The return of the prestigious Ryder Cup is just over 50 days away. In under two months’ time the top 12 players from the United States and Europe will descend upon Paris to do battle once again. While this year’s host site, Le Golf National, preps for the historic event, competitors from around the world are battling for their shot on their respective teams.
This weekend from Bellerive Country Club, players will have their last opportunity to solidify their name as an automatic qualifier for Team USA. The 100th playing of the PGA Championship offers players their final attempt to break into the top eight of Ryder Cup standings following the season’s fourth major. Those top eight will guarantee their spot in Paris while everyone else will have to impress Coach Jim Furyk and pray to be one of the team’s four remaining captain’s picks.
Who’s already guaranteed their spot?
Last week at the WGC-Bridgestone, Justin Thomas cruised to victory in front of friends and family at Firestone for his 10th professional victory. Four strokes clear of the field gave the Kentucky native all the momentum heading into Bellerive and the Ryder Cup. With that win, Thomas secured his place to represent Team USA in one of golf’s toughest tests this September.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 5, 2018
Along with Thomas three other competitors have already punched their ticket to Paris. Three wins this season and a number one World Golf Ranking certainly puts you in prime position for a Ryder Cup spot. On the heels of a marquee seasons Dustin Johnson is ready to lead Team USA this Fall against the Europeans.
Joining the World’s top two ranked golfers will be 2018 Masters Champion, Patrick Reed, and back to back U.S. Open Champion, Brooks Koepka. Reed and Koepka have provided strong showings throughout the 2018 season in addition to their individual major accomplishments. Both competitors will provide an emphatic energy and diverse skillset that could help give the United States’ a significant chance to repeat Ryder Cup titles.
The battle on the bubble
Heading into the PGA Championship only four guaranteed spots remain up for grabs on Team USA. Barring an unlikely turn of events, Bubba Watson (5,584) and Jordan Spieth (5,199) should have plenty of clearance on the rest of the field to solidify their roster spots with over 5,000 qualifying points each. With a win worth double points and a made cut worth 1.5 points per $1,000 made, the final few positions are still within reach for a handful of competitors.
Currently Rickie Fowler holds the seventh-place position with 4,724 points. If Fowler can turn in a solid showing at Bellerive he will likely secure his spot to play this September. The Oklahoma State standout may have the edge but the fight is far from over.
Living on the edge of the automatic qualifiers is North Carolina native Webb Simpson. The 2018 Players Championship winner is staying in contention at 4,365 points. Simpson will need to have eyes in the back of his head this weekend as Bryson DeChambeau (4,316), Phil Mickelson (4,207) and a strong cast of contenders are still within striking distance of the eighth and final spot.
Looking beyond Bellerive
While the first eight United States competitors will become official the Monday after the PGA Championship, four more players will still earn a chance to play later this year in Paris. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk will have to choose three of those final four following the Dell Technologies Championship September 3. The 12th and final spot will be announced by Furyk the following week after the BMW Championship.
Coincidentally, Furyk will be paired with two of the top young competitors in the wild card conversation for the first two weeks this week at Bellerive. Xander Schauffele (3,851) and Tony Finau (3,462) are both still in the hunt for one of the final guaranteed spots but would likely need a win and some help from their competitors in order to lock in their position. Each have had a career defining 2018 campaign thus far but with a lack of Ryder Cup history behind them it could be a matter of one or the other, not both.
How Finau and Schauffele handle the pressure down the stretch could be the defining decision come the 12th and final spot. Many Ryder Cup veterans including Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and even Tiger Woods all sit within the top 20 of the official rankings. With the pedigree of these champions and their established camaraderie with captain Furyk and the rest of the team it’s likely three of those four will end up as captain’s selections if they don’t make automatic qualifying.