Rickie Fowler lets automatic Ryder Cup spot slip away, two-thirds of Team USA now set
As the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the Barclays also served as the final chance for golfers to earn automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. But in a surprise twist for that tournament within a tournament (within another tournament) for the American contingent at Bethpage Black, nothing changed.
Thanks to a back-nine collapse by 54-hole leader Rickie Fowler, the top eight Americans in the Ryder Cup standings entering this week are the eight players who will automatically earn spots on this year's U.S. squad. Fowler, who needed a top-three finish at Bethpage to jump into the top eight and join the team next month, seemed halfway to Hazeltine when he made the turn on Sunday still with a share of the lead. Then disaster struck.
After making just one bogey over his first 64 holes of the tournament, Fowler made three bogeys and a double bogey over the final eight holes. The tough finish means he'll have to rely on being one of Davis Love III's four captain's picks if he's to play in a third career Ryder Cup. Love will make three captain's picks following the BMW Championship (two more tournaments) and he'll make his fourth and final pick after the conclusion of the Tour Championship.
Patrick Reed, who entered the week on the U.S. bubba at No. 8, sealed his spot on Love's squad by winning his fifth PGA Tour title on Sunday. Reed went 3-0-1 in his debut in the event in 2014, but earlier in the week said, "I know for me this year, it's about getting sweet revenge. Because my first one was down at Gleneagles, and I played some great golf, but at the end of the day, our team didn't win."
Joining Reed in trying to stop the Europeans from winning the Ryder Cup for a fourth consecutive time will be Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jimmy Walker, who had mathematically wrapped up their roster spots before the Barclays. Despite relatively poor weeks at Bethpage Black, Brooks Koepka (T-70), Zach Johnson (T-48) and Brandt Snedeker (T-48) all stayed in the top eight to clinch roster spots.
Of the eight players to automatically qualify for the U.S. team, only Koepka will be a first timer. Had Fowler jumped into the top eight, he would have bumped Zach Johnson.
But Fowler isn't the only big name who will need to be picked by Love to make the trip to Hazeltine. Two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson, Olympic bronze medalist Matt Kuchar, and Jim Furyk, who recently shot a 58, the lowest round in PGA Tour history, are all off the team -- for now.
Of course, there's a good chance those four will be Love's picks in a few weeks. Among others in the discussion to fill out the roster are J.B. Holmes, a member of the winning Ryder Cup team in 2008 who entered this week No. 9 in the standings, and Bill Haas, the U.S. hero in last year's Presidents Cup victory in South Korea.
On the European side, three-fourths of the team was determined through automatic qualifying last week. Captain Darren Clarke will make his three captain's picks on Tuesday to round out the squad.
Fowler will have to wait longer to learn his Ryder Cup fate, a fact made even more disappointing since it's something he could have changed with just a decent back nine on Sunday.
"I mean, it's not for me to worry about right now," Fowler said after. "I've just got to go out and get ready to play next week. Coming off a win there last year, I feel like I'm in a good spot. I played great is this week, and I'm not worried about resumé or anything like that. I've just got to continue to work on the game, continue getting better. It was almost really good this week."