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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Doug Ferguson | Associated Press

Americans at BMW Championship also focused on Ryder Cup

“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.” (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

OLYMPIA FIELDS — The BMW Championship is the final event that decides who reaches the FedEx Cup finale, and it’s all about position in the standings.

For 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.”

The BMW Championship also is the final qualifying event for Americans to earn the six automatic spots on the Ryder Cup team. 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,” he 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 thinking.

Lucas Glover has been thinking about playing in a Ryder Cup 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 the biggest struggle was keeping a PGA Tour card.

But then he made a desperate switch to a long putter to cure the yips. And then he won the Wyndham Championship to secure his card and spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs. And then he won for the second week in a row at the first playoff event. 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, meaning he has a real shot at the $18 million bonus that will be decided next week in Atlanta. The FedEx Cup champion also gets a five-year exemption. He is No. 16 in the Ryder Cup standings — a third straight win might get him on the team, another top finish would make him hard to ignore as a captain’s pick.

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.

Jon Rahm remains the No. 1 seed and in some respects is the defending champion. He won the last time at Olympia Fields in 2020 under much greater circumstances. The North course had no fans. The course had no grandstands, all because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rarely has such a big putt — 65 feet in a playoff against Dustin Johnson — been so silent.

The defending champion of the BMW Championship is Patrick Cantlay, who has won the last two years on different courses ( Wilmington in 2022, Caves Valley in 2021 ). Cantlay is coming off a playoff loss to Glover last week in Memphis, Tennessee.

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

But this Ryder Cup focus isn’t going away.

Next week after the Tour Championship, U.S. captain Zach Johnson decides which six players will fill out his 12-man roster for Rome on Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Marco Simone.

Cantlay all but assured himself one of the six automatic spots 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, which 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 postseason for the first time. He also has been a spark for the U.S. team 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 week.

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