NEW YORK — U.S. captain Tom Watson said he wanted to fill out his Ryder Cup team with players who were on form and starting to peak.
The final pick was more about two years ago than what happened the day before.
Watson went with experience — and a gut feeling — when he selected Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson to complete an American team that will try to end two decades of European dominance in the Ryder Cup.
He didn’t decide until Tuesday morning to go with Simpson, persuaded by a pair of big wins he had in the last Ryder Cup. That was enough for Watson to take him over Chris Kirk, who went head-to-head with Rory McIlroy over the last 36 holes Monday and won the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“Nobody is going to expect us to win,” Watson said Tuesday night from Rockefeller Center. “But I fully expect us to win.”
Bradley and Mahan weren’t surprising choices.
Bradley wears his Ryder Cup passion proudly, and he made a sterling debut two years ago by winning all three team matches with Phil Mickelson. Even last week, he didn’t hide how badly he wanted to be on the team.
Mahan won The Barclays two weeks ago against one of the strongest fields of the year. He is one of only three players on the U.S. team who has experience winning a Ryder Cup, even though he is associated more with being in the decisive match that Graeme McDowell won in Wales to deliver another win to Europe.
Simpson was a small mystery.
In his Ryder Cup debut at Medinah, he teamed with Bubba Watson for a pair of 5-and-4 victories. Simpson also lost two matches, including a singles match to Ian Poulter in a match he never trailed until Poulter won the last two holes for a 2-up victory.
Kirk, who has never played in a Ryder Cup, finished ahead of Simpson in the standings and won a FedEx Cup playoff event.
“People have to realize that’s a snapshot,” Watson said. “You have to look at the total package, the total picture. That’s just one tournament. … The final decision of Webb, that was the toughest of the decisions because Webb had some good play and he had some bad play. He missed a few cuts recently. But he’s shown what he can do.
“The guy can get it done,” he said. “He can flat get it done.”
Watson bristled when asked whether he contradicted himself by saying he was looking for the hot hand after qualifying had ended at the PGA Championship, and then choosing a hot hand from two years ago.
“Why do you think I said that? Why do you think I put the pressure on them?” he said. “I put the pressure on them to play well to see if they could play well under pressure. It’s not a contradiction. Webb played some damn good golf.”
Whomever he chose, Watson’s message was clear. The Ryder Cup, to be played Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles, is all about redemption.
The Americans were poised to win at Medinah two years ago when they took a 10-6 lead into the final day, only for Poulter, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer to deliver key putts and big comebacks that allowed Europe to retain the cup.
Europe has won seven of the last nine times, and it will be heavily favored in Scotland.