As if there wasn’t enough on the line in the final two weeks of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, a handful of players are still fighting for spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will compete against Europe outside Rome in late September. Since the Ryder Cup included all of Europe as a team in 1979, the U.S. has won nine and lost 11, including a 3-7 record since the turn of the century.
The top six players in the U.S. team points standings after this week’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, Illinois, will automatically qualify for the team as well. Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Brooks Koepka and Max Homa currently round out the top six.
While some players, like Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, seem to be in better position than others, there’s still a lot that can shake out over the next two weeks. U.S. team captain Zach Johnson will make six captain’s picks after the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta on Aug. 27.
“We have so much at stake these next two weeks, whether it’s money, whether it’s Ryder Cup,” Keegan Bradley said. “There’s so much to play for, and that’s really exciting.”
Here’s where the top contenders stand heading into the BMW Championship:
Scottie Scheffler (first in points with 25,857.74)
Where he stands: Scheffler has already qualified for Team USA. He posted a 2-0-1 record as a Ryder Cup rookie in the Americans’ 19-9 rout of the Europeans at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in September 2021.
Scheffler defeated Jon Rahm, 4 and 3, in a singles match on Sunday when it looked like nobody could take down the Spanish golfer. That performance was a springboard for Scheffler, who won four times the next season, including his first major championship at the 2022 Masters.
Wyndham Clark (second in points with 13,406.92)
Where he stands: Clark, who was ranked 313th in the world after back-to-back missed cuts in May 2022, is now 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking after picking up his first two PGA Tour victories at the Wells Fargo Championship and U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
The 29-year-old competed in the 2014 Palmer Cup. It will be his first international team event as a professional.
Locks to make the team
Patrick Cantlay (third in points with 10,614.75)
Where he stands: Cantlay climbed three spots in the U.S. team points standings after falling to Lucas Glover in a playoff at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis, Tennessee, the first FedEx Cup playoff event.
Cantlay was fantastic at Whistling Straits as a Ryder Cup rookie, going 3-0-1 in his matches and earning 3½ points, which tied for second most on the team. Cantlay and good friend Xander Schauffele defeated Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, 5 and 3, in their opening match. Cantlay beat Ireland’s Shane Lowry, 4 and 2, in a Sunday’s single match.
Brian Harman (fourth in points with 10,310.54)
Where he stands: Undoubtedly, Harman threw a wrench in Johnson’s plans when he unexpectedly won The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in July and vaulted into the top five in Ryder Cup points. He had three runner-ups and six top-10s before he became Champion Golfer of the Year.
Harman was a very good match-play competitor as an amateur, representing the U.S. in the 2005 and 2009 Walker Cups and 2006 and 2007 Palmer Cups. He was the youngest player to ever compete in the Walker Cup as an 18-year-old. It would be his first international team event as a professional. If Harman’s putter is as hot as it was for four days in Hoylake, England, he’ll be just fine at Marco Simone.
Brooks Koepka (fifth in points with 9,421.15)
Where he stands: Koepka all but secured his spot on the team when he captured his fifth major championship victory and third Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship in Rochester, New York, in May. He also picked up a LIV Golf League victory in Orlando, Florida, in May and tied for second at the Masters the next week. That should be more than enough good work to make the team.
Koepka is one of the six automatic qualifiers right now. He could fall outside the top six if two players relatively close to him in the standings, say Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, finished 1-2 in the BMW Championship. All things considered, it seems Johnson would have to use one of his six captain’s choices on Koepka.
Max Homa (sixth in points with 8,848.76)
Where he stands: Homa seemed like a lock to make the team after his sizzling stretch from late January to late March, in which he won the Farmers Insurance Open, was solo second at the Genesis Invitational and tied for sixth at The Players.
But then Homa’s struggles in the majors continued, as he tied for 43rd at the Masters, 55th at the PGA Championship and missed the cut at the U.S. Open in his hometown. He has righted the ship lately, however, with three straight top-15 finishes, including a tie for 10th at The Open.
Homa went 4-0 in his international team debut as a pro at the 2022 Presidents Cup. He rallied to defeat red-hot Tom Kim of South Korea in Sunday singles.
Xander Schauffele (seventh in points with 8,830.27)
Where he stands: It hasn’t been Schauffele’s most dominant season on the PGA Tour, but it has certainly been one of his most consistent. He has 16 top-25 finishes and hasn’t missed a cut in 20 starts on tour. He finished in the top 20 of each of the four majors, including a tie for 10th at the Masters and U.S. Open.
Schauffele was very good in his past two team events. He went 3-1 at both the 2021 Ryder Cup and 2022 Presidents Cup. Plus, someone is going to have to try to speed up Cantlay in Rome.
Jordan Spieth (eighth in points with 8,066.33)
Where he stands: Like Schauffele, Spieth doesn’t have a victory this season and has just two since claiming his third major at the 2017 Open Championship. He has been fairly good this season with 10 top 25s and seven top 10s in 20 starts, including a tie for sixth at the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
At 30 years old, Spieth would be one of the veterans on this squad. He is a four-time competitor in both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup and has been a part of six winning squads. He was the top points getter at Quail Hollow with a 5-0-0 record.
On the bubble
Cameron Young (ninth in points with 7,795.31)
Where he stands: It’s been a so-so season for the second-year PGA Tour pro, who is still searching for his first victory on tour. He was runner-up at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, which is going to carry weight with Johnson. He also tied for seventh at the Masters and eighth at The Open.
The 26-year-old former Wake Forest star is one of the longest hitters off the tee, averaging 317.1 yards, which ranks third on tour. He’s an improving iron player, but his putting (166th in strokes gained: putting) could be a liability. He was 1-2-1 in his Presidents Cup debut last year.
Collin Morikawa (10th in points with 7,503.48)
Where he stands: The two-time major championship winner hasn’t picked up a PGA Tour victory in more than two years. His last victory came at the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England.
Still, Morikawa has been very good in the majors over the past three seasons, finishing in the top 10 in six of the past 11. He tied for 10th at the Masters and 14th at the U.S. Open. Morikawa ranks in the top 10 in strokes gained: total, greens in regulation and driving accuracy.
Morikawa formed a formidable pairing with Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits, as they combined to win each of their three matches together. Morikawa tied his singles match with Norway’s Viktor Hovland. Johnson, who is competing in the LIV Golf League, is 40th in points and probably won’t be considered for this year’s team.
Rickie Fowler (13th in points with 6,936.49)
Where he stands: Fowler all but secured a spot on the team when he captured the Rocket Mortgage Classic in a playoff in early July, which was his first victory in more than four years. After changing his swing and his team, it was evidence that Fowler is back among the best players in the world.
Fowler has eight other top 10s and 16 top 25s in 23 starts this season. He was runner-up at the Zozo Championship and tied for fifth at the U.S. Open. It would be his fifth appearance in the Ryder Cup; he went 3-7-5 in the previous four.
Keegan Bradley (11th in points with 7,486.47)
Where he stands: Bradley has probably played well enough to make the team, after claiming his first PGA Tour victory in more than four years at the Zozo Championship in October and then another one at the Travelers Championship in June. He might have to play well the next two weeks to make it, though.
“I think about the Ryder Cup every second I’m awake basically,” Bradley said Tuesday. “My biggest thing right now is trying not to think about it while I’m playing because it’s important to me.”
The 37-year-old’s Ryder Cup experience stretches all the way back to 2012, when he went 3-1 as a rookie at Medinah Country Club in Illinois. He was one of the bright spots for a U.S. team that squandered a four-point lead on the final day. The Europeans grabbed 8 ½ points in singles matches to stun the Americans, 14 ½ to 13 ½ in the “Miracle at Medinah.”
Two years later, Bradley went 1-2 in Europe’s 16 ½-11 ½ victory at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland.
“I feel like I could bring some experience to the team,” Bradley said. “I would personally love to just be on a team with this younger group. All the teams that I’ve been on, they’re all gone. They’re all Senior Tour or done playing.
“I find that this younger core of guys to be really a cool group because they seem to really pull for each other, and it would be really fun. This would be a totally different experience, and every match I’ve ever played, whether it’s Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, I’ve played with Phil [Mickelson], so it would be interesting to have another partner, see what that’s like, and I’d love to play with Zach.”
Sam Burns (12th in points with 7,002.70)
Where he stands: Burns, the 22nd-ranked player in the world, won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, in late March. He took down Cantlay, Scheffler and Young to claim a victory.
But Burns hasn’t done much since then with just one top-10 finish, a tie for sixth at the Charles Schwab Challenge. He didn’t have a great debut at the President Cup with an 0-3-2 record. Burns and Scheffler are very good friends, but they went 0-2-1 in their matches together at Quail Hollow.
Justin Thomas (14th in points with 6,539.20)
Where he stands: Thomas’ history in team events suggests he should be on the team. But his form this season — only three top-10 finishes in 20 starts and six missed cuts, including five in his past eight starts — suggests he shouldn’t be picked. JT didn’t qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
There’s no question Thomas has been one of the best match-play performers in recent history. He’s 6-2-1 in two previous Ryder Cup appearances and went 4-1-0 in the most recent Presidents Cup. His partnership with Spieth, one of his good friends, has been one of the Americans’ most reliable pairings.
But as my ESPN colleague Michael Collins likes to say, “Is this a business trip or a buddy trip?” Thomas and Spieth have been part of the PGA of America Ryder Cup Committee since February 2022. His presence in the locker room and on the course would be valuable for the U.S.
Thomas admitted that he pressed too much because he wanted to make the team so badly. Would JT be pressing even more at Marco Simone because he would want to prove that he deserves to be there? Either way, it’s going to be a controversial decision.
Lucas Glover (16th in points with 6,112.61)
Where he stands: In just a few short weeks, the player who couldn’t make anything on the greens is seemingly sinking everything. From September 2022 through June, Glover missed 11 cuts in his first 20 starts. His best finish was a tie for 20th at the RBC Canadian Open. He didn’t even qualify for any of the four majors.
Glover, 43, switched to a long putter before the Rocket Mortgage Classic and everything changed. He tied for fourth in Detroit, sixth at the John Deere Classic and was solo fifth in the Barbasol Championship. After missing the cut at the 3M Open, he won the Wyndham Championship to sneak into the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Last week, he won the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, taking down Cantlay in a playoff. He climbed to fourth in FedEx Cup points and is assured of playing the season-ending Tour Championship. If Glover wins one of the next two playoff events, he’ll more than likely be an automatic qualifier. If he performs well in both, he’ll have a heck of an argument to be included with a captain’s pick.
That’s the dilemma for Johnson and his vice captains: Go with the guy with the hot putter or someone else who had a more consistent season from start to finish? Glover has never played in the Ryder Cup and desperately wants the chance. According to Justin Ray of Twenty First Group, Glover would be the first player since Spain’s Jose Maria Canizares in 1989 to make the Ryder Cup without competing in any of the majors.
“I just feel like representing your country as an athlete is the highest honor,” Glover said Wednesday. “I played Canon Cup as a junior, played the Walker Cup as an amateur, and I just think it’s the coolest thing, and especially being in an individual sport, to be on a team representing your country, I think it’s the highest honor we can have.”
Tony Finau (21st in points with 4,667.75)
Where he stands: Finau looked like he was well on his way to making the U.S. team when he won four times in about a ninth-month stretch from July 2022 to late April. Some will argue that each of those victories came against lesser fields, although Cantlay and Young lost to him by 5 strokes in the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Finau’s problem is he hasn’t done much of anything since winning the Mexico Open on April 30. He has just one top-20 finish since then, a tie for seventh at the 3M Open. He tied for 72nd at the PGA Championship, 32nd at the U.S. Open and missed the cut at The Open. He probably needs a win in the next two weeks to make the Ryder Cup team.
While there might be a few players on the bubble who could make an argument with a win in the last two FedEx Cup playoff events — No. 15 Denny McCarthy, No. 17 Kurt Kitayama, No. 19 Harris English and No. 20 Russell Henley — none of them are currently believed to be under serious consideration for the team.
Bryson DeChambeau (53rd in points with 1,825.631 )
Where he stands: Because players do not receive Ryder Cup points for LIV Golf League results, DeChambeau has fallen outside the top 50 in points and probably won’t get much consideration.
DeChambeau might have at least caught Johnson’s attention when he carded a 12-under 58 in the final round to win the LIV Golf League tournament at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on Aug. 6. It was DeChambeau’s first victory on the second-year circuit.
“I’m playing really well,” DeChambeau said after winning by six shots. “I’ve got some equipment that’s performing quite nicely off the driver, and that’s a deadly combination with my putting. So clearly I putted well, drove it well, wedged it pretty well. You couldn’t have written it up better than this, but if I do get a call, that would be awesome. If not, I’ll be rooting them on over in Rome.”
DeChambeau had good results in two of the majors, tying for fourth at the PGA Championship and 20th at the U.S. Open. He hasn’t done enough to deserve a captain’s pick.
Plus, whether Johnson or the PGA of America want to admit it or not, they’re probably not going to pick a player who sued the PGA Tour. Leaving for the LIV Golf League is one thing, taking legal action against your former circuit is another matter. His presence would cause too many problems off the course for the Americans.