Ryder Cup on PGA Tour players’ minds at BMW Championship

AP photo by Charles Rex Arbogast / Keegan Bradley watches his shot out of a bunker on the eighth green during Wednesday's pro-am competition ahead of the PGA Tour's BMW Championship in Olympia Fields, Ill. The second event of the postseason will have an impact on the standings for both the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup.

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — The BMW Championship is the tournament that decides who reaches the finale of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, and it's all about position in the standings.

For at least some of the Americans, it has nothing to do with money.

"The one spot I want to be on is on that Ryder Cup team," Keegan Bradley said. "Wherever that is on the FedEx Cup, I'll take it."

Yes, the BMW Championship is also the final qualifying event for Americans to earn the six automatic spots on the Ryder Cup team that will compete against Europe next month in Italy, where the United States will try to retain the title it won in dominant fashion two years ago at Wisconsin's Whistling Straits.

So it was not surprising to hear how much the Ryder Cup was on Bradley's mind. The short answer: a lot.

"I think about the Ryder Cup every second I'm awake basically," the 37-year-old Vermont native said. "My biggest thing right now is trying not to think about it while I'm playing, because it's important to me."

Bradley, who hasn't played in a Ryder Cup since 2014, isn't alone in that regard. Lucas Glover has been thinking about being part of the biennial event for the better part of 20 years, and he really had no reason to contemplate a trip to Rome just a few months ago, when his biggest struggle was keeping a PGA Tour card.

The 43-year-old Glover made a desperate switch to a long putter to cure the yips. Two weeks ago he won the Wyndham Championship, the regular-season finale in Greensboro, North Carolina, to secure his card and a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Last weekend in Memphis, he won the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the postseason opener. And now there are two opportunities in front of him that he wouldn't have imagined in June.

He is No. 4 in the FedEx Cup standings, meaning he has a real shot at the $18 million bonus that will be decided next week at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club, the site of the Tour Championship. The FedEx Cup champion also gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour. And he is No. 16 in the Ryder Cup standings, so a third straight win might get him on the team, while another top finish would make him hard to ignore as a potential captain's pick by Zach Johnson.

Which would be the greater perk?

"I'll say the Ryder Cup as a potential perk," Glover said. "That was a goal from the day I turned pro back in 2001. And we didn't have the FedEx Cup then. I would probably have to say that."

Like everything else, it all starts with good golf. And now is as good a time as any for the 50 players at Olympia Fields to start playing their best.

Despite tying for 37th in Memphis, Jon Rahm remains the No. 1 seed and, in some respects, is the reigning champion as the BMW Championship returns to the Chicago area after being held at East Coast venues the past two years.

The Spanish star won at Olympia Fields in 2020 under much different circumstances because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the North Course not only lacking grandstands but fans. Rarely has such a big putt — 65 feet in a playoff against Dustin Johnson — been so silent.

Patrick Cantlay won the BMW Championship the past two years (in Delaware in 2022 and in Maryland in 2021) and is coming off a playoff loss to Glover last weekend, when the 70-player field at TPC Southwind included a trio of Baylor School graduates. There are no cuts during tournaments in the PGA Tour postseason, but there are in between events, and while Harris English is No. 49 in the FedEx Cup standings this week, Stephan Jaeger (No. 56) and Keith Mitchell (No. 64) were unable to advance.

The top 30 after this weekend advance to the Tour Championship. The leading player will start with a two-shot lead in Atlanta, and all of them can count on spots in the majors next year.

The focus on the Ryder Cup isn't going away, though. Cantlay all but assured himself one of the six automatic spots on the U.S. team with his runner-up finish, moving to No. 3, right behind U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark and ahead of British Open champion Brian Harman. Max Homa has a narrow lead at No. 6 over Xander Schauffele. Jordan Spieth is at No. 8.

The conventional thought is the top eight are likely to be on the team. That still hasn't kept Spieth from contemplating the outcome. Given the PGA Tour's fight with Saudi-backed LIV Golf that turned into a deal with Saudi Arabia, these guys are used to compartmentalizing.

"It's on my mind for me," Spieth said. "But it's also on my mind for what's going to happen. It's crazy, isn't it? Just the scenarios that can happen. And you've got another not here looking good if a couple of things happen and not looking good if a couple of other things happen."

He was referring to Justin Thomas, who is No. 14 in the standings and cannot move up because he didn't make it to the PGA Tour postseason for the first time. He also has been a spark for the U.S. team in past Ryder Cup competitions, and his 6-2-1 record is a plus.

But if the likes of Cameron Young (No. 9), Bradley (No. 11) and Sam Burns (No. 12) all contend, that makes it tougher on Thomas.

There will be a lot of leaderboard watching for a 50-man field. And for the Americans vying for a spot on the Ryder Cup team, there figures to be more than one winner this weekend.