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Making Moves

When Patrick Reed won the first FedEx Cup event at the Barclay’s last week it moved him from 7th on the yearlong points race to first. More importantly for Reed, however was that the victory secured his selection into the American team for the Ryder Cup which is being contested at the end of the month.

In the new American team selection process, the top 8 players after the Barclay’s automatically qualify. U.S Captain, Davis Love III will the pick 3 of his 4 Captain’s picks after next week’s third playoff event, the BMW Championship.

The fourth and final selection will be made after the TOUR Championship which ends on September 25, immediately before the Ryder Cup begins that following week. The idea is that choosing players so close to the Ryder Cup ensures that the players most in form are part of the team.

The 8 players for the U.S. team are Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker and Reed.

For the brash 27-year old Reed it will be his second appearance in the Ryder Cup, after his very successful debut at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2014 when he was one of only two American players to post a winning record. The win at the Barclay’s was his 5th career win on Tour, but his first since winning the Hyundai  Tournament of Champions in Hawaii at the beginning of 2015. Reed has had several close calls in the last 18 months including being a runner-up 4 times before the Barclay’s and adds a combative edge to the American team at Hazeltine National.

Earlier last week, European team Captain, Darren Clarke, announced all three of his (the European selection process differs from the Americans’) Captain’s picks. Clarke chose a balance of experience, Lee Westwood (making his 10th Ryder Cup appearance) and Martin Kaymer (4th appearance) with newcomer Thomas Pieters.

Pieters, who is largely unknown to U.S. fans, is a star in the making. The 24-year Belgian won the 2013 NCAA Championship while attending the University of Illinois and has had 3 wins in the last 12 months on the European Tour.

This weekend’s Deutsche Bank Championship, the 2nd of the four FedEx Cup playoff events, contained a labyrinth of intrigues. The 100 player field is whittled down to the top 70 after this week so those coming and going into and out of the 70 over the last two days was interesting.

Thinking ahead to next week’s third playoff event at the BMW Championship after which only the top 30 advance to the finale at the TOUR Championship, players eyed their prospective positions respectively. The players in the top 20 spots were all jockeying for better positions heading into the last two events, and those players hoping for Ryder Cup selection were in a furious dash to impress David Love III.

39-year old Englishman, Paul Casey fired a hat-trick of 5-under par 66’s to take a 3-shot advantage into Sunday’s final round of the Deutsche Bank. It is a measure of the quality and depth of players on the PGA Tour that Casey has only one Tour win in his career.

Rory McIlroy has had a forgettable year in 2016 which has been derailed by very poor putting. Two weeks ago, McIlroy began working with Henrik Stenson’s putting coach, Phil Kenyon and has drastically changed both his approach and set-up with the flat stick. The results have been instant.

McIlroy was effusive about his new stroke after the second round saying it was the best that he had put all year and accelerated those results in the closing two rounds. In difficult conditions in today’s finale, the 27-year old Northern Irishman found his game and stormed home with a 6-under par, 65 to win by two shots over a faltering Casey.

McIlroy had fallen to 5th in the world rankings before this win and it was his first victory on the PGA Tour (his 12th overall) since May of last year.

In the hurly-burly cauldron of the FedEx Cup, any one of the final 70 players that remain to compete in the last two events can win the title and the accompanying 10 million dollar bonus. McIlroy vaulted 34 positions to move into 5th in the points standings but this win may mean a great deal more for his confidence and psyche than anything that FedEx can deliver.

McIlroy is a streaky player who is the world’s best player when at his best, and this week he was almost there. Stay tuned.