The Barclays is a lesson in Ryder Cup pressure
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- That birdie putt Brandt Snedeker grinded over with such determination on the final hole of last week's Wyndham Championship brought him more than a third-place tie, a $324,000 payday and the corresponding Ryder Cup qualifying points that come with the money.
It also brought him just a little peace of mind entering a week when there often is none, knowing he moved from ninth to sixth place in the Ryder Cup standings that come Sunday will decide the U.S. team's eight automatic invitations.
Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker and Brooks Koepka already have guaranteed trips to Hazeltine National Golf Club in late September. Snedeker moved to the better side of the bubble, vaulting over Zach Johnson, J.B. Holmes and Patrick Reed in a process that ends when this week's Barclays tournament does at Bethpage Black golf course.
Points earned throughout the PGA Tour season determine the U.S. Ryder Cup team's first eight spots. Captain Davis Love III in September chooses the other four players to complete his 12-man team.
"That birdie was really big, I knew what it meant," Snedeker said. "I knew I needed to make as much money as possible to make that Ryder Cup team. That's something I've been trying to do all year: You try to get up there in the top eight and stay there."
Reed currently holds the final qualifying spot, just scant points ahead of Holmes with Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler all not far behind them. The final standings could be determined simply by who plays better than the others, unless somebody unexpected catapults into the top eight by winning the first of four FedEx Cup playoff events and the 1,530 Ryder Cup points that come with it.
That's in good part why Holmes spent nearly two hours on the putting green Tuesday afternoon, hoping to get back to a Ryder Cup for the second time and for the first time since it was played at Valhalla back home for him in Kentucky in 2008.
"It'd be awesome," said Holmes, a long hitter who tied for fourth at the Masters and the Memorial and finished third at the British Open but has missed his last three cuts. "I've been stressing a little bit on making the team when I was eighth and I haven't been focusing, I guess, on practicing. I put too much pressure on myself and I haven't played as well as I definitely am capable of the last few weeks."
Holmes was a captain's pick the only time he made the U.S. team. Snedeker was the same when he made the 2012 team, his only Ryder Cup appearance so far.
"It's awful," Snedeker said about the wait for a call that finally came from Love, who also was U.S. captain that year. "You have no control and you look back and realize what could have been, what you should have been able to do, and now you have to sit and wait for a phone call that you get or don't get. It's tough on everybody involved and something you don't want."
Love will name his first three captain's picks at Hazeltine National on Sept. 12, the morning after the FedEx Cup's BMW Championship. He will name his final pick Sept. 25 at halftime of NBC's Sunday night game, the night before the U.S. and European teams arrive in Minnesota.
Europe's nine automatic qualifiers -- which include world top five players Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy as well as five Ryder Cup rookies, Masters champion Danny Willett among them -- already are determined. Captain Darren Clarke will complete his team already next week when he names his three wild-card picks.
Meanwhile, Snedeker said he intends to decide his Ryder Cup fate himself during four rounds at Bethpage Black. Until then, though, he won't feel safe.
"Not until they tell me Sunday night when we get done," Snedeker said. "Last time, I had to wait on that phone call and it's tough. You want to take care of it yourself. If I have a good week this week, I should do it pretty easily. You don't want to take any chances. These last four weeks of the season, somebody gets hot and plays great golf, you can't leave them off the team. There's a lot of stuff that can happen."
This article was written by Jerry Zgoda from Star Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.