The First Step

A casual visit to Kent Sterling’s radio show today to talk about the Masters quickly detoured into a broader conversation on the broadcasting business and my path in it. I commented about how I find more young broadcasters seeking out advice from an ‘old sage’ like me these days. I find it funny because when they ask ‘how can I do what you do?’, I find myself responding, “I still don’t think I’m doing what I set out to do.”

It often boils down to the first step. Not the first big break. The first step. And that I can answer, because I didn’t do it. So, if you want to know the key to making it as an aspiring broadcaster, here it is: Do everything you can. Broadcast whatever you can. Move to a place where that opportunity exists the most. Learn to love improving. Get reps. Lots of reps. And never lose sight of enjoying the art of broadcasting. 

I waited for opportunities to come to me. They had when I was an “amateur,” why wouldn’t they when I was working in it? Don’t get me wrong, I gained marriage, family, children and a greater appreciation for work ethic by forging a non-traditional path as a young freelancer in a big market, but I know it cost me professionally.

I wouldn’t change a thing. But, if I am being honest when a 21-year-old asks me how to make it, that’s what I’ve come to realize. Go! Don’t look back. Seize any opportunity, because it won’t be looking to seize you.

Why We Work

The debate that is raging about the NCAA and its treatment of college athletes is becoming as polarized as our nation’s run towards electing a new leader. On one side, athletes are victimized, exploited and spit out by a money-hungry system that uses them to advance their own brand. On the other side, athletes should be more thankful for a free education and just be quiet. Like most polarizing issues, I (and the rest of America) reside somewhere in the middle. I lean closer to the NCAA on most issues, but believe no athlete should have his/her likeness or name used to make money he/she doesn’t receive. I believe there is an imbalance in the system, but determining who benefits and who doesn’t would only make it worse. And, most notably, I don’t think people have any clue what the NCAA is doing with “all that money…”

I’ve had the pleasure of broadcasting NCAA championships since they decided to start putting them on the Internet. Next fall will mark the 10-year anniversary of that endeavor. I’ve been witness to dozens of championships at all levels and in all sports, where athletes no different than the star QB at Alabama give everything they have to compete. How are those sports and championships supported? It all trickles down so that other athletes have a chance.

That chance even includes selection shows. I can’t remember my first, but I can’t wait to host my next! What? you didn’t know that Division II Women’s Volleyball had a selection show?! Well, they do, and the teams react in a way you may find familiar. This is why I work:

The Keyboard is Mightier

Last week was depressing for me. It marked the too-soon end of an entity that I felt represented everything that was right about journalism in the Internet age. ESPN elected to pull the plug on Grantland, shelving a cutting-edge site that embraced long-form journalism alongside opinion, discussion and multimedia. I’ve been fortunate to cross a number of milestones off of my professional bucket list, but one will never be realized now. I wanted to write for Grantland one day, and fully regret never taking the time to send along some stuff.

Instead, I’ll continue being too wordy for my friends over at Golf News Net, and spreading the great stories of work being done by folks here in Indianapolis.

The 2015 NBA-Tour Draft

Today is my favorite non-sport event, sports-related activity of the year. The NBA Draft is intoxicating. It is the one day a year when 30 fanbases expect immediate impact. Unlike any other professional sports league, the NBA draft offers instant gratification. The first round is over quickly (no second or third day, i.e. NFL) and provides top picking teams with immediate starters (see you in 5-6 years, i.e. MLB). It also regularly delivers the most movement during the night, when trades abound.

It’s a night when New York Knick fans will ‘boo,’ San Antonio fans will nod in intellectually arrogant unison and Minnesota will position itself for another lottery run in 2016. To sum it all up: Emotions run the gambit, and I live off its exhaust.

Silly season activities like these in sports are the one thing lacking in golf. While fantasy has allowed us to create our own rooting interest from week to week, we don’t identify loyalties beyond unknown personality connections with players. What if professional golf was a team sport? How would golfers get drafted?

The rules: Only golfers under the age of 30 were considered. I tried to take the traits of the player to match with a particular golfer, so this is not a perfect exercise in who the top 14 young golfers would be should we hold an actual draft.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns is Jordan Spieth – In October of last year, it was hard to imagine a scenario where Jahlil Okafor wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. He had every established tool that would translate to a phenomenal career as a pro. At the same time, in golf, Rory McIlroy was unbeatable, holder of the last 2 majors played, annihilator of every tee shot with a reckless abandon. What has happened since then? Our ability to think, that’s what. The next two majors have been won by Spieth, who, like Towns, appears loaded with an arsenal of tools and potential (anybody notice the bulges under those Under Armour shirts? Once doughy, now defined). Okafor-Ilroy has done nothing to diminish his spot at the top, but the newer kid on the block is the freight train running downhill.
Spieth’s Tremendous Upside Potential (T.U.P.) – 19 Majors and the greatest American golfer of all time

2. D’Angelo Russell is Rickie Fowler – Wait a second? Did Rory just drop to #3 in our ridiculous exercise? Yes, but only to keep the hypothetical going. Many scouts pegged Russell as having more star potential than Okafor. After winning the Players, Rickie was absurdly inserted into a number of “big three” conversations with Jordan and Rory. We want Rickie to be a superstar as much as the Lakers want D’Angelo to do the same. And, if there was a town that would draft Rickie ahead of Rory, it would be Hollywood. The similarities don’t end there. Both are significantly more polished than their age would suggest. (Rickie is only 5 months older than Rory; easy to forget that)
Fowler’s T.U.P. – Hall of Famer, 3+ majors, 1 billion flat-billed hats sold and a litter of tan-skinned children who invent a new extreme sport involving skateboards and 2-irons.

3. Jahlil Okafor is Rory McIlroy – Jahlil Okafor was the best player in college entering his freshman season, averaged 17 & 8, led his team to a national championship and said all of the right things along the way. And he slipped to #3 in the draft. Why? The top of the mountain is coated with teflon. You can’t stay long before we find a way to slip you off. Rory has had 2 dominant stretches in his young career, the second even better than the first. When 2015 began, the discussion wasn’t “will somebody challenge him for #1,” it was “how far can Rory extend his advantage?” When he arrived back in the states, he MC’d at Honda. Going for the CGS, a backdoor top 5 followed. We explore the missed cuts at Wentworth and Royal County Down more than his dismantling of Quail Hollow. Why? Because we demand perfection from our #1. Spieth is that perfect now. Rory is, well, underrated?
McIlroy’s T.U.P. – 19 majors and the greatest European golfer of all time 

4. Kristaps Porzingis is Tony Finau – LENGTH! POTENTIAL! These two are athletic soul mates. I’ll even stretch Finau’s Samoan lineage to lump him into our “international” pool of prospects. Scouts are drooling over the Latvian for his measurables (he can touch the top of the backboard with his kneecap!!!!) and soft touch, and don’t we do the same with Finau? We dig the long ball and the potential it has to deliver Finau to the winner’s circle. Like Porzingis, he has proven himself on the stages just below the Big Show, but we still secretly wonder if those tools will truly translate into a promising career.
Finau’s T.U.P. – 20 years of Tour Card, 5-10 wins, 0 herniated discs 

5. Mario Hezonja is Brooks Koepka – This analogy was perfect a year ago. Hezonja, by all accounts, was the best shooter in the draft. Koepka, by all accounts, was the best American not on Tour. Both have proven their worth on the second-biggest stage in their respective sports. Both are sneaky explosive.
Koepka’s T.U.P. – Multiple majors, multi-lingual

6. Willie Cauley-Stein is Patrick Reed – Tell me those two couldn’t fill a conversation for a few hours. I actually want both of these guys to combine forces to become the greatest super-athlete personality of the 21st Century. Look at Patrick Trilly Reedstein the wrong way, and you will feel the wrath of a small army. Cauley-Stein is all defense, and Reed knows only offense on the course. Willie protects the rim, while Reed can’t protect his image. Join forces now, fellas!
Reed’s T.U.P. – 3 majors by his 30th birthday and a lifetime supply of Prilosec 

7. Emmanuel Mudiay is Hideki Matsuyama – The Asian connection (Mudiay prepping a year cashing checks in China) aside, both guys ooze with potential in grown-man frames that have you forgetting how young each really is. But, each are drafted with a significant question mark. Folks wonder about Mudiay’s outside shot as much as I wonder about Matsuyama’s ability to make a 7-footer with the pressure on.
Matsuyama’s T.U.P. – 5 majors, 15 Tour wins, 20 Dunlop Phoenix Open wins, foreword in Ryo Ishikawa’s Autobiography

8. Stanley Johnson is Patrick Rodgers – Both are big. Both can dunk. Both can score. Both are slated to do big things, but you just don’t know at this stage. At this spot in the lottery, it could be big or bust.
Rodgers’ T.U.P. – Major champion, greatest golfer from Indiana

9. Frank Kaminsky is Jason Day – Both are old for the sake of this exercise. With each, you know what you are going to get, but that leaves us without the hope of what is still unknown. For Frank the Tank, that means the Hornets have to live knowing Kaminsky will never be explosive or likely guard anybody without help. For fans of Jason Day, he’s given you everything but the major. After vertigo likely cost him another golden chance, we now wonder if the ceiling has been touched. He’s still ONLY 27, but doesn’t it feel older?
Day’s T.U.P. – Breaks the major seal, settles below Rory/Spieth as #3 for a while, surpasses Greg Norman’s major haul 

10. Justise Winslow is Justin Thomas – Like Winslow is lost in the shadow of Okafor, Thomas has been lost a bit in the wake of his classmate, and friend, Spieth, who (we should remember) Thomas bested for all major awards in their one shared year of college. The upside for both here is huge, and the explosiveness is apropos given what Thomas gets out of his small frame. Winslow could be a perennial All-Star or gone by the end of his rookie deal. Thomas could be top 10 in the world and a 20+ Tour winner, or in traction five years from now.
Thomas’ T.U.P. – See above

11. Myles Turner is Billy Horschel – Oozing with the goods that have been flashed to us in spurts, this isn’t a perfect comparison, but the flash-in-the-pan potential exists here. Not to say that Billy will be off the Tour, but his time at the front is relegated to small stretches when he gets hot. Turner is the young guy who shows flashes and needs to develop consistency. If either (or both) grew to exhibit that explosiveness each and every day, it would. be. On!!
Horschel’s T.U.P. – Major winner, Hall of Famer, best quote on tour for 20 years and example of transparent emotion

12. Trey Lyles is Victor Dubuisson – I’m not sold on either, both in game and personal mystery. They flash enough athletic skill and victory to make you believe something greater is coming, but you would never fully invest because you have that feeling words can’t describe. Nope, not for me.
Dubuisson’s T.U.P. – Major winner, after which he gives a 20-minute monologue on what makes him tick

13. Devin Booker is Harris English – Booker was drafted in the lottery. I watched Kentucky maybe 10-12 times this past season and don’t remember a single play involving Booker. That’s not to say that he didn’t score, or wasn’t any good, but you were mesmerized by the size and versatility of Towns, the playmaking of Ulis, the combustibility of the Harrisons, the how-does-he-score-that-slow ness of Lyles, etc. Booker was along for the ride, playing his role and not worried about his future earnings. That sums up my perception of English, who I pegged since college of being a star on Tour. He’s won. Twice. Got inside the top 40 in the world too. But, we’ve stalled, as if lost under the weight of an age group loaded with star power. Booker talked like a young man ready for his time at the front. I only hope English is poised to follow suit.
English’s T.U.P. – Multiple Ryder Cup teams, more lime green pants and top winner of the Georgia Mafia

14. Cameron Payne is Ollie Schneiderjans – Four-year college lottery picks are almost as rare as four-year stud golfers these days, so let’s link these two together. I’m not sure how quickly Ollie will follow his classmates (listed at 1, 8 and 10 on this list) to the Tour, but he was the top amateur in the world last year for a reason. Like Payne, Schneiderjans is a bit crafty and unconventional (strong grip, throwback swing), but with the seasoning of college, he’s conditioned to handle the grind ahead.
Schneiderjans’ T.U.P. – Tour winner and developer of “The Ollie” instructional series on YouTube

I love the NBA Draft!

Full Time

Young broadcasters often ask me, ‘How can I do what you do?’ My answer has often been quick and unexpected: “Get a Job.”

Being a freelance broadcaster doesn’t mean that you are exclusively a broadcaster. In an ever-expanding industry that provides increased opportunities to call sports, the work is there but the livelihood in many cases is not. Working 9-to-5 affords many the luxury of also “working” 7-to-9 that night. That was the path that I chose when graduating from college and deciding to pursue my dream in the unconventional way.

In 2006, as my broadcasting career was at a crossroads, I was also in pursuit of a new “day job” that would provide balance. Somewhat serendipitously, I stumbled across an opening at the headquarters of my Fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. From alumni development to communications and, for the last three years, in a part-time role as manager of the quarterly publication, I’ve worked for Phi Psi for nearly a decade.

This wouldn’t have been possible without incredible co-workers and bosses, including Shawn Collinsworth, who hired me under the promise that he would support me in my pursuit of a full-time broadcasting career. He never wavered from that promise, affording me the opportunity to work from the road as my travel for broadcasts turned extensive over the past five years.

Choosing between two full-time jobs, even if one is your dream, is never easy. Double salaries are nice, and the people are better. Now, the time has come for me to say goodbye to a great partnership. I will still write on a freelance basis, as I do for a few other clients. Without Phi Psi, I wouldn’t be the broadcaster I am today. Thanks for the memories!

Mocking

In 2007, the NCAA started inviting select members of the media, in various forms, to participate in a mock selection of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. In 2007, I added another item to my bucket list. Eight years later, it was checked off this week, as I had the pleasure of joining some of the country’s preeminent college basketball writers, broadcasters and bloggers. We made a bracket. It was our baby. If the NCAA Tournament started on February 13th, I think we nailed it.

But, that’s not the point. Despite some heated conversations at the table about who belonged and what makes a tournament team, the real value was seeing how the committee goes through the process of creating the world’s most interesting bracket. The procedures, the technology and the scope were all impressive.

I would consider myself an NCAA apologist. Unlike some in the room, I had no agenda to ‘out’ the organization on perceived bias or systematic inefficiencies. As somebody who has hosted dozen of selection shows (for the NCAA), I respect the challenge of those tasked with giving schools a shot at a championship. Call it blind faith, but I think they do the best any of us could do. But, how do they do it? A few things stood out:

1) The process is so extensive and so organized, it becomes impossible for any committee member to view a team by name. While we talk about Duke, Indiana, Notre Dame, etc., after hours of staring at screens, the name of the school is rendered simply to a cue to look at a resume.
Within that, choosing teams to make the field is exhaustive. At the start, the committee ranks every team. Each team is either identified as an at-large selection (a team that you think is a lock to be in), under consideration (worthy of discussion to make the tournament) or nothing (better luck next year). With 10 members on the committee, it takes 80% of the at-large vote to immediately make the tournament (we slotted 17) and 30% of the consideration vote to make the discussion list (we identified 45).

Mock Shot 1

Those 45 teams took forever to whittle down. Each committee member then lists his/her top 8 from the consideration list. The consensus top 8 is then given to each committee member to rank, 1 thru 8, and the consensus top 4 are then slotted into the at-large list we established from the beginning. Oh, and we discuss teams at every juncture. Rinse, repeat, until you fill the field.

The ‘list 8, rank 8’ process is also used to seed teams once they are in the at-large list. While it’s the same process, it also offers a break from picking teams. Shifting back and forth is really helpful, especially as the resumes get worse. It helped to talk about really good teams for a few minutes before sorting through the muck.

2) The technology and information available is tremendous – I’m jealous of the committee. What they get to stare at for five days in March is like Christmas mated with the 4th of July for a college hoops fan. Ask to see two teams compared, boom, the magic NCAA Fairy Statmother pops them up together on the screen for all to see. What, you have four teams you want to see? There’s a Nitty Gritty report for that. My favorite: Hover your cursor over a particular stat (say, road record) for a team you’re comparing, and it highlights all those instances for every team you have pulled up.

Wanna compare the top 50 wins of Cincinnati, SMU, West Virginia and Georgia? There's an app for that!

Wanna compare the top 50 wins of Cincinnati, SMU, West Virginia and Georgia? There’s an app for that!

3) It’s an objectively subjective process – I brought this up to a committee member, but I thought the numbers in front of us were skewed, in that most of the stats were all related to wins. Top 50 wins, no less. I don’t have a problem with that. Who you beat is more important than who you may have lost to. That doesn’t mean that losses didn’t hurt a team, but wins were valued more. That was a question I had going in.
Strength of schedule was also big, and teams (I’m looking at you, Notre Dame, Ohio State and West Virginia) who didn’t bother to schedule in the non-conference schedule were skewered in moments.
Then there was the dreaded ‘eye test.’ It was mentioned so much during football season that I figured it was used, but to what extent? It turns out, a lot. It’s important. Once our mock committee heard that, we never went back.

So, which one means more? There is no correct answer. You want one? There isn’t one. And, you know what, it’s okay. There were good discussions between two teams, but with a room full of knowledgeable people, criteria was never a sticking point. There is no wrong answer. And, believe it or not, almost all cases have a clear cut “winner” in resume.

It should be noted that there are also several ah-ha moments that just slap you in the face. Oklahoma’s resume was crazy good. And then you have to ask yourself, “Is Oklahoma a 2 seed?” I still don’t know how to answer it.

4) Bracketing is about geography. No really, it’s about geography – Remember that cool technology part? Once you have teams seeded, it’s time to send them somewhere. Highlight the top seeded team and each geographic location is shown on screen with the total miles from that school’s campus to the venue. The NCAA want fans and schools able to make it. There were complications (conference conflicts, rematches, etc.), and I don’t want to simplify a process that took over an hour, but it really felt simple. Pick team, find closest venue, slot and continue.
This is where the age-old bias argument comes in. And, of all aspects of the selection process, it couldn’t be further from the truth here. I actually thought to myself, it is infinitely harder to create a biased situation on purpose than do what is actually done.

 

I wanted to write about certain teams, or scenarios (we had 3 Pac-12 teams in the First Four; don’t ask), but it really meant nothing for our exercise. It’s about the process. The committee will be questioned on Selection Sunday. Somebody will feel offended. What will be my response? Go beat somebody.

2015 Mock Selection Bracket

Best Picture in Golf

Yesterday on PGA Tour Pregame on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, in honor of the Academy Award Nominations, I solicited feedback from the listeners to add to my own list (6 of my 7 were suggested by callers; great minds…) and come up with the ultimate showdown vote off of The Best Picture in Golf.
This is not a movie discussion, but rather a discussion of what is the best visual image of golf. The debate was friendly and incredibly diverse because, let’s face it, there is no wrong answer. Personally, I think standing on the tee of the 18th at my home course is one of the best framed views in golf that I’ve played, but I am extremely biased and nobody could pick it out of a lineup if they tried:

Fort 18

So, in thinking about the Best Picture in all of golf, I felt that it had to be both beautiful (stunning or regal) AND recognizable. It’s why, to me, the 18th at St. Andrews has to be on the list. The hole itself is a tarmac, but it has one magical little bridge, and encompasses a walk unlike any other in golf. While there are prettier holes in the old country, there aren’t many that conjure up as much emotion. Perhaps you love the intensity and stadium quality of the island green, or the exposed brute simplicity of the 7th at Pebble.

So, without further ado, here are the seven choices (randomized) for you to vote on as ‘Best Picture’ in golf:

2015, Here We Go

Freelancing is the most flexible, exhilarating, stressful, awesome approach to having a career. Case in point: With contracts in the air and scheduling a bit late, I entered the month of December with no clue when/where or if I would be working in early 2015. I guess I was optimistic. Sources close to the situation informed me that it would likely work out.

It has. But, the time off over the long holiday allowed me to prepare my accountant, while also looking back at the year that was.

I’ve had this conversation with a number of peers and most of us agree: We get more excited to get gigs than to actually work them. I’ve called buzzer-beating winners, countless championship moments, holed-out golf shots and inspirational feats, yet I get more excited when the phone rings and somebody books me to work. I think it has something to do with being a fierce competitor. Almost all broadcasters have a formative, primal connection to sports. We can’t compete with the athletes we call, but we can compete with ourselves, our peers and the industry. It’s a brutal business, and you try to win.

But, it is healthy to always look back, reflect on what was accomplished, and just find a way to appreciate the ride. I may not be working in broadcasting in five years, but nothing will ever take away my stack of credentials, my library of DVDs/CDs or the archived moments of sports history. Some day, maybe I will have a job. For now, I have a dream journey. A journey that, in 2014, featured:

– 16 states
– 62,346 airline miles
– 6,780 miles in the car
– 10 sports covered in some way (m/w basketball, golf, curling, volleyball, men’s gymnastics, soccer, football, wrestling, tennis, softball)
– 3 levels (high school, college and professional)
– 5 mediums (TV, radio, internet, satellite, print)
– 8 clients (PGA Tour Radio, SiriusXM, Horizon League, ESPN3, ESPNU, NCAA, Fox Sports Indiana, IHSAA)

In the end, by my rough calculation, between talk shows, selection shows and play-by-play, I talked about sports for 554 hours in 2014. That’s 6.3% of the entire year. Not enough!

Second Season

Golf has become my signature. I played it. I know it. I love it. Now, I broadcast it… a lot. But, I have always prided myself on being versatile and, more importantly, a fan of every sport. (Don’t believe me, check out Curling!) Which is why I love trying to pack my golf “offseason” with as much other work. Basketball is a must, but volleyball has become a true love. The sport is fast, it is athletic and I think the potential for drama is great. Not to mention, momentum shifts in volleyball are lightning fast.

My late fall run of volleyball started this past week, with the 2014 Horizon League Volleyball Championship on ESPN3. You can watch a full archive stream of the championship match here, or here is a recap of the championship. So good to be calling volleyball again. I missed it!

Who To Pick

When Tom Watson was named Ryder Cup captain of the United States Ryder Cup team for 2014, I was thrilled as a fan of the game, and an American. No nonsense, no close connections to eligible players, no worry about results affecting any legacy. It was a brilliant move by the PGA, highly unconventional, but who needs convention when history shows nothing but European wins.

What I was disappointed in was Captain Watson removing some of his own power in limiting himself to three picks outside of the 9 automatic qualifiers. I wanted more gut feelings, artistry in assembling a team, from one of the all-time competitors. Now? I feel sorry for Watson. His team will head to Gleneagles as, possibly, the biggest US underdog in Cup history (4 European team members are currently ranked ahead of any US player in the World Golf Rankings – the top ranked American is Jim Furyk, which I didn’t see coming, did you?). Couple that with a Dustin Johnson lifestyle suspension, a Jason Dufner bulging disc and a Tiger Woods “it’s not you, it’s me” removal from consideration, and it is slim pickins to put together a full squad.

So, the biggest storyline now, even with the FedEx Cup ($67 million!!) getting started, is who will those final 3 picks be. Because a) everybody has an opinion and b) I love Power Rankings, here is my list of US hopefuls to make the squad that will shock the world (we can dream right?):

1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 – Keegan Bradley (13th in Final Points)
Technically, Bradley is top 3 of the “outside looking in” crowd because we’ve removed The Duff (10th, last out, in final standings) from consideration. We generally don’t get insight into who was the first captain’s pick, but this will be Watson’s. He brings emotion, a 3-1 record from Medinah and a good run of late (T4 at US Open, Greenbrier & Bridgestone). The MC at Valhalla stings a little, but he’s arguably the best driver in America (11th on Tour in Total Driving). He also is a good teammate by all accounts, obviously has a sweet partnership with Lefty (although I’d love to see Phil with Rickie a bit), and despite tinkering with the anchored putting stroke this year, was 21st in Total Putting. Oh, and he makes birdies. Why am I making an argument for Keegan here? It’s done. He’s on the team. No debate.
[He also accompanied Captain Watson to a practice round at Gleneagles in case you have doubt]

2 – Webb Simpson (15th in Final Points)
This one is so weird for me. A month ago, when it looked like the picks would need to include a lot of names that made you squirm, I felt like Webb was a lock. He was Top 10 for much of the year in FedEx Cup points, he has Ryder Cup experience, yada yada yada. It felt like the obvious, smart, safe pick. I even told Paul Tesori, Simpson’s caddie, that it was a done deal and he hinted that there was some conversations between possible player and possible captain when paired together at Greenbrier. Here are your other reasons: 10th in strokes gained putting and he was a closer this year, ranking 15th and 8th in third and fourth round scoring average this season (averaged under 70 for the weekend all year). While Simpson doesn’t strike you as a stone-faced killer on the course, this team needs a little historical edge to go into enemy territory. I think this is a safe bet.

3 – Brendon Todd (12th in Final Points)
If you don’t have captain’s picks, he makes the team on merit, which is crazy to think about. He was ranked 186th in the world on January 1st and is #41 as of today. You can make a case that he was the hottest American player for a good stretch of the summer: He has missed one cut since the Tour left Florida. Since winning in I’m-not-scared-of-winning fashion at the Nelson, he went T5, T8, T17, T5, T4. But now the but… No top 30s since the first week of July, including a whimper of a finish at the PGA after sitting atop the leaderboard early on Thursday. You get the feeling that if he is the last pick, he needs to show form in New Jersey and Boston while Watson still evaluates. Putting wins Ryder Cups, right? Todd is 6th in strokes gained putting. Jeff Overton made a Ryder Cup team as the from-nowhere hot hand. Give me Brendon Todd. Besides, in the year of Georgia Bulldogs, we need a four-year Dawg on this squad (Bubba and Reed had briefer stays)

4 – Brandt Snedeker (20th in Final Points)
Lots of love in the Sneds fan club and I just don’t get it. But, where there is smoke (everybody is practically giving him a spot on the team), there must be fire, so I put him here to avoid total embarrassment when I am wrong with my top 3. What Brandt has done is stolen Brendon Todd’s heat. Since the British, Snedeker has 14 of 16 rounds in the 60s and four straight top 25 finishes. The swing change appears to be settling in. While his putting wasn’t as amazing as we expect from him, he was still a top 20 roller on Tour this year. His ball striking from tee to green was ‘bleh’ for the year, but it’s getting better. He makes the team because he can putt, he’s playing well and you know what you’ll get. He won’t play in every session, but could you argue with Bradley, Simpson, Snedeker? Not really.

5 – Kevin Na (17th in Final Points)
I’m not joking. You want a putter? Check. (30th in strokes gained putting and near automatic inside 10 feet) Precision iron player? Check. (Top 10 on tour in proximity from 125-175 yards) You want hot play? Check. I have to give all of the credit to Rob Bolton on this, but nobody who isn’t already qualified for the US team accrued more World Golf Ranking points in 2014 than Na. Not even my boy, Brendon Todd. I say we throw both Todd and Na on the team, and put them out against McIlroy and McDowell and see if we can simply suck the life out of the match to a USA win!

6 – Ryan Moore (11th in Final Points)
With Dufner’s injury, Moore is unofficially the first one out in the point standings, and yet I don’t think I’ve seen anybody give him a shot of making the team. This is weird to me because, until Patrick Reed made us aware of how good his match play record was historically, Moore was the guy with the amateur resume that can’t get no respect. Hasn’t missed a cut since May, which includes three top 10s of late. You want numbers? I’ve got numbers: 9th in birdies, crazy accurate (14th in fairways and 12th in greens), and on a team that will dominate Par 5s, how about having the guy who led the Tour in Par 3 birdies and was 5th in Par 4 birdies? We need to start the ‘We Need Moore’ campaign now, right?!

So, there you have my top 6 to consider. I sooooo wanted to put Harris English on the list because he is a star waiting to be a star, but nothing inspiring of late inspired me. It’s an impossible situation for Captain Watson, made a bit “easier” with Phil qualifying and Tiger disqualifying, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 “veteran names” added to boost the squad that will be breaking Spieth and Reed into Ryder Cup battles.