Bubble Watch: BMW Championship Round 3
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 (-21): T-1, 66 in Round 3
Cantlay entered the week knowing he could only reach the No. 6 slot with a win, and so far he’s holding up his end of the bargain. He has three straight rounds of 66 or better, fueled in large part by a red-hot putter, and is now one round away from becoming the first player to notch three PGA Tour victories this season. He needs to avoid a top-4 finish from Finau and a top-3 finish from Schauffele, but those results now both seem unlikely. He’s tied at the top with DeChambeau, and it’s shaping up as a two-man race given the duo’s separation from the rest of the field. So, while a runner-up finish would likely reflect favorably as Captain Stricker looks to finalize his picks next month, Cantlay has a great chance to clinch his maiden Ryder Cup appearance by turning a share of the 54-hole lead into another trophy.
Tony Finau (-7): T-32, 70 in Round 3
Finau entered the week in the No. 6 spot after his breakthrough victory at Liberty National, but after a strong opening round this is now two straight days where he has struggled to get much going while drifting toward the middle of the pack. He’ll likely do plenty of scoreboard watching Sunday for two reasons: first to ensure he stays ahead of Schauffele, who posed his most serious challenge entering the week, and also to keep an eye on Cantlay. Finau would need to finish inside the top 4 to stay ahead of a victorious Cantlay, but anything less than a win means Cantlay can’t catch Finau. So don’t be surprised if Finau fist-pumps a few birdies from DeChambeau coming down the stretch.
Daniel Berger (-7): T-32, 70 in Round 3
Berger needed a win this week in order to qualify, but he hasn’t been able to find the same timely form as Cantlay. He opened his third round with 11 straight pars, which might have been a good idea for last year’s BMW at brutally difficult Olympia Fields, but it sent him tumbling down the standings amid this week’s ultra-low scoring. Berger is going to need a pick if he’s going to make his Ryder Cup debut next month – and given how well Finau and Cantlay have played over the last two weeks, there may be fewer picks to go around than it seemed a couple weeks ago.
Xander Schauffele (-6): T-40, 75 in Round 3
Schauffele had a prime opportunity to create some distance from Finau, as he only needs to earn about $19,000 more this week to inch past him in the standings. But those chances took a serious hit Saturday as Schauffele ballooned to a 75 that tied for the highest score of the day in the 69-man field. The damage was done in the closing stretch, as Schauffele played his final six holes in 4 over to drop into the middle of the pack. He’s just one shot behind Finau entering the final round, so there’s still a good chance that he can bounce back and finish ahead of last week’s winner – but it’ll be a moot point in terms of qualification if Cantlay wins the tournament.
Harris English (-6): T-40, 71 in Round 3
English needed a runner-up or better this week to reach the final qualifying spot, but it’s not going to happen. He has gotten one shot worse with each of his first three rounds at Caves Valley, including a 1-under effort Saturday that included a pair of back-nine bogeys. Like Berger, he’ll now be relying on a call from Stricker in order to make his first U.S. team after winning twice this year.
Jordan Spieth (-5): T-49, 70 in Round 3
That’s now three straight days where Spieth has failed to break 70 in a tournament where the top two players seem ready to challenge 30 under par. It’s been a rough week for Spieth if you include his closing 79 Monday at Liberty National, and given that he needed a top-10 result this week he’s essentially assured of needing a pick from Stricker. It’s a call he’s expected to get, given the remarkable turnaround he’s made this year just to reach the fringe of automatic qualification.