As it stands, the governing bodies seem determined that the Ryder Cup will go ahead as planned at Whistling Straits in September. Whether fans will be part of the mix remains uncertain, as is the desire of certain big names to perform in front of empty galleries, but things are trending in a positive direction both sides of the Atlantic.
The United States have already taken concrete steps to modify their selection criteria, affording captain Steve Stricker an additional two captain’s picks so that his team will be a 50-50 mix of automatic qualifiers and wildcard selections.
As of yet, Padraig Harrington’s brief remains the same but there is plenty of time before the European Tour resumes with the contingency UK series in July.
But the PGA Tour is back underway and the vast majority of those likely to line out in September were present at Colonial as our itch was satisfactorily scratched by a quality tournament with a stacked leaderboard and a dramatic finish.
From a European point of view, with no points on offer, Harrington will be delighted with Justin Rose’s performance. Since joining boutique high-end manufacturer Honma at the beginning of last year, the former world number one’s form had dipped alarmingly, causing Rose to sever ties with the Japanese company just before the tour schedule was suspended.
The Englishman was always likely to be get one of Harrington’s three additional picks but few know better than the Dubliner that a player struggling for form can struggle in the white heat of a Ryder Cup.
Less appealing were the performances of Jon Rahm, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Victor Perez and Sergio Garcia, all of whom find themselves with a free weekend on their return to competitive play.
Like his European counterpart, Stricker’s selection problems are mounting as well, but as is often the case, the American’s headaches are the kind you’d like to have.
Eight of the top 10 at Colonial are eligible to wear the Stars and Stripes and you can add Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Tiger Woods, Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar to the weekend’s leaderboard.
Daniel Berger – an impressive debutant at the 2017 Presidents Cup before a debilitating wrist injury set him back – impressed most, of course, extending his run of consecutive under-par rounds to 28 and winning his third PGA Tour title in the process, not to mention making a giant leap up the Ryder Cup qualification table.
With just 11 events remaining and just six automatic qualification places to play for, the American players know that a run of underwhelming performances means they can kiss their chances of a plane ticket to Wisconsin goodbye.
As it stands – Team Europe
*Comprised of the top four players on the European Points List and the next five players from the World Points List who are not already included.
*Comprised of the top six points scorers on the PGA Tour’s Ryder Cup points list
The Big Movers
Xander Schauffele – Up 1 place to #4
Daniel Berger – Up 17 places to #12
Collin Morikawa – Up 16 places to #15
The Locks – Team Europe
Rory McIlroy – Another poor Sunday but no reason to get concerned just yet
Jon Rahm – Only his second missed cut since the same event last year. Too good to make a habit of it
Tommy Fleetwood – Opted to remain in Britain with his family and will wait for the UK swing to make his competitive return
Brooks Koepka – with the automatic selections trimmed to just six, only Koepka can be reasonably assured of qualification, such is the lead he amassed thanks to his major performances last season.