Rio Olympics: FedEx Cup begins, Ryder Cup qualifying ends
RIO DE JANEIRO >> Darren Clarke got an extra week to start mulling over his three captain's picks for Europe in the Ryder Cup because the top nine already are set. Matthew Fitzpatrick finished fifth in the Czech Masters and locked up no worse than the final spot.
Davis Love III has a little more time, and he likely will need it.
Brandt Snedeker's tie for third in the Wyndham Championship moved him up three spots to No. 6, and it would take a peculiar set of circumstances to bump him out of the top eight. The Barclays this week at Bethpage Black is the final qualifying event.
The top five already have clinched a spot on the American team — Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker and Brooks Koepka. Snedeker is followed by Zach Johnson, who leads Patrick Reed at No. 8 by $157,602.
The Barclays has an $8.5 million purse, so players still can make up ground.
Even so, the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs effectively serves as a Ryder Cup qualifier for 14 players.
The winner of the Barclays gets $1.53 million. Every $1,000 counts as a Ryder Cup point, so that's 1,530 points. And that means Charley Hoffman at No. 22 is the lowest player in the standings with a mathematical chance at qualifying.
Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas, who won tournaments last fall that did not count, are among those who can't qualify.
Reed, meanwhile, is the equivalent of $30,655 ahead of J.B. Holmes, who missed the cut last week at the Wyndham Championship. Right behind Holmes are Bubba Watson, Olympic bronze medalist Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler.
Fowler flew from the Olympics in Rio to North Carolina to try to boost his Ryder Cup points. He tied for 22nd and now is just over $365,000 behind Reed, meaning Fowler would have to finish no worse than a two-way tie for fourth to have a mathematical chance (and that assumes Reed misses the cut).
Love won't have to make his three picks until after the third playoff event at the BMW Championship, and his fourth pick will be made immediately after the Tour Championship. So there's still time for him, and for the players.
That could make it easy for Love — or more complicated.
LATE SURGE: Shawn Stefani was reminded how much time can fly, and how quickly fortunes can change.
He went 20 tournaments to start the new season before he cracked the top 20 — a tie for ninth at the St. Jude Classic — and kept reminding himself that he had plenty of time to turn his game around. And then it was almost too late.
"I'm usually a glass half-full guy," Stefani said. "Didn't get off to the start I wanted. I kept telling myself, 'We still got events left.' But you say in March there's 17 events left, and you look in July and there's four events left. You're like, 'I don't have a lot of time.' And I really felt I was close."
He came through at just the right time.
Stefani tied for 11th at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago. He was No. 133 in the FedEx Cup standings until the Wyndham Championship when he shot 66-66 on the weekend, making a birdie on the last hole to tie for 14th. That was enough to move him to No. 123 to qualify for The Barclays — and to keep his card for next year.
"Started to get a little emotional on 18," he said.
Matt Jones wasn't as fortunate. He missed the cut and dropped out of the top 125, as did Whee Kim. Jones missed by nine points.
OLYMPIC TRAINING: Stacy Lewis had not been home much this summer from playing and planning a wedding, but the Houston native had the perfect place to get ready for the Olympics. She's among tour players who now are members at Bluejack National, the first U.S. course by Tiger Woods Design.
Lewis said she became a member through relationships with Steve Elkington, and her husband Gerrod Caldwell knew the developers.
"I've been out there quite a few times when I've been home," Lewis said. "The grass is the same as here — the same zoysia, putting greens, everything. I think that helped a little bit this week just from hitting pitch shots."
Lewis tied for fourth, missing a playoff for the bronze by one shot.
She figures it will help going forward, which is why she prefers to practice at Bluejack even though it's a 45-minute drive from her house.
"It's worth it," she said. "You can spend all day there. They have a back practice greens and if you want it super fast for a tournament, 'We'll do that for you.' They've been very accommodating."
BEAT THE PRO: The KLM Open is taking fan involvement to a new level this year.
The KLM Open, to be played Sept. 8-11, is hosting a "Beat the Pro" competition during the tournament, offering amateurs a chance to hit a tee shot on the par-3 14th at The Dutch course. The hole will be turned into an amphitheater.
The KLM Open will have one amateur player tee off on the 14th with each group during the first and third rounds. Prizes will be offered to those who can hit their tee shots closer to the hole than the players.
"This will be an absolute highlight for the players and fans," Joost Luiten said. "I think it's great to have something going on around the hole. I don't think players will be distracted. On the contrary, I think they will love it. In the end we all want to play for as many fans as possible."
FEDEX CUP FINALE: The final three hours of the Tour Championship will feature more of Johnny Miller and less of the TV commercials.
Actually, there will be no commercials at all.
The PGA Tour has reached an enhanced sponsorship deal with Southern Company and Coca-Cola, which will allow for the final three hours of the broadcast on NBC to be commercial-free, which would include the entire back nine.
The new sponsorship deals are through 2020. The Tour Championship, the final event of the FedEx Cup, is Sept. 22-25.
DIVOTS: Jordan Spieth has the longest active streak — four years — of starting the FedEx Cup playoffs in the top 10. That includes his rookie year in 2013 when he started the year without a card. ... Paul Simson won his eighth title at Pinehurst last week with his one-shot victory in the Senior North & South Amateur. He won the North & South twice, and the senior version six times. ... Justin Rose will make his first appearance on home soil since winning the Olympic gold medal on Oct. 13-16 at the British Masters. ... Leona Maguire has won the Mark H. McCormack Medal for the second straight year as the leading player in the women's amateur golf ranking. Maguire, one of three amateurs who played in the Olympics, is going into her junior season at Duke. But she plans to go through LPGA Tour qualifying and said she will turn pro if she makes it. ... The PGA Tour will be in Malaysia for four more years after announcing that CIMB Group has extended its sponsorship through 2020.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The six Olympic golf medals went to six nations — Britain, Sweden, United States, South Korea, New Zealand and China.
FINAL WORD: "You can drink out of the claret jug. And I guess the Olympic gold would be a nice coaster for the glass of wine." — Justin Rose.
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