The U.S. Ryder Cup team is half-complete. Who still has a chance?
The U.S. Ryder Cup team locked in its first six members on Sunday at the conclusion of the BMW Championship. That means we now officially know 50% of what will eventually be a 12-man roster. Now? It’s up to U.S. captain Zach Johnson to fill out the rest when he selects the final six players on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
It’s up to the players, too, or at least the ones who still have one final audition. But we’ll get to them. Who’s in? Who’s out? And who’s somewhere in between? Here’s our Ryder Cup update:
U.S. RYDER CUP TEAM: WHO’S IN?
Let’s start with the guys officially locked in for Rome. (Numbers are Ryder Cup points standings.)
1. Scottie Scheffler earned roughly a billion Ryder Cup points (literally more than twice as many as No. 2 on this list) while playing golf at an outrageously high level all season. The World No. 1 seemed destined for victory at the BMW for parts of Sunday but wound up T2, which is actually sort of a middling finish by his standards. Scheffler is clearly hitting it better than anyone else in the world. How much better? He led the field in strokes gained off the tee and approaching the green at Olympia Fields. That’s absurd. But he remains mired in some putting woes, too; he was 38th in the 49-player BMW field on the greens, continuing a trend. Still, there’s no doubt he’s the U.S. Team’s best hitter. Welcome to the team, Scottie.
2. Wyndham Clark won the U.S. Open, and if you win a major championship the year of the Ryder Cup you’re very likely going to be on the team. (More on that in a moment.) But Clark did more than just win that once; he won the elevated Wells Fargo, too, and he’s missed just one cut in all of 2023. He hasn’t recaptured his form from LACC just yet — Sunday’s T19 was his best result since then — but he’s a talented debutant with big plans ahead.
3. Brian Harman had an appropriately gritty week at the BMW; this was the perfect way to welcome him onto his first Ryder Cup team. He drove it poorly and hit his irons okay but finished in the top five in strokes gained both chipping and putting, stringing together one sneaky par save after another en route to a T5 finish. That’s encouraging continuity for the Open champ, who now has five top-12 finishes in his last six starts and never seems to be out of a hole. His qualification also marks a shocking turnaround for a guy who admitted he felt lost in the months before that Open win. Now he’s found.
4. Patrick Cantlay hasn’t won since last year’s BMW Championship but he’s established himself as one of the Tour’s most consistent performers; he has nine top-10s and four podium finishes this season. He’s also No. 4 in the world, with a big enough gap over No. 5 that Hovland’s win couldn’t catch him. And he’s half of the U.S. team’s most reliable duo…
5. Max Homa was the 36-hole leader at the BMW and then did a little bit of everything on the weekend; a triple-bogey 7 on No. 7 on Saturday ejected him from the lead but he kept hanging around en route to a T5 finish. That was his fourth top 12 in his most recent four starts, a reassuring bounceback after missing back-to-back cuts at the U.S. Open and Travelers Championship. Homa should be a central figure on this team, particularly after going undefeated as a Presidents Cup rookie last fall.
6. Xander Schauffele is the other half of that Cantlay squad and earned the final qualifying place on the U.S. team thanks to a T8 finish at the BMW. Schauffele picked up a bunch of trophies in 2022 and has done everything but win in 2023; he hasn’t missed a cut since the 2022 Masters (!) and has 10 top-10s this year. Fascinating sidenote: since that Masters MC Schauffele has played seven majors and hasn’t finished worse than T18 nor better than T10. He’ll bring that drumbeat reliability to Rome.
WHO’S ALMOST DEFINITELY IN?
Six spots remaining.
7. Brooks Koepka finished T2 at the Masters. He won the PGA Championship. He only played four events that had qualifying points for the Ryder Cup and he still came damn close to qualifying just through those. Sure, it’s juicy that he got bumped from the final qualifying spot. Sure, Phil Mickelson won the PGA in 2021 and didn’t make the team. And no, Koepka hasn’t played particularly well the last few LIV events. But we saw just how good this guy still is when the lights are brightest, and they’ll be plenty bright in Rome. The only way I see him not in Rome is if he’s got new-parent duties in Florida.
8. Jordan Spieth barely squeaked through to this week’s Tour Championship at No. 29 in the FedEx Cup, but he’ll be safely on the U.S. squad that travels to Rome. No, he hasn’t won this year, but the first half of his season was a remarkable display of ball-striking and last week’s T6 showed he has enough form to find that Spieth magic in the next month. Easy pick.
13. Rickie Fowler isn’t in the top 12 on points, but he put together a terrific summer that all but guarantees his inclusion. He top-20’d his way through the Tour schedule before ending his winless drought at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. His four events since then have been less spectacular but it’ll be good to see Fowler earn his way back into the stars and stripes.
WHO’S PROBABLY IN?
Three spots remaining.
10. Collin Morikawa has played with Max Homa both at the Presidents Cup and at the Zurich Classic, so he’d slot into a natural spot there. But even though he hasn’t contended much in recent months, Morikawa may be playing better than you might think; strokes gained numbers suggest he’s still performing at a top-10 level even as his world ranking slides outside the top 20. A T2 at the Rocket Mortgage was encouraging, as was a T13 last week in Memphis. It seems like he’ll be in Rome.
9. Cameron Young was declared as “going to Rome” by assistant captain Fred Couples a few weeks ago, so maybe it’s silly to have him in questionable territory at all. Young is among the best young Americans and figures to be a part of this team’s future, which incentivizes leadership to make him part of its present, too. The good news is he finished T8 at the Open. The less-good-news is he’s had an uneven summer, with three missed cuts and just two top-20s since the Masters until a T15 at this week’s BMW. He won’t be in East Lake, leaving him in a slightly vulnerable spot as others make their case…
WHO’S COMPETING FOR A SPOT?
One spot remaining.
15. Justin Thomas seems like the guy most likely to end up with this final spot if nobody seizes it from him at East Lake. Why? Because composing a Ryder Cup roster is a strange combination of deciding who’s the most deserving, leaning on players’ past team performances and projecting forward to who will show the best form in team match-play competition a month-plus from now. Thomas isn’t “deserving” in the sense that he just hasn’t been all that good this year and missed the FedEx Cup playoffs. But he’s also been the heart and soul of recent U.S. teams and has the record to back that up. When the likes of Sergio Garcia or Ian Poulter were in an equivalent position on past European teams, they were be picked without question. Because Thomas is in a similar role as emotional leader for this U.S. Team, he may get the nod, too. But there are other deserving players…
16. Lucas Glover has the hot hand; he won at Wyndham and then won again at the playoff opener in Memphis. A new long putter has given him new life and he finished top six in three consecutive lower-tier Tour events before the back-to-back wins. The argument against Glover is that he was in the wilderness just a couple months ago; he didn’t even qualify for a major championship this year. Another top finish at the Tour Championship, though, would make it tough for Zach Johnson not to choose him.
12. Sam Burns would like you to remember that he won this year’s Match Play in Austin. He would also like you to remember that the Ryder Cup … is match play! He’s No. 12 on the points list, which is automatically in the conversation. He’s close with Scottie Scheffler, and although the two didn’t play particularly well together at Quail Hollow last fall there’s no doubt the World No. 1 would like his buddy there. Burns has been in reasonable form all summer, he finished T15 at the BMW and would be a perfectly acceptable selection.
11. Keegan Bradley is the top-ranked guy who appears to be on the outside looking in. Yeah, he won the Travelers. And yeah, he thinks about the Ryder Cup like, all day every day. That’s what’ll make it that much more heartbreaking if he’s Unlucky No. 13. Bradley’s win at TPC River Highlands was among the moments of the year for the Tour, but he doesn’t have another top 20 since March. He might need to win the Tour Championship — or come close — to reassert himself here.
18. Russell Henley shot 63 on Sunday at the BMW and is quietly playing some of the steadiest golf on Tour; he finished T2 at the Wyndham and now has T6 and T8 finishes in the first two playoff events. He’s finished in the top 20 in 11 of his last 14 starts dating back to the Players Championship. In other words, Henley has played well throughout the meat of the season. Ryder Cup points reward very high finishes over Henley’s less flashy results, but if he throws down a strong showing at East Lake I’d expect the buzz to get buzzier…
54. Bryson DeChambeau has had an up-and-down year but that year has included a T4 at the PGA Championship, a T20 at the U.S. Open and a 58 in the final round of LIV’s Greenbrier event. DataGolf has him as the LIV golfer playing at the highest level, above Koepka and everyone else. But I’m mostly just including him here as a nod to his play; I don’t think anyone expects Johnson to go with DeChambeau just because the body of work is incomplete compared with the known quantities of Tour pros. DeChambeau himself sounded like he didn’t expect a selection at LIV’s Bedminster event. Still, he’s trending in the right direction on the course, regardless of team selection. Who knows what this process will look like in two years…
WHO’S ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN?
Let’s buzz through our apology tour. Apologies to Denny McCarthy (14), who would be a properly pesky Ryder Cupper but has been battling an injury in recent weeks. His missed cuts at the Open and the Wyndham plus his finish at the bottom of the leaderboard in Memphis mean he won’t be at East Lake to make a final stand. Apologies to Kurt Kitayama (17) who peaked early and hasn’t logged a top 25 since May. Apologies to Tony Finau (21) who feels like he belongs on this team but needed a statement week and couldn’t summon one. And apologies to Sahith Theegala (23) who made an inspired run to nearly make the Tour Championship but won’t be contending for either the FedEx or Ryder Cups. Apologies to Talor Gooch (89), who won three LIV events this season, though he strangely has just one other top 10 and missed the cut at the PGA and Open Championship. Apologies to Patrick Reed (48), who made the cut in all four majors (including a T4 at the Masters) but hasn’t built up a ton of goodwill within the U.S. Ryder Cup system.
And apologies to me. And to you, too. Maybe 2025 will be our year.