Genesis Scottish Open

The Renaissance Club



RYDER CUP-DATES

Ryder Cup-etology: JT rises, Bryson rears his head, and more bubble drama

August 08, 2023
1342144228

Warren Little

In last week's mega-post, I donned my Joe Lunardi mask and went deep on both Ryder Cup teams, attempting to analyze who was on the bubble, who was in, and who was out. We've now made it one step closer to Italy, and while it wasn't a huge step—the PGA Tour held its regular-season finale at the Wyndham Championship, while the DP World Tour is off for two weeks—there was more than enough drama for a shakeup. Let's see where both teams stand as we enter the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

THE AMERICANS

Selection format: For the second straight Ryder Cup (and probably into perpetuity), the Americans have only six automatic qualifiers, leaving Zach Johnson and Co. six captain's picks to play with. (See the current standings here.)

Last Week's American Summary

Automatically qualified and definitely in: Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark
Would take a miracle not to automatically qualify: Brian Harman
Might not qualify but in regardless: Brooks Koepka
Currently qualified, definitely in: Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay
Not qualified, but almost in: Max Homa, Cameron Young, Jordan Spieth
On the bubble, but nobody wants him to be: Justin Thomas
Good side of the bubble: Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler
Bad side of the bubble: Keegan Bradley, Sam Burns
The great spoiler: Tony Finau
Out, barring a magical playoff run: Denny McCarthy
Out, definitively: Dustin Johnson

What's Changed?

Of the 17 names on that list, only three played at the Wyndham Championship.

1. Denny McCarthy missed the cut by a shot, which is another blow to his already very faint chances of making the team, and cements the fact that if he doesn't go out and win a playoff event and play very well in the others, there's just no chance. The great argument for him will always be that he's in the conversation as one of the world's best putters, but if you can't go low enough at the Wyndham to make the cut, even that starts to seem pretty thin.

2. Sam Burns went 69-69-65-67 for a T-14 finish, and also moved ahead of Rickie Fowler in the standings, in what was the only real notable movement of the week. Which is very, very intriguing. Keep in mind that this guy won the WGC-Match Play this year, beating guys like Adam Scott, Seamus Power, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Young along the way. His form has been very so-so since then, with a couple of solid finishes mixed in with some missed cuts, so I still think he needs to do something impressive in the playoffs. But an on-form Burns is a tantalizing proposition for Zach Johnson, and I see him now as the 13th man on the hierarchy, aka first man out, ahead of Keegan Bradley. The way I read things, there are two spots on the team between him, Fowler, Collin Morikawa, and Bradley, and playoff form should determine which two get the nod.

3. Justin Thomas. Just those two words. The guy had one of the most exciting rounds you can possibly have at the Wyndham, making a wild late run to miss the playoffs by a single spot (and a single stroke). If that last pitch had gone in the hole, it would have been a PGA Tour memory that endured for a long time. As it is, he finished T-12 and put together three straight rounds in the 60s. He is not, by any means, one of the 12 best American golfers as measured by stroke play form at the moment. However, he is 16-5-3 lifetime at the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, and while it will annoy some to say this, he is a major asset that has officially done enough to make the team. I have no inside information, but I feel very comfortable saying that Zach Johnson only needed a little justification for picking Thomas; he got it here. You can't leave a guy with that kind of pedigree and that kind of killer instinct in match play at home. Thomas is off the bubble for me, and in.

Other Notes

Bryson DeChambeau shot 58 in the final round to win the LIV Golf event at Greenbrier—a hugely impressive feat—which raised chatter around the fringes about the possibility of him making the Ryder Cup team. Let's nip this one in the bud: for practical reasons that include team fit, it's never happening. You also have to look at course fit, though. Arguably the hottest stretch in DeChambeau's career came in late 2018, when he won the Memorial in June and then took two playoff events in the lead-up to the Paris Ryder Cup. That earned him a captain's pick, but the course was essentially the opposite of what DeChambeau would want, and he went 0-3 (though admittedly saddled with rough partners in Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson before losing to Alex Noren in singles). At Whistling Straits, on a favorable design, he had an excellent Ryder Cup in 2021. But Marco Simone is going to be a lot more like Paris than Wisconsin, and even if the idea wasn't doomed from the start, that's a major consideration. DeChambeau is still very much out.

Aside from that, there's not a ton to report on the American side. Zach Johnson played at the Wyndham, but never spoke to the press, so we can't even overanalyze any direct quotes from the captain, and no Americans finished high enough to change anything (maybe if Billy Horschel had won, we'd be looking at a sneaky 2014-style late surge, but alas.) Things are about to ramp up in a big way with the playoffs, but for now, we're left with the following summary:

Automatically qualified and definitely in: Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark
Would take a miracle not to automatically qualify: Brian Harman
Might not qualify but in regardless: Brooks Koepka
Currently qualified, definitely in: Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay
Not qualified, but almost in: Max Homa, Cameron Young, Jordan Spieth
Newly in: Justin Thomas
Good side of the bubble: Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler
Bad side of the bubble: Sam Burns, Keegan Bradley
The great spoiler: Tony Finau
Out, barring an extremely magical playoff run: Denny McCarthy
Out, definitively: Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau

1430353641

Andrew Redington

THE EUROPEANS

Selection Format: The Europeans have two lists—the European Points and World Points. Three players qualify from each list, which means that for the first time, Europe's captain, Luke Donald, will have six picks to fill out his roster. The standings are here.

Last Week's European Summary

The impregnable duo who would not be left out barring death and maybe not even then: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
Currently qualified and definitely in: Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood
Won't qualify, obviously in: Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry
Qualified, probably in: Robert MacIntyre
Good side of the bubble: Sepp Straka, Adrian Meronk, Justin Rose, Alex Noren
Bad side of the bubble: Yannik Paul, Seamus Power, Victor Perez, Rasmus Hojgaard
Missed their chance: Guido Migliozzi, Nicolai Hojgaard, Adrian Otaegui, Matt Wallace

What's Changed?

With the DP World Tour off, we once again look to the Wyndham, where four players on the list above appeared.

1. Nicolai Hojgaard, who I ruled out last week, was the real eyebrow-raiser here, shooting 10 under and tying for 14th place. It's looking like I was a little unfair to him, because along with that showing, he also had a T-6 showing at the Scottish Open and finished T-23 at the Open Championship. His big problem is that he doesn't have many bites of the apple left, with only three DP World Tour events remaining. He has plenty of competition to overcome in that time, and nothing short of a win is likely to change anything. Still, I'm ready to admit my error last week, and move him to the bad side of the bubble.

2. Shane Lowry was, well...mediocre. He made the cut but couldn't break 70 on an easy course over the weekend, and his T-15 showing kept him in 78th in the playoff standings, ensuring he won't be playing any more PGA Tour events this year. It doesn't fundamentally change anything, though; he's in. It will be interesting to see how much he chooses to play in Europe in the next three events.

3. Matt Wallace was similar, a shot better than Lowry at four under, but after a 67-68 start, that will be plenty more disappointing for him. Already, on Thursday, he was in a bad mood, complaining about the course and then admitting he was perhaps being "a bit bitchy." It got worse, and like Lowry, he missed the playoffs. To have any prayer of making the team, he needs something spectacular in Europe later this month. Still and all, the fact that he had a couple good rounds means I'm upgrading him to bad side of the bubble.

4. Alex Noren, at five under, was a shot better than Wallace. He's also out of the playoffs, but I still see him as necessary veteran leadership on this team, and think his status is, if anything, more secure.

Other Notes

I got a chance to speak with Captain Donald in Greensboro, and while he kept his cards close to the vest in terms of specific players, he did speak broadly, and what he had to say was interesting. First and foremost, he confirmed what I've thought about his selection process, which is that it's incredibly. "I really do think there's a few spots open," he said, which tracks with the ambiguity of the list above. He emphasized golf course fit especially, said that the team is no longer working with the stats outfit Twenty First Group (Edoardo Molinari is taking the lead on all things statistical), and—most revealing, at least to me—seemed to value experience. After mentioning the number of Ryder Cups played in by some of his automatic picks like Rahm and McIlroy, he said, "some other potential players that are on my horizon have some experience." The players that fit that definition would be Lowry, Noren, and Justin Rose. Food for thought, at least, and it certainly means I'm comfortable in the thought that he's going to sprinkle in some seasoned guys with his six picks.

Here's where I stand with the Europeans:

The impregnable duo who would not be left out barring death and maybe not even then: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
Currently qualified and definitely in: Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood
Won't qualify, obviously in: Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry
Qualified, probably in: Robert MacIntyre
Good side of the bubble: Sepp Straka, Adrian Meronk, Justin Rose, Alex Noren
Bad side of the bubble: Yannik Paul, Seamus Power, Victor Perez, Rasmus Hojgaard, Nicolai Hojgaard, Matt Wallace
Missed their chance: Guido Migliozzi, Adrian Otaegui

As a last note, it's interesting to see that of the bubble players, only Straka and Rose are in the FedExCup Playoffs. With one good week, I think they move to "probably in," and at that point we buckle up for the drama of the last three European events as the rest of them fight it out.