Final captain's pick: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele in contention for last Ryder Cup spot
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include third-round BMW Championship scores
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Xander Schauffele doesn’t know if winning this week’s BMW Championship will be enough to make the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He sure would like to find out. As one of maybe a handful of players still in the race for the final Ryder Cup playing spot, Schauffele said that if he could win, it might complicate matters some for captain Jim Furyk.
So that’s what he is aiming to do.
Schauffele, 24, was off to an awfully nice start after opening rounds of 63-64 at Aronimink Golf Club, site of this week’s BMW Championship, to take the lead. He then shot a 67 on Saturday to reach 16-under and tied for second, only one shot behind leader Justin Rose.
Returning to the Tour Championship, in which Schauffele came from virtually nowhere to win a year ago, is one big carrot that he is chasing this weekend (he started the week No. 41 in FedEx Cup points, and must get into the top 30).
And of course, there is the Ryder Cup. He’d love to play on the U.S. team that will compete in Paris in three weeks, but time is running out.
“Obviously, I thought a lot more about it the past couple of weeks,” Schauffele said. “I’m sort of in a position where I feel like a win is the only way I’d be in consideration. I mean, Tony (Finau) is the guy right now. He just shot 64 as well. He’s not making it easy on anyone else trying to get on that team.”
Schauffele said candidly that if he were the U.S. captain, he’d likely opt for Finau as the final captain’s pick. Captain Furyk, who added Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to the team on Tuesday, will choose his 12th and final player Monday morning in Philadelphia.
When told that Schauffele said that Finau probably would be his choice, Finau smiled.
“I don’t know,” Finau said Friday. “He’s being nice. … I feel a few guys deserve to have the spot. I’ve played some nice golf, and that’s all you can do. I’m cheering for myself, as badly as anybody is. My focus is just trying to win this tournament.
"If I win this golf tournament, I know that the Ryder Cup is mine.”
Finau is tied for 15th at 11-under through three rounds at the BMW Championship, six behind Rose.
Finau ranked 15th in the final Ryder Cup points table that ended at the PGA last month (Schauffele was 12th) and is coming off two solid performances to open the playoffs. He was runner-up to Bryson DeChambeau at The Northern Trust; last week, as DeChambeau was lifting another trophy at Dell Technologies, Finau tied for fourth.
After winning twice in 2016-17, Schaufele has not had the strong sophomore season which he had hoped to have. But he does own some quality finishes in big tournaments. He tied for second at The Players, tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, and tied for second at the Open Championship at Carnoustie. Since that time, he has cooled off. He said being in the contention for a Ryder Cup spot is something that has been difficult to block out when he’s playing.
“There's added pressure for me to try to play really well to make it on the Ryder Cup,” he said. “I didn't handle that very well. Also, the way I finished last year … I felt I was supposed to come out here and win and make it look easy. It's been quite the contrast. We're dealing with that and just trying to get better.”
For three days at Aronimink, Schauffele's play has been top-notch. There is a lot to prove Sunday outside Philadelphia, not only to the man who potentially could be his Ryder Cup captain, but to himself, too.
“Just to prove to myself that I can win again and just be clutch,” he said. "I always thought I was rather a clutch player coming down the stretch. This year has proved otherwise."
One weekend can go a long way to remedy that. Meanwhile, Finau will look to keep his nose in there, and to continue to come up big in the season’s homestretch. If he plays his best, he said he can accept whatever direction Furyk follows Monday. He and Schauffele would appear to be the front-runners. Other players who came to the BMW with outside Ryder Cup hopes – say, Brandt Snedeker, or Kevin Kisner – are too far off the lead.
“We’ve got some great players out here,” Finau said. “To be in the conversation, to be one of the guys who could be picked, is still pretty cool still for me. But my intention is just trying to win this golf tournament. Come late Sunday, wherever the chips fall, whatever the captain has set his mind to, I’ll agree with. I’ve played good golf all year, and we’ll see what happens on Sunday.”