With the Ryder Cup less than two months away and only a couple of weeks of qualifying still to go, it's time to look at a full Ryder Cup reset on both sides of the pond. A lot has happened since the last time we looked at the squads, but it seems like both are falling into place quite nicely for the captains in the lead up to Paris. Let's start with the Americans, the favorites, and their eight auto qualifiers as it stands with two tournaments left to go.
The way points are distributed -- one point per $1,000 earned at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and 1.5 points per $1,000 earned at the PGA Championship (two points per $1,000 for the winner) -- means there's a lot at stake over the final two weeks of automatic qualifying.
Last year's winner of the Bridgestone Invitational received $1.66 million, which amounts to 1,660 Ryder Cup points. Last year's PGA Championship winner received $1.89 million, or 1,890 Ryder Cup points. Heck, the runner up would have received over 1,000, too. That means somebody like Tony Finau (3,301 points) or Brian Harman (3,241 points) could easily leap up this board and into an automatic qualifying spot if they were to win either of the next two tournaments.
However, barring a shake-up with somebody just outside the top 10 -- Xander Schauffele Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Brian Harman -- winning one of the final two events or coming in second in both or something similar, it looks like the top seven are fairly locked up points-wise. Simpson can be caught by DeChambeau, Mickelson or one of those outside the top 10, but two halfway-decent performances at Bridgestone and the PGA, and he's in.
What that means is that Mickelson and Tiger Woods will take up the two captain's picks, leaving Kuchar, DeChambeau, Finau, Kisner, Harman and Schauffele to battle it out over the final two. Logically these would go to Kuchar (experience) and DeChambeau (the closest non-qualifier almost always gets a nod), but Schauffele and Finau represent two fascinating wild cards. I think both would be awesome at a Ryder Cup, and they have a combined five (!) top 10s at major championships so far this year.
They shouldn't count on those captain's picks, though. "Jim Furyk" and "nontraditional progressive" are not exactly two phrases that are often found together, and he's most likely to roll with Mickelson, Woods, Kuchar and probably whoever finishes 9th in the rankings (DeChambeau for now). There is work to do for everyone, and Schauffele and Finau will have their shot over the next eight rounds of golf.
The European qualifying is much more complex. The top four are taken based on European points, and they currently include Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton. The next four are the top four in world points that aren't already in based on European points, and they include Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren, Jon Rahm and Paul Casey. That's a formidable squad.
On the outside looking in (but with a chance to make a little noise down the stretch) are Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Thorbjorn Olesen, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Knox, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher, Eddie Pepperell and Rafa Cabrera Bello. Europe's last qualifying event will be the Made in Denmark at the beginning of September, so Thomas Bjorn has a bit more time than Furyk to let his team settle.
If the eight that are currently auto qualifiers go on to make the team (Casey is in the most danger of falling out, and even he isn't really that close) then Bjorn's picks seem pretty straightforward. Garcia, Stenson, Poulter and whoever he likes best of the Olesen, Knox, Fisher, Fitzpatrick, Pepperell and Cabrera Bello group. A great showing by one of them over this last month of qualifying would likely be enough to break whatever stalemate there is currently, but it seems highly unlikely that Ryder Cup lions like Garcia, Stenson and Poulter would be left off the team (barring injury).
So let's project and say the teams look something close to this (I'll give Cabrera Bello the nod on the Euro side because he's the highest ranked in the OWGR).
|U.S Team||Euro Team|
Rafa Cabrera Bello
My gosh. That's ... 22 of the top 29 players in the world. The only two who are not in the top 29 in the world are Tiger Woods (No. 50) and Ian Poulter (No. 32). Both are the most certain of locks for their respective teams.
So yeah, this Ryder Cup is going to be an all-timer. And while a few details could change between now and the first matches at the end of September, this is going to be mostly how both squads look. That's a good thing if you love golf because the argument could be made that neither side has ever been better.