Good Week, Bad Week
Colonial and Wentworth
A good week for...
Six years ago, Chris Wood was leading the BMW PGA Championship and committed the cardinal sin of thinking about winning and going on to make the Ryder Cup team. He shot a 77 and finished sixth. This time there was no looking ahead. Older and infinitely wiser, Wood held on to take his biggest title to date and only afterwards did he dare dream of making his debut at Hazeltine. The 28-year-old Englishman remained circumspect about his chances, but the truth is that in third place in the standings he is very likely to qualify. Darren Clarke will be glad to have him.
There was never any doubt that the 22-year-old double major winner and world No 2 would qualify for Davis Love's line-up in September, but after his bounceback win at the Dean & Deluca Invitational at Colonial in his home state of Texas, now only injury can stop him. Spieth admitted afterwards that his final-round Masters meltdown, when he threw away a commanding lead, had been a “huge hump” to negotiate and that he did so in such style - birdieing the last three holes - bodes so well for his season and America's Ryder Cup bid. Spieth is back on track to be his country's inspiration.
“Older and infinitely wiser, Wood held on to take his biggest title to date and only afterwards did he dare dream of making his debut at Hazeltine.”
A contemporary of Spieth and a member of the same 2011 Walker Cup team, a few experts considered the Georgian the better prospect. And when he won two PGA Tour events in 2013, the hype had its substance. But English's progress stalled, although there were occasional weeks when he reminded us all of his talent. Will his runner-up finish at Colonial prove more significant? It saw him hurtle up to 17th in the Ryder Cup standings and at the very least put him in the Hazeltine conversation.
A bad week for...
Shane Lowry appeared to be on the brink of something special at The Players Championship at Sawgrass. But the Irishman fell back into a tie for 16th, followed by a tie for 23rd at the Irish Open and, to cap it all, a missed cut at Wentworth. Lowry's Ryder Cup ambitions are now marked urgent. He is outside the top 20 in the standings and because he feels obliged to defend his non-sanctioned WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron - thus missing the mega-points-fest that will be the France Open - he is at even more of a disadvantage.
After eight months out with a wrist injury, the nine-Ryder Cup veteran returned a month ago but at Colonial his second missed cut in his three comeback events does not bode well for a 10th appearance. At 45th in the standings he is still close enough if he is still good enough and he has time to turn around his form. Otherwise, Furyk will be one of Love's assistants.
First the whisper was he was coming back from his longstanding back injury at The Players and then at the Memorial. But both entry deadlines came and went and now it is obvious that Woods will not be at Oakmont for the US Open. So even if the 14-time major winner does come back at his own event, the Quicken Loans National, the week after Oakmont only the dreamers will believe he can make Davis Love's team. It is time to face reality - he will be at Hazeltine as a vice-captain and a vice-captain only.