By Chris Harris Contributor
Updated 8/1/23 4:25pm ET
We are firmly in the Dog Days of summer sports right now and I have to admit, it feels pretty slow. What better way to break up the doldrums than a little Ryder Cup speculation — who’s going to make the team, who’s going to miss out, and who is the one guy we really need to get his game together? Let’s dive in.
After studying the Ryder Cup stats and data following the 151st Open Championship, there is only one conclusion to draw: one month is a lot of time. A lot can and will happen over the next 30 days. That’s how long it is until the standings are locked into place and it will be one week longer until United States captain Zach Johnson makes six selections to add to the six auto-qualifiers to finalize the team.
There is a lot of speculation right now over whether presumed-lock Justin Thomas will be on the team. Thomas, who has fallen out of the top 12 in the standings, just missed the cut at the 3M Open this past weekend and has added next week’s Wyndham Championship to his schedule. Why? Because J.T. needs to find his game. Thomas is attempting to play his way back into the top 12 for the Ryder Cup and try to get inside the top 70 so he qualifies for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin in three weeks at the St. Jude Championship.
As much as it’s worthwhile to have the Thomas discussion because it’s fun and exciting, we are not all that close to being in a position to have any answers, but crazy things can and do happen. Did anyone expect Brian Harman and Wyndham Clark to be inside the top three in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings this time two months ago? Let’s take a look at the updated standings. Remember, the top six automatically qualify before Johnson makes his captain’s picks. Those picks can be any golfers in the standings, though historically, there is an unspoken advantage given to those ranked 7-12 once play closes on the season.
2023 Ryder Cup standings: United States
|RANK||PLAYER||POINTS||POINTS FROM TOP 12|
Each $1,000 earned in an event equals one point, and two of four remaining events this season (prior to the Tour Championship) are elevated events with first prizes of around $3 million (3,000 points).
This brings in a lot of potential volatility. For example, what if Tony Finau wins in Memphis and consequently jumps into 10th or 11th? What if Brooks Koepka, who will not play any events that qualify for points, gets jumped by players behind him and falls out of the top six as an automatic pick? Will Johnson still choose Keopka? If you had to field a team today, the top 12 would probably be it. While there is volatility to be had if one of the golfers outside the top 14 has a great playoff, it’s not likely this will happen.
As such, we focus on one man in particular — let’s see where Keegan Bradley ends up at the end of next month. Bradley has one top-20 finish since the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Granted, it was a win at the Travelers Championship; however, if he gets passed by Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa in the playoffs — and that final spot comes down to Bradley, Thomas, and Sam Burns — it’s going to be fascinating to see what Johnson does with that last captain’s pick. Bottom line, Thomas is the heart of the U.S. team and the one golfer the European side truly loathes during the week of the Ryder Cup. Let’s get it together J.T., golf fans are rooting for you.
Photo credit: Ryder Cup‘s Instagram