FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — The race for the cup has rarely been this intense after just one playoff event.
Only it’s not the FedEx Cup.
At the moment, that’s only meaningful to those who risked going home after one week. Sure, it was significant for Nick Watney to win The Barclays because it assures he will be at East Lake for the Tour Championship with a legitimate shot at the $10 million prize. But there are rarely surprises at the opening playoff event. Watney (No. 49) was only the second Barclays winner who was not already in the top 30.
Right now, it’s all about the Ryder Cup.
There are no points to tally. There are no charts to show how each birdie and bogey will help or hurt someone’s chances. This is all speculation. Watney chose the right word when he said his three-shot win at Bethpage Black against the strongest, full field this side of a major was all about getting into the conversation.
Let the chatter begin.
Europe was the first to fill out its 12-man team. Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts and Ian Poulter round out Jose Maria Olazabal’s squad
In a move that was overdue, former captain Paul Azinger orchestrated a change in 2008 that gave the Americans four picks instead of two, and allowed the captain an additional three weeks to make his decision. The idea was to get the players on top of their games. That essentially turned the first couple of FedEx Cup playoff events into an audition. And now, it’s a larger cast than Love might have imagined.
What a difference from two years ago, when no one really inspired U.S. captain Corey Pavin. He took Tiger Woods, an easy choice for no other reason than he’s Tiger Woods. He settled on two veterans in Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink, and Rickie Fowler by default. No one else distinguished himself as an obvious pick.
It’s more complicated for current U.S. captain Davis Love III.
Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk are believed to be locks to be taken.
That essentially leaves Love having to look at four players – maybe more – for two spots.
Watney was enduring a lost season until winning The Barclays. That doesn’t make him a frontrunner, but he is a big blip on the radar at the very least.
Brandt Snedeker already was under consideration
Dustin Johnson, who has won every year since his rookie season in 2008, tied for third at Barclays. His sheer power and talent is difficult to ignore.
Rickie Fowler showed up on the leaderboard until Saturday, when Bethpage Black became Bethpage Brown and sent scores soaring.
Not to be forgotten is Hunter Mahan, who was poised to make the team on his own before some recent struggles.
The audition for the final spots starts Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship and ends Labor Day, which is fitting. Love has some serious work ahead of him.
As for the FedEx Cup?
Even for a bunch of millionaires, $10 million still gets their attention, and it will before the playoffs are over. For now, what matters is an event that pays nothing at all.