Ryder Cup comes into view at FedEx Cup
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The FedEx Cup is all about the $10 million bonus at the end of the four playoff events.
For a dozen or so Americans, the only cup that matters now is one that doesn’t pay a dime.
The Ryder Cup couldn’t be ignored Thursday.
Patrick Reed shared the lead after the opening round at the Barclays. Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes and Kevin Chappell were among those one shot behind. All four of them are very much in the mix to make the U.S. team, with qualifying for the top eight spots ending after this week.
“Of course it’s on my mind,” Reed said after his 5-under 66 gave him a share of the lead with Martin Laird.
It’s easy to forget about the FedEx Cup and its big bonus because there are still 15 rounds left to reach that point. The opening day at Bethpage Black, one of the toughest on the PGA Tour schedule, was just trying to beat the wind and stay in the game.
LEADERS: Reed had a good laugh at his own expense on Tuesday when he was asked to bang the gavel for the ceremonial bell closing at the New York Stock Exchange. Dressed in a blue suit with an American tie, he banged once, twice ... and on the third try, he broke the gavel.
The only thing he broke Thursday was par.
Reed opened with 10 pars, a strong feat considering he started on the tougher back nine, and then ran off three birdies and an eagle for a 66.
Martin Laird also had a clean card, with four birdies on the front nine and a shot out of the rough to the elevated green on the 16th to 6 feet for his fifth birdie. He’s not worried about the Ryder Cup. He is No. 89 in the FedEx Cup, so the first order of business was to be among the top 100 to advance to next week.
RYDER RAMIFICATIONS: Fowler looked like a shoo-in to be on the Ryder Cup team when he started the year in great form. But missing the cut in two majors and not doing much in the other two haven’t helped. He is No. 12 and would need at least a two-way tie for fourth this week to have any chance.
Opening with a 67 was a good start.
“That’s the No. 1 priority coming into the year,” Fowler said. “I’d say that’s always one of the main goals coming into a Ryder Cup year. Even in the off year, you’re thinking about it. That was the whole reason playing last week, trying to get more points. It would be nice to have a chance to make that team without having to get picked.”
J.B. Holmes was at No. 8 until Reed passed him last week. Holmes moved into position with his third-place finish at the British Open, but he has been pressing since then and has missed his last three cuts. The big hitter spent two hours with the shortest club in the bag — his putter — earlier this week, and it paid off.
As for Chappell? Depending on however else does, he probably has to win to make the team.
BETHPAGE: The Black is a big ball park, the start of a playoff series that favors the big hitters — the TPC Boston next week, Crooked Stick in Indiana after that, and then East Lake. That also was the rotation in 2012, and it would have seemed to put the medium hitters at a disadvantage.
Or maybe not. Brandt Snedeker won the FedEx Cup in 2012.
EARLY EXITS: British Open champion Henrik Stenson had planned to skip one of the FedEx Cup playoff events because of a busy schedule at the end of the year, including his trip to Rio for a silver medal in golf.
He made it through one round at The Barclays with a 74 and enough discomfort in his right knee that he withdrew. Stenson is at No. 14 in the FedEx Cup and likely will fall out of the top 20 at the end of the week.
Brett Stegmaier also withdrew with a wrist injury through nine holes. He was at No. 101, and with the top 100 advancing, his season is over.
THE CUT: Making it to the weekend at The Barclays is one of the most important cuts of the year, particularly because of the playoff format. Anyone beyond the top 100 has no chance of extending the season. Anyone just inside the top 100 probably won’t stay there if they miss the cut.
Scott Brown was a good example. He is at No. 81 and opened with a 10-over 81. He was projected to fall to No. 100. That could change. A year ago, the highest-ranked player to get eliminated was Padraig Harrington at No. 87.