Sept. 21-26, 2021 Whistling Straits, Kohler, WI

It all comes down to this.

As the scene shifts to Maryland for the BMW Championship, a Ryder Cup qualifying window that dates back to the 2019 Masters will draw to a close. Five of the six automatic qualifying spots on the U.S. team are now spoken for, with Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas each clinching in the wake of The Northern Trust. They’ll join the first two American qualifiers, Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson, next month at Whistling Straits.

But there’s still one more qualifying spot up for grabs, and several candidates are still within reach. Tony Finau moved into the No. 6 slot with his win at Liberty National, inching ahead of Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, but three others can crack the top 6 with a strong performance this week at Caves Valley. (Note: Patrick Reed, currently No. 10 in the points race, has withdrawn from the BMW as he recovers from bilateral pneumonia and can no longer qualify automatically.)

With players accruing 1.5 points per $1,000 earned this week, here’s a look at the various scenarios in play for the final leg of qualification:

Tony Finau
Current points position: 6th
Minimum finish required: N/A
Point total: 12,721

Finau picked a great week to have a great week, storming from behind to win the playoff opener in overtime. The victory moved him from 12th to sixth in the latest standings, and means that if he will lock up the final qualifying spot as long as he finishes ahead of each of the players on this list this week at BMW. Finau appears in good shape for a spot on the squad, even if that means relying on a call from captain Steve Stricker next month, but his name will be one that several other contenders will be watching with great interest on the leaderboards in the coming days.

Xander Schauffele
Current points position: 7th
Point total: 12,693
Minimum finish required: 41st

Analysis: Schauffele had held the No. 6 slot for several weeks, but now he’s on the outside looking in following Finau’s win and his own T-16 finish at Liberty National. While the point divide between the two of them seems miniscule, keep in mind that this week is a no-cut event. That means that even if Finau finishes last in the 69-man field, he’ll pocket around $19,000 and about 29 Ryder Cup points (one point more than his current lead over Schauffele). As a result, Schauffele will need to beat almost half the field at the bare minimum, although he’ll be looking to finish at least a couple spots above Finau in the final standings. That said, despite having received no qualification credit for his Olympic gold medal triumph, he’s another player who seems likely to get a pick from Stricker if he fails to return to the top 6 this week.

Jordan Spieth
Current points position: 8th
Point total: 12,387
Minimum finish required: 10th

Analysis: The mountain gets steep pretty quickly from here. Spieth doesn’t seem far behind either Finau or Schauffele, but he’ll need to pocket around a $250,000 check this week to have any chance of passing both of them at the buzzer. Of course, that’s assuming poor finishes from the two players ahead of him in the standings – if either Finau or Schauffele plays well in Maryland, Spieth’s job becomes exponentially more difficult. Given the renaissance he’s experienced this year it’s hard to envision an American team without Spieth, who has played a significant role in each of the last three Ryder Cups, but he’ll need a strong bounce back from a final-round 79 in New Jersey if he’s going to earn the final automatic spot.

Harris English
Current points position: 9th
Point total: 11,495
Minimum finish required: 2nd

Analysis: Even a solo third-place finish this week, with a $646,000 check, wouldn’t be enough for English to pass Finau. As he looks to make his Ryder Cup debut, the 32-year-old will likely harken back at a missed opportunity down the stretch last month in Memphis as the big reason why he’s outside the top 6. English could still get inside the bubble with a solo second-place finish, assuming Finau finishes outside the top 12, although a win – which would make him the first player to capture three different tournament titles in 2021 – would certainly cement his spot at Whistling Straits, one way or the other.

Patrick Cantlay
Current points position: 11th
Point total: 10,826
Minimum finish required: Win

Analysis: Now we get to the players looking to emulate Finau’s well-timed triumph. Cantlay acquitted himself well in his professional team competition debut at the 2019 Presidents Cup, and he once again presents a strong list of credentials for inclusion on another U.S. Team roster. But to qualify automatically he’ll need to earn his third win of the season this week in Maryland – and even that comes with some asterisks. A top-4 finish from Finau, a top-3 finish from Schauffele or a runner-up from Spieth would all create scenarios whereby Cantlay would finish outside the top 6 in points even with a victory this week.

Daniel Berger
Current points position: 12th
Point total: 10,796
Minimum finish required: Win

Analysis: Like Cantlay, Berger is looking to boost his credentials for a potential pick while knowing that anything short of a victory will leave him outside the automatic qualifying window. He won earlier this year in Pebble Beach and made a steady climb with three recent top-10 finishes, but now the task is just as daunting as the one facing Cantlay: even a win won’t be enough if Finau finishes inside the top 4, Schauffele gets inside the top 3 or Spieth finishes solo second.

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