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Monday Rap: Ryder Cup Roster Predictions, Phil's Gambling Stats And We Gotta Do Something About The Memphis Event

Andy Lyons. Getty Images.

Greetings from the familiar comforts of these United States of America. I returned to JFK from a two-week journey to East Africa—seven days in Rwanda, five in Tanzania and a travel day on both sides—at midnight last night and immediately ordered my favorite Chinese food place, Han Dynasty, which is apparently open until 12 a.m. on Sundays. What a place. 

I learned a ton on my Safari sojourn—that nature is beautiful and vicious, that the squeal of a Zebra feeling its life slip away is not an easy sound to forget, and that 10 days is my absolute maximum for vacations moving forward. This job has warped my brain. There is no question about that. By Day 10 all I could think about was the god-forsaken Internet and what I might be missing. I put my phone on airplane mode each day to appease my wife and man, was that a battle. I felt the pangs of addiction, reaching for my phone reflexively. Dark, dark stuff. 

On the flip side, my time away from social media (and thus my phone) allowed me to dive into photography, which I'm really starting to have fun with. I bought a proper camera ahead of this trip and I think I'm going to start bringing it with me on our golfing travels. I'm always annoyed how iPhone cameras fail to properly display the magic of golf courses—everything always looks so far away, and then when you zoom the quality goes way down—so I'm hopeful that a big-boy camera might do the trick. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the trip:

With that, we return to golf…

Lucas Glover's on a heater, but is it enough?

Despite a horrific case of swamp ass (and swamp crotch), Lucas Glover managed to win his second consecutive PGA Tour event by beating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff. Cantlay, who always seems to be in the mix in the big-money PGA Tour events but not so much the majors, pulled his tee shot into the water on the first playoff hole—he's had some trouble with that left miss down the stretch, but that's another conversation entirely—to hand Glover his sixth PGA Tour win and, miraculously, bring him into the Ryder Cup picture. Glover didn't even qualify for any of the four majors this year and yet, after winning the Wyndham and now a FedEx Cup playoff event, has a legitimate case for Ryder Cup consideration. He knows it, too. Glover, who is 43, has never made a Ryder Cup team. He did play in back-to-back Presidents Cups in 2007 and 2009, the latter being the year he won the U.S. Open, but didn't the 2008 or 2010 Ryder Cup teams. It's no surprise he wants a shot. 

Glover is the quintessential data point for why the U.S. selection process changed after 2014, when Billy Horschel caught fire in the FedEx Cup playoffs but didn't make the team because the picks happened after the PGA Championship, before the playoffs started. Now all six picks are made the week after the Tour Championship, which would in theory avoid a Horschel situation. It's hard to argue anyone's playing better than Glover at this precise moment; he literally won the last two events, including last week's in Memphis which had all the top PGA Tour guys. 

Still, I don't think he's done enough to make the team. At least not yet. 

Despite his rapid rise Glover is still 16th in the points list, below No. 14 Justin Thomas and everyone else who's in contention for a pick…apart from Tony Finau, who's outside the top 20 and looks increasingly like he'll miss out. Glover is on a heater right now, particularly with his long putter. But the Ryder Cup still doesn't begin for another month and a half, and he's been difficult to watch with the putter at times throughout the last few years. I just don't know if this is super sustainable. And winning stroke-play events on soft courses in Greensboro, N.C. and Memphis doesn't necessarily equate to playing well in match play in Rome. By my estimation, there are 10 guys on the team who are more or less locks to make it. The top three guys in these standings are already locked in on points, and I think each of the top 10 will be on the team no matter how these next two weeks play out. 

1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Wyndham Clark
3. Patrick Cantlay
4. Brian Harman
5. Brooks Koepka
6. Max Homa
7. Xander Schauffele
8. Jordan Spieth
9. Cameron Young
10. Collin Morikawa

Young is the only one who I could potentially see not making it, but his game is perfect for fourball and assistant captain Fred Couples essentially spilled the beans that he'll be there. That leaves two spots for the following contenders. We'll break down teach of their cases. 

11. Keegan Bradley

No one wants it more because no one wants anything more than Keegan Bradley does. The guy just feels really, really hard about everything. He's had an excellent season with two wins—the Zozo Championship last fall and the Travelers Championship in June—but hasn't played particularly well since and sees his chances slipping away. He's a foxhole guy, a fiery competitor with Ryder Cup experience, and he's turned around his putting in recent years. A missed cut at the Open Championship hurt, a lot, and a T43 out of 70 in Memphis didn't help. He needs two really strong weeks to make a statement. 

12. Sam Burns

He'd be much, much lower in the points list if not for his victory at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play back in March. Sure, that was a match play event, but it was also in March. He has just one top-10 finish in his last 13 starts and has seen a significant drop in his iron play from a week ago. He's fighting an uphill battle. I do love the mullet, though. 

13. Rickie Fowler

Enjoying a resurgent year and he'd be a big hit in the locker room. Friends with everyone, super easy going, can pair well with any of the other 11. Plus, he's a lights-out putter, always a huge asset in match play. He's also a member of the "in" crowd—close pals with Spieth, JT, etc etc—and has extensive history with the captain, Zach Johnson. I like his chances. 

14. Justin Thomas

A case-study in what the Ryder Cup selection process actually is. If it's a recognition of the 12 American golfers who've had the best year, JT doesn't have a serious case. But the PGA of America has been moving the other direction by having the captains hand-select a full half of their team, giving them the agency to pick guys they think will help their team win. Thomas famously didn't qualify for the playoffs this year and played horrible in the majors. Still, he's Justin Thomas and was the emotional leader of the 2021 group that absolutely shellacked the Europens at Whistling Straits. He played solidly in his last start of the year at the Wyndham Championship, he's 5-2-1 in his two Ryder Cups, he was one of the only guys who played well in the last road Ryder Cup, and he loves the spotlight. I'm not saying I'd pick him, but I think Zach Johnson will. 

15. Denny McCarthy

A great, great putter, but doesn't have the benefit of that big-name recognition. He's definitely a fierce competitor, but I can't see Johnson passing over bigger names, or guys in better form, for Denny. 

16. Lucas Glover

See above. 

21. Tony Finau

Seemed a lock to be on Ryder Cup teams for the next decade but this has been a down year, plain and simple. He has just one top-10 in his last nine starts, at the 3M Championship, and he's dropped all the way outside the top 20 in points. 

53. Bryson DeChambeau

Shot 58 in a LIV event, has a top five in a major this year, is back to hitting his driver extremely well and was part of that legendary 2021 team. That's what's working in his favor. On the other side: he's not exactly the most popular guy in the sport. And he finished middle of the pack at the LIV event last week in Bedminster, which was his last chance to make a statement before the picks happen. (LIV's off for over a month now). Unlike Koepka, who hasn't trashed the PGA Tour or its players since leaving, Bryson's been a bit more outspoken about his decision. I don't think he's done enough to make it hard for ZJ to justify not picking him, whether that's right or wrong. 

The prediction, with two weeks left:

1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Wyndham Clark
3. Patrick Cantlay
4. Brian Harman
5. Brooks Koepka
6. Max Homa
7. Xander Schauffele
8. Jordan Spieth
9. Cameron Young
10. Collin Morikawa
11. Rickie Fowler
12. Justin Thomas

And, for good measure, my Euro predictions

1. Jon Rahm
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Viktor Hovland
4. Tommy Fleetwood
5. Tyrrell Hatton
6. Matt Fitzpatrick
7. Shane Lowry
8. Justin Rose
9. Sepp Straka
10. Robert MacIntyre
11. Adrian Meronk
12. Ludvig Aberg

Memphis in August…

The PGA Tour ran a story on its website detailing the scorching heat players had to deal with at TPC Southwind. Well, well, well, if it isn't the consequence of our own actions. Look, I understand exactly why the tournament is where it is. FedEx is the PGA Tour's single biggest sponsor, and their headquarters are in Memphis, and so they're going to have a big event so long as they're footing the bill. But man, was that a difficult watch this week. Persistent rain throughout the week, plus hot and humid as hell—again, Memphis in August—led to a pillow soft golf course and a whole lot of swamp-ass. The fan turnout was super low for a playoff event, which makes sense given the conditions outside. It just seems like a huge miss to have Memphis be the opener of the three-event playoff.  Should it have an event? Of course. Perhaps a designated one earlier in the year, when going outside is not a horrible experience. St. Jude does incredible work and the tournament has a massive impact on the local community. Still, mid-August is just foolish. 

The next two weeks of the playoffs should be excellent; late-summer in Chicago is wonderful, and Olympia Fields is a major-caliber golf course that always provides a stiff test. East Lake is an iconic track with all that history and should be much-improved after renovations that started right after last year's Tour Championship.

But next year? The playoffs start in Memphis, then move to outside Denver, then back to East Lake. There is no New York event on the schedule for the third consecutive year. This really shouldn't be complicated—you need to build the FedEx Cup up as an entity. The way to do so is to put the big-money events in the big-time markets. New York, Chicago, Atlanta. There are, as mentioned previously, commercial reasons why that's not happening. But it's just such a miss to not have a New York-area event on the schedule, particularly in the summer, and moving away from Chicago again is a bummer. Liberty National, a short boat ride from NYC, has been electric every time they've held an event. It just stinks when corporate interests get in the way of the final product. 


—Lilia Vu won the AIG Women's Open for his second major championship of the year. And she won by six. She's your new New. 1 player in the world.

—Alejandro Tosti, who we wrote about a few months ago here when he got a penalty for riding in a shuttle between holes during a tournament, locked up his PGA Tour card with a victory on the Korn Ferry Tour this week. The Argentine, who won the SEC individual title at Florida, is a fiery character who should catch some eyeballs next year on the Big Tour. 

—Cameron Smith absolutely marched to a seven-shot victory at LIV Bedminster, an impressive margin especially considering it came after 54 holes. It's his third win at LIV and he continues to be one of the best players in the world. Brooks Koepka finished T38 (out of 48) for the second consecutive week and you have to wonder just how much effort he's putting into these weeks—major season is over and he's got a baby boy. And it's not like he cared about regular events when he was on the PGA Tour. Phil Mickelson, who played in the "final" pairing on Sunday alongside Smith, shot 75 to drop to T9. 

—Lee Westwood finished dead last by shooting +20 and then got into it with social-media darling Eddie Pepperrell. Just a hell of an exchange.

It goes on much, much longer too. 

—An excerpt from Billy Walters' upcoming autobriography surfaced on the Fire Pit Collective and it has some explosive details on Phil Mickelson's gambling habits. The headlines: he bet over $1 billion on sports over 30 years. He bet $110,000 to win $100,000 over 1,100 times. He bet $220,000 to win $200,000 over 850 times. The spiciest bit: he allegedly tried to bet $400,000 on the U.S. to win the 2012 Ryder Cup, which they actually lost.

These are eye-opening numbers for sure, but they don't shift the narrative on Phil. We already knew he gambled a ton. He's admitted as much. He also denied betting on the Ryder Cup in a statement—though he didn't deny that he tried to—and, crucially, the allegation is that he tried to bet on his team, not against it. If anything, this drop might've been a net positive. The reaction I saw most often on social media was one of amazement. Like, damn, Phil's a legend for gambling that much. It's not like his family had to live on the streets because of his habit, and he seems to have gotten the appropriate help for it. 

I will say that Rory McIlroy's quip back at Phil when asked about it—basically saying he can bet on the Ryder Cup this year because he won't be involved—was cheap and sounded like elder abuse. He's 53 years old. He's not supposed to be on the Ryder Cup team. He won a major more recently than Rory and finished second in one this very year. Phil played in 12 consecutive Ryder Cups. When it comes to golf, you really should pick on guys your own age. 

—I've written this a bunch, but the LIV team concept continues to fall flat for me. I tuned in on Saturday, genuinely excited to watch Cameron Smith and Phil Mickelson battle at a difficult golf course, but the silly logos and constant emphasis on the team competition was downright distracting. If you're going to do team golf, do team golf—have weeks where it's a team-only competition. Two guys from one team playing against two guys from the other. As it's currently constructed—adding up scores at the end of the individual tournament—there is no drama at all, no team-golf optics like guys celebrating each other's putts. LIV's in a tough spot, because they've made this massive bet on team golf and need it to succeed to become profitable. Or, at least, they did before this whole framework agreement with the PGA Tour. I'm not sure just how much the Saudis care about LIV itself being a moneymaker anymore, but if they're still counting on the teams to drive profit, they need to do something about the format of the team competition and they need to do it now. We're nearly two years in and the team competition/franchises have zero traction. 

Until next week,