Sean O’Hair’s T-2 at the Barclays propelled him from 108 in the FedExCup standings to 15. Now at the Deutsche Bank Championship, O’Hair is living the dream of PGA TOUR professionals and is affirming the excitement that the playoffs should generate. A $10 million prize and a Ryder Cup captain’s pick are still within his grasp.
Sean O’Hair Wants That Lightning in the Bottle
O’Hair addressed the golf journalists after his practice session. “I felt pretty good about my game going into last week. I felt confident and relaxed and was fortunate to play well enough at the right time. TPC Boston is one of those courses that fit my eye [three top 10s and a T-5 last year], and I feel comfortable on the greens.
“I would love to have the opportunity to play on a Ryder Cup team, especially for Davis Love. He was one of my childhood idols. Making the team would be awesome, but right now that thought is a distraction. I need to be focused only on getting ready for this week.”
Today was Wednesday, a practice round and precursor to all the impending trials and tribulations that $10 million can extort. Today elicited from the 99 pros—Masters Champ Danny Willett stayed in Europe—a lot of smiles, pleasantries, autographs, and relaxed golf swings. The fans, with their DBC flags, hats, and posters at the ready for the professional salutations, reveled in the looser atmosphere and greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of the best players in the world.
What’s at Stake for the FedExCup and the Ryder Cup
At stake at the end of this Labor Day weekend and then the BMW and, finally, the Tour Championship is that $10 million rainbow for that one of 30 who can shoot the lowest numbers.
The smart money, of course, favors the current the top five—Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, and Jordan Spieth. However, the jingoistic gamblers among us are considering five long shots that, with a little momentum and a little luck, could savor that final trophy moment at East Lake in Atlanta: Justin Thomas (8), Brandt Snedeker (9), Phil Mickelson (10), Rickie Fowler (16), and Matt Kuchar (23).
Also at stake in the playoffs for the long-suffering American contingent are the four remaining Ryder Cup spots—all Captain Davis Love’s picks. He’ll name three of the four on Monday, September 12, after the BMW. Then he’ll choose #12 after the Tour Championship and announce it on September 25 during Sunday Night Football.
Speculation has been running rampant at the DBC about who will join the eight team members who have qualified on points over the two-year span that ended with the Barclays: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, and Jimmy Walker. The Ryder Cup will be played from September 27-October 2 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
Mark Rolfing and Notah Begay Weigh In on the Final Four
NBC and Golf Channel analysts Mark Rolfing and Notah Begay speculated today during a conference call with DBC golf journalists on who would make the final cut. Rolfing had just returned form Hazeltine and said, “The anticipation for this Ryder Cup has been just incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. The American professionals have been energized by the end-of- year FedExCup and the impending Ryder Cup Competition.
“The attitude of the American players with whom I have talked reveals their passion to win, and I believe that a
Ryder Cup victory means more to these players than a major championship. There is such a fine line separating the players who are playing and those who will not. Davis Love is in an incredibly difficult position. The Ryder Cup is, without a doubt, the greatest pressure that a TOUR player will ever face.”
Notah Begay was adamant about the first three selections to the team. He said, “The key factor in match play is putting. My first three picks that I can name right now are all great putters and never saw a putt they couldn’t make: Matt Kuchar, Daniel Berger, and Rickie Fowler. Yes, Rickie couldn’t hold it together last week at the Barclays and played the last eight holes in four over par, but he is peaking right now, and his first 64 holes were impeccable. I wouldn’t name the last pick until after the FedExCup, and then I would pick the American with the most momentum at that time.”
Mark Rolfing said, “I agree unequivocally that Kuchar and Fowler need to be on the team. No question. But my third pick would be Bubba Watson. For my fourth, I also agree with Notah that we should wait until September 25, but I would guess that J.B. Holmes, Jim Furyk, or Justin Thomas might get the nod to complete the team.”
Rolfing and David Feherty have compiled a four-part series called “Road to the Ryder Cup” that defines the recent American-European competition. It concentrates on what the Europeans have done to make their teams so successful in the match-play event and on what the Americans will try to do this year to regain the Cup. The first segment will air on NBC this Sunday at 2:30 pm Eastern time just prior to the third round of the DBC.
Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas Express Their Opinions
After the conference call, I tracked down youngsters Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas on the driving range—youth might very well be served—to see how they felt about making the Ryder Cup team. Berger must have anticipated my question because he knew exactly what he wanted to say. “I think I would be a great addition to the Ryder Cup team, obviously. I think the biggest thing, if you look at
the European squad, is that they’re very young. I’m hoping that the U.S. is heading in this direction, too. If I were picked, I’d give the team 110%. If I can play well in the next couple of weeks, I can, hopefully, secure my spot.”
When I asked Thomas if the Ryder Cup were something on his mind, he responded, “No. I am not thinking about that at all. I’m just worried about playing this event and executing the best game
plan I can. There’s nothing I can do about the Ryder Cup right now. Do I want to make the team? Oh, absolutely! It’s been one of my biggest goals since the beginning of the year. Since I didn’t play my way on through points, I have to rely on becoming one of Davis’s picks.”
Speculation is always a time-honored aspect of all sporting events. The DBC is certainly no different. However, with both $10 million up for grabs and a long overdue Ryder Cup victory on the line, this Labor Day Weekend promises to keep all New England golfers either visiting TPC Boston or glued to their TV sets.