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Can the 20th-ranked player in the world be the odd man out of the European Ryder Cup squad?


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August 23, 2016

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — The Barclays is a big event in its own right this week of course, but the thoughts of at least one player might be inclined to wander elsewhere. With European Ryder Cup skipper Darren Clarke primed to name the three wildcard picks that will complete his 12-man squad next Tuesday, Russell Knox has more on his mind than the lucrative climax to the PGA Tour season.

Currently fourth on the FedEx Cup rankings, the 31-year-old Scot would have been an automatic qualifier for the European side had he been a member of the European Tour at the time of his victory in last fall’s HSBC Championship in China. Still, given that he recently added the Travelers Championship to his résumé, the Jacksonville resident (his father is American, his mother Scottish) is currently ranked in the world’s top 20, making it difficult for Clarke to ignore Knox’s claims.

“I think Darren has made his mind up no matter what I do this week,” said Knox, just prior to his first look at the Bethpage Black course that will host the Barclays. “I don’t think me missing the cut or winning this tournament is going to change anything. Then there are other guys who can do well here or in Denmark. It’ll come down to the last day, I think.”

One thing seemingly not in Knox’s favor is that Europe’s nine automatic qualifiers already contains five rookies, a number Clarke is reputedly not keen to increase.

“I hope the rookie thing is not enough for him not to pick me,” Knox said. “But they do seem to be making a big thing of it. I think maybe too big a thing. I look at it this way: If you put, say, Matt Fitzpatrick and I together in foursomes we’re going to be tough to beat. Against anyone. We are hitting it down the fairway 80 percent of the time. I get that he is looking at all the stats though. And it’s a tough decision to make. If he feels like he needs more experience with Graeme McDowell or Luke Donald or whoever, then fair enough.”

Still, Knox is not above pushing his claims for a pick.

“As I said to someone recently, my big problem was not getting the points for winning in China,” he admitted. “I’d be in if they counted. So there is a moral obligation to pick me, I guess. I don’t want Darren to pick me because of that though. His goal is to pick the three best players who did not make the team. And I have a hard time not thinking I am one of those right now.

“What I also have going against me is that I am maybe not super-close with a lot of guys on the team. But if all he does is list those he thinks are playing the best right now, I don’t know how I can’t be in the top 12. I know people are assuming I am the third of the three picks if he goes for Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer. But I should really be the first. Which is not to say they don’t bring a lot of experience. I’d want them in my team.   “I will be very disappointed if I don’t make it. But it’s not my decision. We’ll see. If I were to win this week, there is no way he couldn’t pick me.”