Is there any U.S. player who benefitted from the Ryder Cup being delayed a year than Jordan Spieth?
Spieth was ranked outside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking when the original September dates for the postponed matches at Whistling Straits came and went, but now the three-time Ryder Cupper is a spot out of automatically qualifying for captain Steve Stricker’s squad.
And he’s almost guaranteed a captain’s pick should he not earn his way onto the team via points.
The top six American players in points following next month’s BMW Championship will qualify, while Stricker will fill out the 12-man roster with six picks, which will be determined after the Tour Championship.
Here are the top six players ahead of Spieth: 1. Collin Morikawa, who jumped two spots following his Open Championship victory, followed by 2. Dustin Johnson, 3. Bryson DeChambeau, 4. Brooks Koepka, No. 5 Justin Thomas and No. 6 Xander Schauffele.
Spieth is seventh, while the next five players are No. 8 Patrick Reed, No. 9 Harris English, No. 10 Patrick Cantlay, No. 11 Daniel Berger and No. 12 Tony Finau. Of those six, English, Cantlay and Berger do not have prior Ryder Cup experience; English hasn’t even played a Presidents Cup. And what is to be made of Reed? With his past antics in team events, can he still rely on a pick?
It’s unlikely Stricker will go straight off the rankings when selecting his picks, as there are some intriguing options outside of the top 12.
"There's a lot of guys there, but I think it'll shake itself out," Stricker said at the Deere. "I don't think it's going to be more difficult at all. You know, I'll have the opportunity to sit with those six players. After the top six make the team, I plan on seeing these six players and getting their feedback to the next six that we're going to pick. I want this to be a team effort. I want everybody to be all in on who these six picks are going to be and make it a team, a true team deal."
Webb Simpson is No. 13 and has shown in past Cups that he can play with even the most combustible of teammates; he may come in handy should the DeChambeau-Koepka feud bleed over into the team room.
Phil Mickelson is No. 17, a ranking boosted heavily by Mickelson’s PGA triumph at Kiawah earlier this year. Will that be enough to push Mickelson’s streak of consecutive Ryder Cups to 13? It’s possible, especially considering some players in front of him – English, Scheffler, Jason Kokrak and Billy Horschel – have zero national-team experience as pros.
Will Zalatoris rounds out the top 20 and has been a popular candidate to make his first team, though a back injury forced him to withdraw at Royal St. George’s and could affect his form these next few weeks as Zalatoris tries to impress the captain.
On the European side, Europe captain Padraig Harrington has a much clearer picture. He’s already said that Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia would have an “expansive advantage” when it comes to making the team as captain’s picks. And at Royal St. George's, he told Golf Digest that "there are probably six experienced and maybe three rookies vying for the picks."
Harrington only gets three picks, which will be unveiled following the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Assuming Poulter and Garcia, who are both in the top 15 on the world points list, are picked, that leaves just one more spot up for grabs.
Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick are currently in on European points, while Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry are in position via world points.
McIlroy spoke Sunday at The Open that he expects Lowry to be the third pick should he not qualify on his own.
"I think even if he didn't play his way into the points this week or the next few weeks, pretty sure he'd still be on the team going to Whistling Straits," McIlroy said. "He's fiery, competitive, doesn't like to lose, all the things that you would want in a person to go and play a Ryder Cup, especially in America when you need personalities that are going to go up against not just the American team but the American crowd. I think he's tailor made for that."
Two potential rookies are next in line on those points lists, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger in European points and France’s Victor Perez, who was just bumped out of position by Lowry in world points. They would be among the candidates for a pick should they not automatically qualify. If Harrington is being honest about rookies, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre is likely the only other player without experience still in consideration, leaving Italy's Guido Migliozzi and Thomas Detry on the outside looking in. England’s Justin Rose, an established veteran, and his countryman Danny Willett also probably feels like they still have a chance at getting a pick.
"It’s harder for the rookies," Harrington told Digest. "They have to do something exceptional to get a pick. Then again, if you do something exceptional it is likely you will make the team. But yes, nine guys are strongly in my mind as possible picks. A lot depends on who plays their way into that ninth spot. If Victor [Perez] holds on, he will be a rookie. So I’d be more likely to go with experienced players as picks."