Ryder Cup captain’s picks: Don’t leave Daniel Berger off this U.S. team
The 43rd Ryder Cup is just around the corner, on Sept. 24-26 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. We know who the automatic qualifiers are for the U.S and who they likely will be for Europe, so now the fun begins as we wait to see which players land a spot via captain’s picks, which will be announced in the coming weeks. Yes, Jordan Spieth wasn’t an auto-qualifier, but let’s get real, Spieth will be on the U.S. team. But what about the other guys, the players who might not be slam-dunk picks? In the days leading up to the captain’s picks, our staffers make their case for some of those players.
Previous installments: The case for Scottie Scheffler | Should the Europeans call up the old guard, or go with new blood?
Daniel Berger’s career match play record is not particularly impressive. In fact, it’s particularly unimpressive. At the WGC-Match Play, Berger is 3-9 in his four appearances and has never made it out of pool play. But that’s the only negative thing you can say about Berger’s case for inclusion on Team USA.
The match play record is old news. It’s so 2018. That Berger was on the decline. He finished 2018 at No. 60 in the world. He finished 2019 at No. 154.
Now? Berger is back to being the sniper we were promised when he arrived on Tour. He’s fifth in strokes gained approach the green. He’s top 60 off the tee and on the green. He’s a rock-solid Tour pro in nearly every facet of the game and he’s armed with an iron-striping superpower. Berger is back. He’s better than ever.
The case for his inclusion on this year’s Ryder Cup team is, in fact, incredibly simple: He has played such solid, consistent golf this season that it would be impossible to leave him off.
Berger enters Tour Championship week at No. 12 in the Ryder Cup rankings. At 10,906 points, Berger is just 25 points behind Patrick Reed at No. 11 but more than 1,000 ahead of Webb Simpson at No. 13. So, going merely by the points, he should be on the team.
But the points don’t tell the full story. If you head to DataGolf’s fantastic Strokes Gained tool, you’ll find that Berger is the seventh-best American over the last three months. He’s the fifth-best American over the last six months. And he’s the sixth-best American over the last year. In all, DataGolf ranks him as the fourth-most deserving American Ryder Cup rep, behind just Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson and ahead of, well, everybody else.
Team USA is favored at Whistling Straits. They’re not looking for an all-or-nothing hero from the 11 or 12 spot on their side — they’re looking for someone who can steady the ship and pick up a couple points in the process. Berger’s baseline is incredibly high. He’s missed just three cuts in his last 35 starts. Over that same period, he has two wins, six top-three finishes and 15 top-10s.
Thinking about team chemistry? That’s just another reason to include Berger. He’s part of the Jup Crew, the south Florida squad that includes Ryder Cuppers Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Johnson and Cantlay. Few people on the planet would be more comfortable playing a fourball match alongside fellow members of the U.S. team.
Oh, and as for that match play record? You can use those numbers however you’d like. In Berger’s only Team USA appearance, he went 2-1 at the 2017 Presidents Cup and earned the clinching point with a singles win over Si Woo Kim. This year, he had his best WGC Match-Play showing yet, going 2-1 before falling in a fickle playoff. He’s a better golfer than he’s ever been. He’s a better golfer than nearly anyone on the planet. And it would be foolish to keep him off this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team.