Whistling Wild Cards: THE NORTHERN TRUST
In less than six weeks, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker will lead a group of 12 players into a high-stakes atmosphere at Whistling Straits. Currently only two of those 12 spots (Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson) are officially spoken for, although the automatic qualifiers continue to take shape each week. But half of Stricker’s roster won’t earn an auto bid – instead they’ll rely on a call from the captain telling them to suit up for Wisconsin.
Two weeks remain in the points race, with the six-pack of captain’s picks coming after next month’s Tour Championship. But as the chase to make the team heats up, there are a number of players with Ryder Cup aspirations: potential rookies, seasoned veterans, match-play maestros and everything in between.
Here’s a look at some of the notable players outside the current top 12 who could make a move up the standings at The Northern Trust. They’re all likely too far down the standings to earn one of the six automatic spots that will be finalized next week, but a timely performance at Liberty National just might be enough to get Captain Stricker to take a chance by adding them to his 12-man squad:
Current points position: 14th
Analysis: The American roster will already include one rookie (Morikawa), with others like Xander Schauffele, Harris English and Daniel Berger all currently inside the top 10. But don’t forget about Scheffler, who remains in search of his first PGA Tour win but has been quietly consistent this year in some of the biggest events. A runner-up at the WGC Match Play, Scheffler finished T-8 or better in each of the last three majors this year and has racked up five top-15 finishes over his last six starts. Last year when the playoff opener was held at TPC Boston, he fired a 59 in the second round en route to a T-4 finish. A similar performance this week could go a long way toward justifying Scheffler’s inclusion as yet another potential rookie, even if a sub-60 score isn’t in the cards at Liberty National.
Current points position: 16th
Analysis: It’s the playoffs, which means it’s Horschel’s time to shine. The veteran’s run through the postseason in 2014 played a large role in revamping the Ryder Cup qualifying and selection process, as the former Gator won twice and captured the FedEx Cup that year, but only after the 12-man roster for Gleneagles was already finalized. He made another deep run in 2018 (another Ryder Cup year) and now begins the playoffs in position to make the Tour Championship. Horschel’s win at the WGC Match Play earlier this year was a big boost to his candidacy, but he’s yet another player from outside the top 12 who has never represented the U.S. in a Ryder or Presidents Cup. Still, if he gets off to a strong start this week and follows it with a stellar showing at the 70-man BMW Championship he could enter the discussion for one of Stricker’s final selections.
Current points position: 18th
Analysis: Kisner picked a great time to get back in the winner’s circle, surviving a six-man playoff to win the Wyndham Championship last Sunday. It moved him from 23rd to 18th in the Ryder Cup points race and rekindled calls for the confident Southerner to find a spot on Stricker’s team. His lone U.S. team appearance came at this week’s venue, as Kisner helped the Americans to a win at the 2017 Presidents Cup. He has been open about his desire to make his Ryder Cup debut next month and has proven track records of success in the WGC Match Play as well as the Zurich Classic team event. That said, Kisner still has several big names ahead of him in the standings, and he has struggled with consistency this summer. But if he follows his win with another strong showing this week in New Jersey, those calls for his inclusion will only grow louder.
Current points position: 20th
Analysis: Mickelson remains one of the biggest question marks as the U.S. roster comes into focus. He has made every Ryder Cup since 1995, captivated the sport with his PGA Championship win in May and would undoubtedly be an asset for a home game as a fan favorite. But his game went missing in the wake of Kiawah, leading him to admit to reporters earlier this month in Memphis that he needs to find some consistency in order to merit a pick from Stricker. He followed those comments with a T-17 finish at TPC Southwind, his best result by a wide margin since the PGA. But currently at No. 58 in the FedEx Cup points race there is work to do over the next two weeks to make the 30-man Tour Championship, a step that would go a long way toward boosting his candidacy and making it easier for Stricker to keep his appearance streak alive.