Bubble Watch: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
The Ryder Cup is now just 48 days away, which means that we have entered the home stretch for automatic qualification for spots on U.S. Captain Steve Stricker’s roster. Only four events remain for players to earn points, with the top six players after the BMW Championship punching their tickets to Whistling Straits.
While not officially on Stricker’s squad, Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson – currently Nos. 1 and 2 in points, respectively – are unlikely to fall out of the top 6.
There’s also a significant gap for the next three spots, with No. 5 Justin Thomas nearly 2,000 points ahead of No. 6 Xander Schauffele (with Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka both ahead of Thomas at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively).
With players earning 1.5 points per $1,000 earned over the next four weeks, it will take a significant turn of events for any of the top five players to need a pick from Stricker. But the margins are thin near the bubble heading into this week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, beginning with golf’s new gold medalist who currently holds a tenuous grip on the final automatic spot.
Here’s a look at some of the notable players who head to Memphis with Ryder Cup implications hanging in the balance:
Current points position: 6th
Schauffele enters fresh off a gold-medal performance at the Olympics, albeit one where his stellar play in Tokyo didn’t earn him any points toward qualifying for Whistling Straits. But he is on the right side of the bubble thanks to consistency elsewhere that includes three runner-up finishes this season and a T-3 showing at the Masters. He finished T-6 last year at TPC Southwind, including a final-round 66, and after an international breakthrough will be looking to bolster his chances of making his Ryder Cup debut next month without waiting for a phone call from Stricker.
Current points position: 7th
Points outside of qualification: 324
Analysis: Who could have imagined that Spieth would even be in this conversation six months ago? An exciting turnaround this year has featured seven top-5 finishes, including a drought-breaking win at the Valero Texas Open in April and a runner-up showing last month behind Morikawa at The Open. Spieth seems all but assured of a spot on the squad, but if he qualifies automatically it could mean Stricker has an extra pick at his disposal. A top-10 finish in Memphis, where he finished T-12 in 2019, could put him in position to pass Schauffele and get inside the top-6 number.
Current points position: 8th
Points outside of qualification: 1,587
Analysis: Like Schauffele, Reed is likely fighting off some jet lag after teeing it up last week in Tokyo. But he’d love to make his fourth straight Ryder Cup squad and return to an event where he shined brightly in both 2014 and 2016 before a rough outing in France. Reed has been on the cusp of a top-6 spot for much of the year, and he’ll need a strong finish to catch and pass Schauffele, but the rally could start this week on a course where he struggled last year (T-47) but finished T-12 in 2019.
Current points position: 11th
Points outside of qualification: 2,209
Analysis: Berger won earlier this year at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 at both THE PLAYERS (T-9) and The Open (T-8) to accrue some significant points. But he’s the player near the bubble with the most course history on his side, given TPC Southwind is where he won each of his first two PGA Tour titles in 2016 and 2017. He added a T-2 finish here last year when the tournament was a WGC and seemingly saves some of his best form for his annual trip to Beale Street. Berger seems like somewhat of an outside shot at this point to crack the top 6, but a win this week would be more than enough points to leapfrog Schauffele and inch closer to making his Ryder Cup debut.