Duel for Ryder Cup positions ramps up

US golfer Matt Kuchar at the Rio Olympics, where he won bronze. He is one of those in contention for the remaining spots on the US Ryder Cup team as captain Davis Love III aims to end the stranglehold of Europe.
US golfer Matt Kuchar at the Rio Olympics, where he won bronze. He is one of those in contention for the remaining spots on the US Ryder Cup team as captain Davis Love III aims to end the stranglehold of Europe.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

What's Love got to do with it? Everything. US captain to assess contenders during play-offs

NEW YORK • With the Ryder Cup just over a month away, the teams are shaping up, with this week's Barclays tournament at Bethpage determining the last three automatic spots on a United States team desperate to end Europe's recent domination of the golf tournament.

From tomorrow at Bethpage Black, on Long Island, New York, 122 of the 125 top-ranked golfers in the FedEx Cup standings will battle it out, with only Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett and Shane Lowry sitting out - they all have enough points to qualify for next week's play-off tournament, the Deutsche Bank Championship.

The likes of world No. 1 Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson will be in action at the first leg of the four-event FedExCup play-offs.

US Open champion Johnson, Spieth, Mickelson, PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker and Ryder rookie Brooks Koepka are set to feature for the US team at Hazeltine, outside Minneapolis, for the biennial matches starting on Sept 30.

Eight players automatically qualify from the US points list, creating a scramble for the last three on offer from candidates such as Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Olympic bronze medallist Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler.

US captain Davis Love III will add four other players as captain's picks to a team who have lost the last three matchplay competitions to Europe.

Europe have already assembled their first nine in a group featuring Rory McIlroy, British Open winner Henrik Stenson, Olympic champion Justin Rose and veteran Sergio Garcia, plus five rookies including Masters winner Danny Willett.

Joining Willett on the Europe side are fellow British first-timers Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan and Matthew Fitzpatrick, along with Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

Europe captain Darren Clarke has three wild-card choices to announce next Tuesday and said at last month's PGA Championship he would probably seek to balance his rookie contingent with players with Ryder Cup experience.

Clarke indicated that his frequent Ryder Cup playing partner, Lee Westwood, who narrowly missed qualifying, was a likely pick when he is expected to name his selections, also on Tuesday.

"He's been my partner in many, many Ryder Cups," Clarke said at Baltusrol. "I know what Lee Westwood brings to the table, and I know what he brings to the back room, and there's not many guys you'd prefer to go shoulder to shoulder with."

Another strong candidate is likely to be Germany's Martin Kaymer, twice a Major winner, who made the clinching putt in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, along with in-form Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Scotsman Russell Knox.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Duel for Ryder Cup positions ramps up'. Print Edition | Subscribe