Golf rankings are impossible. Let's start there. There is so little difference in the top 10 or 15 or 20 golfers in the world that it's almost impossible to separate them based on anything other than "this is how I feel in a given period of time about this player." Golfers move up and down the Official World Golf Rankings with fluidity based on past performance and current form, and it becomes difficult to properly pin down how good a golfer is in any given week.
With that Dustin Johnson-sized caveat, I'm going to rank the 24 golfers playing in the Ryder Cup this week. I'm ranking them based on a variety of inputs including (but not limited to) current form, past performance in big events, past performance in Ryder Cups and my perception of their desire to perform on the biggest stage in golf. Let's jump right in.
1. Brooks Koepka -- USA (Ryder Cup record: 3-1-0): How does that contrarian take taste? It's delightful, isn't it? Look, I know Koepka is coming off a bottom four finish at the Tour Championship, but all the evidence we have on him says (a) he's awesome at the biggest tournaments and (b) he's an elite team event golfer. He also won as many majors this season as the other 23 players at this event combined.
2. Patrick Reed -- USA (6-1-2): I cannot stress how absurd it is that his record at Ryder Cups is 6-1-2. That's impossible! The reigning Masters champ is basically the American Ian Poulter (younger version) ... but better.
3. Justin Rose -- Europe (11-6-2): He's coming off three consecutive top-five finishes on the PGA Tour and has notched 5.5 points at the last two Ryder Cups combined. As long as the pins aren't in the middle of the greens here, he'll be a force.
4. Rory McIlroy -- Europe (9-6-4): His streak of not losing a singles match at the Ryder Cup ended in 2016 when Reed disposed of him late, but he comes to Paris both knowing that he has to repeat his Hazeltine performance and having finished in the top seven in four of his last six events.
5. Justin Thomas -- USA (0-0-0): Our first rookie. Thomas went 3-1-1 at the Presidents Cup last year, and he craves the brightest spotlights. I'm ecstatic to see what he has in store for the good people of France. I have a feeling they'll find it distasteful.
6. Dustin Johnson -- USA (6-5-0): He's tinkered more than Padraig Harrington over the past few weeks, but D.J. was pretty clearly the consistently best golfer on the PGA Tour all season and has finished in the top three five times (!) in his last 10 events.
7. Tiger Woods -- USA (13-17-3): His Ryder Cup record stinks, but his 2018 is impossible to ignore. I'm excited to watch him mix it up with Reed or Thomas or Bryson DeChambeau ... or Phil Mickelson on a team that he doesn't feel like he has to drag across the finish line.
I just played with Tiger today and it is the best I’ve ever seen him swing the club. It is so on plane and solid. I’ll be asking for a shot a side for our Thanksgiving match. I doubt I’ll get it though.— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) September 25, 2018
8. Bryson DeChambeau -- USA (0-0-0): Yeah, I'll go there. How do you say, "that dogleg is an acute angle" in French?
9. Tommy Fleetwood -- Europe (0-0-0): I think he's going to be a crusher of souls at the course where he won the French Open in 2017. The Thomas Pieters of this year's Ryder Cup.
10. Jon Rahm -- Europe (0-0-0): His form hasn't been ideal (one top 10 since May), but I could have been convinced before May that he was going to go 6-0-0.
11. Webb Simpson -- USA (2-3-1): I'm in. I think his perception vs. reality might be the most stark of anyone in this event. He's written off as a liability for the U.S. whereas the reality is that his Ryder Cup record has been average (not terrible), and he's had one of the best seasons of anyone in this event. Bring me your pitchforks and your torches, and I will ride with Simpson taking at least two points in Paris.
12. Rickie Fowler -- USA (2-4-5): The record isn't great, but he was really good for stretches at both the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. It looks like he'll be playing with either D.J., J.T. or Jordan Spieth (which obviously helps!).
13. Jordan Spieth -- USA (4-3-2): I don't know what to do with Spieth. He's generationally great, which means he can probably flip the switch at any given event. Still, this year has been lousy by his standards. I do think getting in the team room with a handful of the best to ever play this sport who are looking at him saying, "You're the guy" will be good for his psyche.
14. Henrik Stenson -- Europe (7-7-2): No top 10s since the U.S. Open, and he's been battling injuries throughout the season. I respect the history, though, which is why I have him this high.
15. Francesco Molinari -- Europe (0-3-2): I respect that Claret Jug. Less so his history at this event. He had an epic season, but the Ryder Cup is such a reset button that I'm not sure it matters.
16. Paul Casey -- Europe (3-2-4): No top 10s on the PGA Tour since June. A lot of the golfers in this tournament started out the year on fire and faded late. Casey is one of them.
17. Ian Poulter -- Europe (12-4-2): He's made a career of proving fools like me wrong, but I think the dirty little secret of this European team is that Poulter isn't what he once was. One top 10 since April, and he went 0-1-2 at Gleneagles including a halved point with Simpson.
18. Tony Finau -- USA (0-0-0): You could legitimately argue that he's the hottest golfer on the planet despite not winning. Seven top 15s in his last 10 events, and I think he craves the ball (which matters). Of his last 28 rounds on the PGA Tour, 22 (!) have been in the 60s.
19. Phil Mickelson -- USA (18-20-7): I get that the Tour Championship performance was putrid, but two of his last four events were top 20s, and he won't be asked to do too much in Paris.
20. Sergio Garcia -- Europe (19-11-7): Even as I type this, I regret putting him here. He's obviously one of the best to ever tee it up at this event, and I think that can be rekindled. It's hard to overstate his form, though. I had the same number of top 20s as he did on the PGA Tour from April on.
21. Tyrrell Hatton -- Europe (0-0-0): I have no idea how this is going to go. It's all in play. He could be Rafa Cabrera Bello. He could be Andy Sullivan. He could miss his first tee shot. He could clinch the Ryder Cup. I'd believe it all.
22. Alex Noren -- Europe (0-0-0): It gets a little silly when we get to this point on the list. I'm ranking the No. 18 player in the world as the 22nd-best at this Ryder Cup.
23. Thorbjorn Olesen -- Europe (0-0-0): It looks as if he might get on Rory's back for the first few days, but 6,500 fans at the first tee is not the easiest proposition to navigate in your first Ryder Cup.
24. Bubba Watson -- USA (3-8-0): Little form (one top 10 since June), a poor Ryder Cup record (3-8-0) and his road frustrations (one point scored in two Ryder Cups away from the U.S.) add up to Watson finishing last on this list.