it,” an attitude he intends to bring to Hazeltine and his second Ryder Cup. “Golf is a game where you smack it, go up to the next one, smack it again and you count it up at the end.”
World Rank: 4 • Ryder Cup record: 2-1-1
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
3 Nobody this week has played more Ryder Cups than his 11, dating to 1995 at Oak Hill. He’ll be a captain someday soon, but not too soon if he has it his way after July’s British Open duel with Henrik Stenson in which he did everything but win. At age 46, Mickelson envisions more majors and Ryder Cups because he says his feel to envision and create shots isn’t diminishing. “I don’t believe there is a small window,” he said. “There’s a really big window of opportunity to add to my résumé, to continue to compete in big events.”
World Rank: 15 • Ryder Cup record: 16-19-6
4 He wore a stars-and-stripes tie when he gaveled out the close of the New York Stock Exchange one afternoon last month. He carries a similarly themed, yardage-book cover in his back pocket. When September comes, he rewatches “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson. You could safely say this is Reed’s time of year. He became the U.S. team’s pulse in 2014, his very first Ryder Cup, when he shushed the boisterous European crowd after he followed Henrik Stenson’s birdie putt with one of his own in Sunday singles and went undefeated. “I mean, it’s the Ryder Cup,” he said recently. “I want sweet revenge this time.”
World Rank: 8 • Ryder Cup record: 3-0-1
5 When it was all over and the Americans had lost at Gleneagles, the long-hitting Texan and 2014 Ryder Cup rookie told NBC interviewer Mark Rolfing he never wanted to miss another one again. Walker’s wire-to-wire PGA Championship victory in July — his first major victory — guaranteed his return. This time, he is a little more knowing and a major champion, too, with a handwritten congratulatory note from Jack Nicklaus and a big trophy to prove it. “The Ryder Cup was everything I wanted it to be the last time,” he said. “I can’t imagine what winning one would be like.”
World Rank: 16 • Ryder Cup record: 1-1-3
West Palm Beach, Fla.
6 Like so many other college kids, Koepka traveled Europe and saw the world straight out of school. He just did it via the European tour from 2012 to 2014. He won more times (four) on its Challenge Tour than he did at Florida State (two) before a T-4 at the 2014 U.S. Open and a 2015 Phoenix Open victory established him as a young American star. At 26, he qualified for his first Ryder Cup while playing on a swollen ankle this summer to get there. “He’s a cool customer,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “He’s not a rookie. He’s a guy you can trust on the big stage.”
World Rank: 22 • Ryder Cup record: 0-0-0
7 The first time around, he came to Minnesota and left a Nationwide Tour event near Rochester with a $99,000 check, his first pro victory. This time, he’ll walk away with only some really nice clothes and unforgettable memories if he leaves Minnesota a winner once again. Snedeker’s playoff victory at Somerby Golf Club when he was 25 was his first of two that earned him a promotion that summer. Ten PGA Tour seasons later, he has won more than $30 million and made his second Ryder Cup team. “Man,” he said about his Minnesota victory, “that was a long time ago.”
World Rank: 23 • Ryder Cup record: 0-1-0
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
8 Iowa’s own has played in four Presidents Cups against the world and never lost. He has played in four Ryder Cups against Europe and never won. Now he’s back for his fifth Ryder Cup and the second consecutive time he made the team as its eighth and final automatic qualifier. “I feel like we make the Ryder Cup a bigger deal than it needs to be,” he said at the 2015 Presidents Cup in South Korea. “It’s almost like we are trying too hard. It’s a big deal. How can you say it’s not? But the more emphasis you put into anything, the harder it becomes.”
World Rank: 28 • Ryder Cup record: 6-6-2
9 Just as he did eight years ago, Holmes waited anxiously for a captain’s pick call that finally came. In 2008, Paul Azinger brought the big hitter aboard a squad that remains the U.S. team’s only winner since 1999, at Valhalla in Holmes’ home state of Kentucky. He and Mickelson are the only ones on this U.S. team who’ve won a Ryder Cup. “That’s a week I’ll never forget,” he said. This time, he comes to Hazeltine, where a hand injury forced him to withdraw from the 2009 PGA. “I liked it,” he said. “It had some length, so I think it’s good for a long-ball hitter.”
World Rank: 21 • Ryder Cup record: 2-0-1
10 Rickie knows Hazeltine, where he reached the quarterfinals of the 2006 U.S. Amateur. At the suggestion of his coach, the high school senior who’d just committed to Oklahoma State looked away when his match-play opponents hit. “Not sure I’ll go with the same approach,” Fowler says now. “I remember I tried not to watch my opponents too much that week just so I didn’t get caught up in what they may have been doing. … It was a special week for me, playing the golf course. I just remember it being long and tough.”
World Rank: 9 • Ryder Cup record: 0-3-5
11 The first three times he played for his country on such a big stage, Kuchar walked away from the Ryder Cup winless. The fourth, he brought home an Olympic bronze medal after shooting a Sunday 8-under-par 63 in Rio last month. That round matched his previous PGA Tour career best and left him exclaiming he’d never been so happy to finish third in his life. “It was meant to be for me to do something and bring something back,” he said about his final round and his inclusion only after Dustin Johnson and Spieth declined to go.
World Rank: 17 • Ryder Cup record: 4-5-2
12 The last U.S. player chosen, Moore made an amateur career out of winning match-play events. But he has never been on such a match-play stage. Sunday’s runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy at the Tour Championship offered a taste, though. He played all day with the world’s No. 3 player and lost a playoff duel on the fourth hole. It was his fourth top-10 finish in the last six weeks, including a John Deere Classic victory. He called himself “comfortable” and “relaxed” on Sunday, “which to me is a great sign of where I’m at physically, mentally. ”
World rank: 31 • Ryder cup record: 0-0-0