Ryder Cup status heading into PGA Championship
We knew U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson was going to have decisions to make when it came to making the three captain’s picks for this year’s team.
But with the changes since last week, the race for those trying to make the 12-man U.S. Ryder Cup team appears even murkier than expected.
Tiger Woods needed two solid showings to get into contention to make the team, but he instead withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone on Sunday afternoon. And then there’s Dustin Johnson. He was a lock for the team at fifth in the points list, but will miss the Ryder Cup as he takes a leave of absence from golf.
So, with one tournament left to gain points there’s plenty of drama left.
We take a closer look heading into this week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. The nine players who earn a spot on the team via the points list will be named to the team next Monday at Valhalla.
POINTS LEFT ON THE BOARD: The top nine players on the U.S. points list as of Aug. 11 – the day after the PGA Championship – are automatically on the team.
So, that means this is it. The year’s final major is the final time for players to earn points to make it onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Golfers are awarded two points for every $1,000 earned this week at the PGA.
The winner this week - if American - would earn 3,000 points.
WHERE DOES TIGER STAND: Tiger Woods needs Tom Watson to like his game.
He currently sits 69th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list with 806 points and would only crack the top 37 with a win – if he even plays this week.
So, it’s going to be up to Watson.
The U.S. captain will have a tough decision to make after Woods was re-injured on Sunday. Watson said Monday on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio that he was watching when Woods was injured and sent him a text.
“Tiger would be a great addition to our team,” Watson said. “But as I have said all along, I would pick Tiger Woods if he’s healthy and playing well.
“This doesn’t bode well right now.”
HOW ABOUT LEFTY: Phil Mickelson has been a mainstay on the U.S. Ryder Cup team since 1993 and is creeping into the automatic pick stage after a final-round 62 at the WGC-Bridgestone that gave him some momentum heading into the PGA.
Mickelson is No. 10 on the points list currently with 3,350 points heading to Valhalla. A solid finish would likely allow him to jump into the top nine.
Even without an automatic pick, it’s hard to imagine Lefty not being picked by Watson. Mickelson has the most Ryder Cup appearances for an American with nine, in recent years has been the glue guy for the U.S., has played in a record 38 Ryder Cup matches and has won 17 points for the Americans.
LOCKS ONTO THE TEAM: Bubba Watson leads the U.S. points list with 6,892 points and has a spot on the team officially locked up, along with four others.
Jim Furyk (5,972), Jimmy Walker (5,585), Rickie Fowler (5,573) and Matt Kuchar (5,114) already have spots on the team locked up as well.
We’ll say those five and Jordan Spieth (4,835) can go ahead and book a trip to Scotland, leaving everyone else battling for the final three spots.
PGA President Ted Bishop’s prediction earlier in the year was that it would take 4,637 points to qualify for the team, and it was pretty close.
BUBBLE WATCH: Patrick Reed made a big jump with his first top-10 finish since March over the weekend.
With the solid week, Reed jumped from No. 10 on the points list to No. 7 with 3,609 points, and with another solid week, he should be able to hang on to one of the final three spots.
Jason Dufner is No. 8 with 3,559, followed by Zach Johnson (3,532), Mickelson (3,350), Keegan Bradley (3,324), Brendon Todd (3,307), Ryan Moore (3,288), Chris Kirk (3,287), Webb Simpson (3,155) and Harris English (3,036).
Unless someone outside of that top 16 wins the PGA, it's hard to imagine more than one player under 3,000 points in the standings now making the team on an automatic bid. Only 26 players have more than 2,000 points.
CAPTAIN’S PICKS: It’s going to all depend on the health of Woods.
If he’s healthy, look for Watson to make him one of the three picks, but at this point that looks unlikely.
Others could come off the list of players who just miss, while Mickelson would be a lock as a captain’s pick if not in the top 10. It would also be hard not to see Watson take Keegan Bradley, who is hot now, as one of his three picks.
Watson could also think about taking a player like Hunter Mahan, who has been successful in the past.
BOTTOM LINE: With or without Woods at the PGA, there will be some Ryder Cup drama this week at Valhalla.
A lot of eyes will be on Mickelson to see if he can make it on his own, while it’s my guess now that we’ll have another Ryder Cup without Woods.
I’ll say the top seven plus Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson make it as automatic picks. Which would leave Bradley, Webb Simpson and perhaps Mahan or Ryan Moore as the captain’s picks.