Before deciding on a veteran as one of his two wild-card selections to the U.S. Ryder Cup team, captain Dave Stockton made intensive studies of individual records, repeated surveys of his players, and, possibly, read some tea leaves.
Though all signs pointed to either Tom Watson or Tom Kite, with Jack Nicklaus a long shot, Stockton opened the envelope yesterday after two sleepless nights and unveiled a surprise:
"A month ago, Raymond wasn't even in the top three or four," Stockton said yesterday from Castle Rock, Colo. "But he has been playing well. He shot a 68 in the final round of the U.S. Open to finish eighth. He had a 69 and tied for seventh in the PGA. He's what I'm looking for.
In a less surprising decision, Stockton added Chip Beck -- the only U.S. player not to lose a match in the last Ryder Cup, in 1989 -- to the 12-man team that will face Europe in the 29th edition of the biennial matches, Sept. 27-29 at Kiawah Island, S.C.
Floyd, who will be 49 next month, will be playing in the Ryder Cup for the seventh time and will be the first person to play in four decades. He also captained the 1989 team that halved with Europe, 14-14, allowing Europe to retain the cup. He will be the first player to compete after having served as a non-playing captain since Ben Hogan in 1951.
Stockton, acknowledging that coming up with two wild-card picks "was the only part of this job I did not like at all," said he had wanted to select a younger player and a veteran. He said Watson, Kite and Floyd -- with 16 Ryder Cup appearances among them -- were very close in the latter category.
He considered Watson's experience in playing links-style layouts like the Ocean Course, site of this year's Ryder Cup, and Kite's Ryder Cup record (13-7-4). But neither player has distinguished himself lately; Watson missed the cut at the PGA, and Kite has not played well the last two months.
In the end, Stockton went with performance. Though he hasn't won a tournament since 1986, Floyd has five top-10 finishes -- counting the Open and PGA -- in 14 events this year. He also remains one of the game's best putters, something in which the captain puts much stock.
"You have to have a good putter," Stockton said. "Watson and Kite have played well, but they haven't been finishing off. Raymond is putting better than either of the other two. Any of the three I mentioned would make a great partner in alternate shot or four-ball. But Raymond can still make the putts."
As for Floyd's Ryder Cup record, 7-13-3 (which includes the U.S. mark for most Ryder Cup matches lost), Stockton said, "Ray's been paired against some tough people. This will be a good chance to improve his record."
Conversely, Beck received overwhelming support. Beck, who will be 35 next month, has five top-10 placings this year. He lost a playoff at the Buick Open and finished tied for 23rd at the PGA.
Stockton said Beck became a prime wild-card candidate when Steve Pate moved up into the 10th and final automatic qualifying berth with his tie for seventh at the PGA. The other nine members of the team are U.S. Open champ Payne Stewart, Fred Couples, Hale Irwin, Lanny Wadkins, Paul Azinger, Wayne Levi, Mark O'Meara, Mark Calcavecchia and Corey Pavin.