Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson now knows the first nine players for his team. He has a little over three weeks until he makes his captains picks.
The nine players that made the team on points were - Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson.
Dustin Johnson would have made the team, but removed himself from consideration as he has taken a leave of absence from the PGA Tour. Last year's PGA Champion Jason Dufner was bumped from the No. 9 spot in the standings after he withdrew from his title defense after nine holes due to two bulging discs in his neck
Captain Watson will make his picks on September 2, after the first two FedExCup playoff events are completed.
Tiger Woods is likely out of contention for a pick as he stands 70th on the U.S. points list and he failed to make the FedExCup playoffs. And then there is his balky back. Would Woods even be healthy enough to help the team come the end of September? That is another big question.
Tom Watson was the last U.S. captain to win in Europe, in 1993, and he returns to captain this years team. He will lean on Mickelson and Furyk, who are making their 10th and ninth appearances, respectively.
Zach Johnson will be making his fourth Ryder Cup appearance, while Kuchar and Bubba Watson are playing the event for the third time. Fowler, Reed, Spieth and Walker are all making the first appearance.
Among the top competitors for the three captains picks are Dufner, Ryan Moore, Brendon Todd, Keegan Bradley, Chris Kirk, Webb Simpson, Harris English, Kevin Na, Ryan Palmer, Matt Every and Brandt Snedeker, who rank 10th to 20th on the points list after the PGA Championship.
Of that group, only Dufner, Bradley, Simpson and Snedeker have played in the Ryder Cup, and all four have made just one appearance in the event.
Captain Watson will have his work cut out in making his picks. The European team is stacked and will be the clear favorite heading into the event at Gleneagles.
MICKELSON FINALLY CRACKS TOP-10
It has been a difficult season for Phil Mickelson. His lone top-10 finish was in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of the season, and that was on the European Tour.
Mickelson's last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour was at the 2013 Barclays, where he shared sixth place. That all changed at Valhalla.
The 2005 PGA Champion fired four straight rounds in the 60s, including a final-round 66 to end alone in second place, one stroke behind winner Rory McIlroy.
Mickelson indicated afterwards that he is looking forward to the offseason so he can work out some kinks in his swing.
"My short irons were terrible this year as a whole. It's usually a strength and I've got to get that back. Perfect example is the wedge shot on four. That's right up my alley," Mickelson explained. "I'm trying to hole that half the time and I'm hitting it 18 feet. It was a pathetic shot that when I could have put some pressure on with a birdie, I should have knocked it inside four or five feet, no problem, and I hit a terrible shot. Things like that have been happening this year. I can't let that happen anymore."
Mickelson is guaranteed to play at least four more events this year. He is eligible for the first three FedExCup playoff events and has made the U.S. Ryder Cup team as well.
After the Ryder Cup, who knows when we'll see Mickelson play another event. One thing is for sure, he'll put in plenty of work in on the driving range after the Ryder Cup and before whatever that next event happens to be.
* PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy has gone 48-under par in winning his last three events - the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship. In his previous 12 stroke-play events prior to the Open Championship, the Ulsterman was 50-under par combined.
* McIlroy is the first player to win back-to-back major championships since Padraig Harrington won the Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2008.
* Runner-up Phil Mickelson ended in the top-10 at all three PGA Championships contested at Valhalla. He was second this week, shared eighth in 1996 and tied for ninth in 2000.
* Rickie Fowler joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only three players to finish in the top-5 in all four majors in one season. Fowler ended tied for fifth at the Masters, tied for second at both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship before sharing third at Valhalla. Woods and Nicklaus have both done it twice, and both won at least one of the four majors all four times they did so.
* The par-5 18th was the easiest hole in the final round as it averaged 4.38 strokes. For the week, the 18th was the simplest hole in the championship as players averaged 4.49 strokes on the hole. The 18th yielded 20 eagles for the week, while the other 17 holes combined to give up another 20.
* For the third straight day, the par-4 sixth was the most difficult hole as players averaged 4.36 strokes on that hole. The par-4 second was the hardest hole for the week as it averaged 4.36 strokes.
* McIlroy will defend his PGA Championship title next year at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.