Bubble Watch: BMW Championship Round 2
There’s only one automatic qualifying spot left on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and the results from this week’s BMW Championship will decide who can pack their bags for Whistling Straits.
The top five Americans have already clinched spots in Steve Stricker’s lineup next month: Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas. There are six players in the field this week at Caves Valley Golf Club who can mathematically still reach the No. 6 slot, although Tony Finau holds the inside track following his win Monday at The Northern Trust.
This week we’ll take a look at how things stand after each round in Maryland, as players jockey for position in the hopes of passing Finau in the final event of qualification:
Patrick Cantlay (-15): T-2, 63 in Round 2
Cantlay and his red-hot putter picked up right where they left off at Caves Valley, as he continued to pour them in from all directions. After picking up more than 6 strokes on the green in the opener, Cantlay birdied 10 of his first 16 holes Friday. It wasn’t enough to keep pace with DeChambeau, who overtook the lead with a 60, but it kept his hopes alive of grabbing the No. 6 slot. Cantlay has his work cut out for him this week: he can only qualify with a win, and even then he needs Finau to finish outside the top 4. But that scenario remains plausible at the halfway point.
Xander Schauffele (-9): T-10, 68 in Round 2
If things ended like this Sunday, Schauffele would get the coveted No. 6 slot. Entering the week less than 29 points behind Finau, he needs to earn about $19,000 more than last week’s winner to have a chance at passing him (1.5 points per $1,000 earned). He’s held up his end of the bargain through 36 holes, making just one bogey per day while picking up plenty of ground on the greens. Schauffele didn’t receive any Ryder Cup qualification credit for his Olympic gold medal, so he’s a strong candidate to receive a Captain’s pick even if he falls short of the top 6 this week. But he’d much rather clinch things now, and through two rounds he’s on pace to do just that – as long as Cantlay stays out of the winner’s circle.
Tony Finau (-5): T-26, E through 15 holes in Round 2
Finau is the only player on this list who was unable to finish his second round, as thunderstorms delayed play while darkness ultimately suspended it. A winner Monday at The Northern Trust, he entered the week with the inside track to the final automatic qualifying position but now faces significant challenges from both Cantlay and Schauffele. He struggled to get much going in his second round, making the turn in 1-over 37 to lose plenty of ground, and he’ll face a pivotal three-hole stretch when play resumes in the morning – starting with a 9-foot putt to save par on No. 16. Finau is another player who seems in prime position for a Captain’s pick if needed, but his grip on the No. 6 seed is slipping.
Harris English (-5): T-26, 70 in Round 2
English was one stroke higher than his opening round at Caves Valley, and his chances of earning the final automatic qualifying spot are officially on life support. Needing a win or solo runner-up finish to make the necessary move in the standings, he’s now 10 shots behind Cantlay and 11 back of DeChambeau heading into the weekend. It would require a monumental comeback from English, who has struggled with putter in hand and made three second-round bogeys to cancel out his progress elsewhere in the round.
Daniel Berger (-5): T-26, 71 in Round 2
Berger’s chances are even slimmer than English’s, given he can only move into the No. 6 slot with a win. His shot at doing so likely evaporated with an even-par effort Friday amid a barrage of low scores, as Berger played his last seven holes in 2 over and has hit just 56 percent of the greens in regulation when the field average is above 72 percent.
Jordan Spieth (-3): T-46, 70 in Round 2
Spieth still hasn’t gotten it in gear this week despite having some relevant (albeit casual) course history at Caves Valley. Perhaps still smarting after a closing 79 Monday at Liberty National, this is now two straight rounds in ultra-low scoring conditions where he has failed to break 70. His second-round effort was blemish-free, but it also included a whopping 16 pars. That won’t get the job done when players like DeChambeau and Cantlay are busy carving the place up, and Spieth is likely now thinking more about positioning for East Lake than grabbing the final Ryder Cup spot – which would require a Herculean run into the top 10 over the weekend.