Column: Pressure mount for FedEx Cup and Ryder Cup



Collin Morikawa scores hole 10 during the second round of the World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational tournament, Friday, August 6, 2021, in Memphis, Tennessee (AP Photo / John Amis)


This is a time when winning really cares about everything.

For most players, it’s all about the money.

And for a dozen Americans, the point is to gamble for no money at all.

The Northern Trust is not only the beginning of the FedEx Cup playoffs, but also the beginning of the end of Ryder Cup qualifying. There are still two tournaments left before the six best Americans get a place on the team, and then a week later Steve Stricker has six captain’s picks.

Whatever stress or pressure a player feels depends on their position on each list.

The solution is the same for both: play well.

“I still think it’s about preparing as well as possible for each tournament,” said Patrick Cantlay. “Because it is so complicated, there can be so much ebb and flow, it is not worth getting involved in all the points business. ”

Cantlay is # 3 in the FedEx Cup. There’s not a lot of stress there yet, at least not yet.

He’s # 11 in the Ryder Cup and, in his experience in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, team leadership is a priority.

“I’d love to play the Ryder Cup,” he said. “It feels very different. The only thing that matters is the points that are going on. But the way to do that is to take care of your business. “

Collin Morikawa is number 1 in the FedEx Cup and number 1 in the Ryder Cup standings, having already earned a place on the US team with Dustin Johnson.

The Ryder Cup points are big because the money is big – prize money of $ 9.5 million each over the next two weeks. Paul Azinger, the real “Captain America” ​​in golf, does not get enough credit for redesigning the US system 15 years ago to put points on money.

Xander Schauffele holds sixth place ahead of Jordan Spieth – both will be in Whistling Straits at the end of September, even if they don’t qualify automatically. Harris English and Daniel Berger are in the top 10 with no Ryder Cup experience. There is more at stake for them.

Berger is No. 10 in the Ryder Cup and No. 20 in the FedEx Cup. A win this week at Liberty National would likely put him at the top of the FedEx Cup and the top six in the Ryder Cup standings. There is a lot to take in.

“That’s the advice I can give you,” said Jon Rahm, who has no concerns like a Spaniard who is number 5 in the FedEx Cup and has secured a place on the European team. “Focus on playing well. Forget about the Ryder Cup and forget about East Lake. If you go out on Thursday, show off a good introduction.

“If you’re in the top 10 in both events, make a case for playing in the Ryder Cup,” he said. “And you move up in the points race.”

A cup or two, that was how late summer on the PGA Tour was designed.

“I think it’s probably the toughest golf we can have in terms of pressure,” said Schauffele. “We always have so much to play and it all comes out.”

The idea behind the FedEx Cup playoffs, when they began in 2007, was for players to do their best during the postseason hunt for a bonanza – then $ 10 million for the winner, now $ 15 million and $ 18 million next year.

A good game throughout the season certainly helps, which explains why Morikawa is the top seeded player going into the first of three postseason events with his British Open and a World Golf Championship title.

That already earned him $ 2 million for running the regular season.

It guarantees little else.

Tiger Woods 2007 and Spieth 2015 are the only players to rank # 1 in the postseason and win the FedEx Cup. Spieth started this postseason by missing two straight cuts. Woods suspended the first of four playoff events at the time. All that mattered was the final event at the Tour Championship.

It’s a little different now with a system that gives players a head start in the Tour Championship, depending on their FedEx Cup rankings. Seed # 1 starts at 10 under par before even hitting a shot at East Lake. The number 2 of the seed starts with 8 under, up to the last five players with the same par.

Cantlay never liked the new format, and after the first year in 2019, he liked it even less. He was ranked 12th with the Northern Trust. He finished second in the BMW Championship and moved up to second place in the Tour Championship.

And then Cantlay had a bad week at the wrong time. He finished 28th out of 30 players and with his bonus start (8 under) in 21st place. The new format cost him more than $ 1.5 million.

“In this new format, which I think is particularly unfair and bad, you can have a bad week in Atlanta and it’s your entire FedEx Cup finish,” he said.

There is a lot at stake. That doesn’t end until the FedEx Cup money is paid out and Stricker adds to the rest of his Ryder Cup team.


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