This is the weekend that will shape the Ryder Cup

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NORTON, Mass. — The second leg of the four-tournament FedEx Cup playoffs gets a late start this week due to the Labor Day holiday weekend, while the European Tour’s Made in Denmark event began Thursday. Both tournaments have their share of Ryder Cup subplots.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk will make three of his four at-large selections on Tuesday, the day after the conclusion of the Dell Technologies Championship.

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn will see his eight automatic qualifiers determined at the conclusion of the Made in Denmark tournament on Sunday, with his four picks coming Wednesday.

The Ryder Cup begins Sept. 28 — or 28 days from Friday.

Here is what both sides look like heading into the weekend.

United States

Automatic qualifiers: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson.
Picks: Three on Tuesday, the final pick on Sept. 10.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have long been considered locks to be among Furyk’s picks — going back to before the PGA Championship, where Woods finished second and Mickelson ended up 10th in the final Ryder Cup standings. Little has occurred to change that view.

And Bryson DeChambeau may have already wrapped up the third pick. The “Mad Scientist” won the first playoff event, the Northern Trust, in impressive fashion. It was his second victory of the year. Since he was ninth in the points race, it seems nearly inconceivable he’d be left off the team at this point.

It is hard to ask more of a player who narrowly misses out on a qualifying spot and then goes out and wins one of the two events left before the first picks are made.

Still, there are doubters, somewhat due to DeChambeau’s quirkiness and relative inexperience. A reminder: he has won a U.S. Amateur, which helps answer any question of match play prowess. And he has Woods’ endorsement.

“Those of us who know him, he’s very fiery,” Woods said. “We all know he’s extremely intelligent, but his heart … he gives it everything he has and is always trying to get better. We want fiery guys on the team. We are going overseas and we are going into a pretty hostile environment, so we want guys who are fiery. He’s a tough kid.”

There has even been conjecture that Woods and DeChambeau will form a team in France.

And that leaves a handful of players vying for the remaining spot that Furyk will fill following the BMW Championship on Sept. 10.

Tony Finau has a strong claim to the position. Not only did he finish 13th in the final standings, but he was second to DeChambeau at the Northern Trust, finished top-10 in three of the four majors. He visited Le Golf National outside of Paris over the summer on a scouting mission. All of that certainly helps.

But there’s no point in having this extra time to decide if Furyk does not keep an open mind. That is why Xander Schauffele, who won last year’s Tour Championship, finished 12th in the points standings, and made a strong run at The Open is still in the mix.

So are the likes of Patrick Cantlay, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker.

The latter three are veterans of team competition who bring various intangibles to the U.S. side but are lacking in strong results, aside from Snedeker’s victory at the Wyndham –which was then followed by a back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Northern Trust.

Kuchar is not assured of a spot in the BMW next week, and it would seem obvious that he needs to be there to have any shot at consideration at this point. Johnson, Snedeker and Cantlay would also likely need to be in contention each of the next two weeks to surge ahead of Finau.

Europe

Automatic qualifiers: The eight automatic qualifiers are determined at the conclusion of Sunday’s Made in Denmark European Tour event. Four of the players come from a European points list and the other four come from a World points list that uses the world ranking as a basis.
Picks: Four to fill out the team come Wednesday.

The world points list, however, has closed, and only one spot remains not locked up via the European points list.

Those assured of being on the team are Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Alexander Noren.

Only Thorbjorn Olesen, who is playing at home in Denmark this week, Matt Fitzpatrick and Eddie Pepperell have a chance for the final qualifying spot.

Olesen can secure it with a sixth-place finish or better. The only chance for Fitzpatrick — who played for Europe at Hazeltine two years ago — and Pepperell is to win.

Bjorn, whose home course in Denmark is the venue this week, has keen competition for the four at-large picks. There are some obvious veteran choices in Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, along with Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello.

The team is already comprised of several newcomers in Hatton, Fleetwood, Rahm and Noren and Oleson would be a fifth. Experience appears to be the way Bjorn will go with his picks, but there is still plenty to consider.

Poulter’s Ryder Cup record alone is enough for strong consideration, and he’s had a resurgent year with a win at the Houston Open and overall strong play. It wouldn’t hurt to have a nice showing this week at the Dell Technologies.

The same could be said for Casey and Stenson. Casey has been hovering near the world points qualifiers all year and won the Valspar Championship earlier this year. Stenson remains among Europe’s strongest, but he has been bothered by an elbow injury which kept him out of the Northern Trust last week. He has also dropped from ninth to 19th in the world this year, although he tied for sixth at The Open and tied for fifth at the Masters.

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, who was a star on the European team in 2016, has shown some recent form and could give Bjorn even more to think about this week.

And then there is Garcia, whose Ryder Cup history dates to 1999. The 2017 Masters champion missed the cut in all four majors this year and failed to even qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Garcia hasn’t played since the Wyndham Championship, and Bjorn is faced with a tough decision when it comes to picking a player with Garcia’s Ryder Cup record but one who has been so off form this year. He has missed seven cuts going back to the Masters.

“I have been involved in a lot of decisions that are made in the Ryder Cup,” Bjorn said. “And between myself (vice captains) Lee (Westwood), Robert (Karlsson), Padraig (Harrington) and Graeme (McDowell), we will use all of our experience to try and arrive at the best decisions for the team. That will be the case when we are making picks next week and during the week itself.”

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