EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth in O's series of updates on the Ryder Cup held at Gleneagles in Scotland on Sept. 26-28.
The Final Stretch
With the third major championship of the season in the books, the Ryder Cup picture is coming into focus at a rapid rate. Perhaps no player has benefitted more from the current points system than Rickie Fowler. He was as a co-runner-up in the last two majors following a tie for fifth at the Masters in what have been the only three double-point events. Following a deep dive into all things Team USA, we will double back and take a snapshot at Team Europe.
Dating back to the Masters, U.S. captain Tom Watson shared that the PGA of America felt 4,600 points would be necessary to secure one of the nine automatic spots for the U.S. squad. If that holds up, there are seven Americans currently in the safety zone.
Bubba Watson (6,828.138) and Jimmy Walker (5,510.205) have long been locks. They were joined by Dustin Johnson (5,133.807) and Matt Kuchar (4,764.065) when last we checked in. Bubba remains first in the standings, with Watson second, DJ fourth and Kuchar seventh.
At the risk of sounding like a cable news network on an election night, we are ready to project three more members to the podium to accept their spot on Team USA.
• Rickie Fowler (5,403.253) – Catapults all the way to third with his T2 at Hoylake on the heels of his T2 at Pinehurst. He was a bubble boy at seventh upon our previous review following the U.S. Open. The king of the flat bill will attract a fun group of views to Gleneagles in a few months. Though he’s only won once on the PGA TOUR and hasn’t hoisted a trophy at all this season, he will be a solid inclusion to captain Watson’s squad.
• Jim Furyk (5,259.594) – Joins Fowler as a player on the team who hasn’t bagged a win this season, but has a pair of runner-up finishes joining a solo fourth at The Open Championship. As mentioned in prior previews, it’s very debatable as to if Furyk’s experience in this event is good or bad given his personal record (9-17-4) and the struggles of Team USA in recent years. No matter, he resides in fourth place and can mail in his clothing sizes.
• Jordan Spieth (4,781.827) – Barely ahead of Kuchar in sixth, Spieth should avoid the stress of sweating out a captain’s pick that would be sure to come. Young blood like Fowler and Spieth could be the key to a U.S. revival in Scotland. Joins Fowler and Furyk as non-winners in 2013-14, which is in interesting trend.
The gap between Matt Kuchar in seventh and Jason Dufner in eighth place is pretty enormous -- essentially a victory -- with Kuchar leading Dufner by 1,247.72 points. Knowing that nine places are reserved for the automatics, places 8-18 are all within striking distance of an automatic spot with a win down the stretch. Those players are Dufner (3,516.345), Zach Johnson (3,450.894), Patrick Reed (3,301.393), Phil Mickelson (3,252.838), Brendon Todd (3,250.483), Chris Kirk (3,226.483), Ryan Moore (3,118.872), Webb Simpson (3,086.070), Keegan Bradley (3,016.698), Harris English (2,966.569) and Kevin Na (2,878.818).
One has to like Dufner and ZJ’s chances of being on the team at Gleneagles, either by hanging on for an automatic bid or nabbing a captain’s pick. It remains to be seen if guys like Reed, Todd, Kirk, Moore, English or Na would pack the punch to earn a nod from Tom Watson should they fail to earn their way on the team. Gut reaction is that they wouldn’t. Mickelson, Simpson and Bradley would also warrant consideration.