Updated: August 27, 2014, 6:01 PM ET

Final opportunity for Ryder hopefuls

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

>Front nine

There is one last chance to impress U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, and Keegan Bradley is taking nothing for granted. He would appear to be a pretty obvious pick, given his recent track record in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, but the wait is excruciating.

And the way Bradley is dealing with it sort of resembles his pre-shot routine: fidgety, fretting, looking anything but comfortable.

"It's really tough," Bradley said. "You can't not think about it, to be honest. It's going to be in the back of your mind at all times. It's impossible not to think about it."

Keegan Bradley
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonKeegan Bradley's hopes of making the U.S. Ryder Cup could hinge upon his performance at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Bradley, of course, could have taken care of all this angst by earning one of the nine automatic spots that were decided at the PGA Championship. But he missed the cut at Valhalla, dropping from 11th in the Ryder Cup points standings to 13th.

That means he needs to rely on a pick from Watson, who will choose three at-large candidates Tuesday to fill out the 12-man team that will take on the Europeans at Gleneagles.

Among others in the mix for a pick are, in no particular order, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan, Ryan Moore and Brendon Todd.

Snedeker, Simpson and Moore all missed the cut at the Barclays. While Bradley didn't fare much better, he seems a good fit, given the lack of anyone making an absolute case for a spot.

And then there is Bradley's performance in his two U.S. team competitions as a pro. He was 3-1 at Medinah, winning all three matches with Phil Mickelson as his partner. At last year's Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village, Bradley went 2-2-1, including a 2-1-1 record with Mickelson.

Given that Mickelson is playing in the Ryder Cup for the 10th time, it seems pretty clear that getting him a comfortable partner is imperative.


"People say that, but I don't see myself as an automatic pick by any means," Bradley said. "Do I want to get picked? Obviously, yes. Do I think I can help the team a lot? Yeah, I do. But there are such great players. It's not lopsided from top to bottom. There are going to be guys who don't make the team who are so good and deserving of making it."

Bradley can help his cause with a good finish this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Not only would it be good for his Ryder Cup chances, but it would enhance his position in the FedEx Cup standings, as he fell to 29th last week at the Barclays after finishing 53rd.

It has been an odd year for Bradley, who is currently ranked 24th in the world. He's had five top-10 finishes, but missed cuts at two major championships and the Players Championship. After a tie for fourth at the WGC-Bridgestone, Bradley was on the verge of qualifying on his own -- then missed the cut at the PGA.

Bradley didn't hurt himself by taking a scouting mission to Gleneagles the weekend before the Open Championship, where he played the course with Watson. He also visited with the captain at both the Open and the PGA.

But ultimately it's more about performance and giving Watson the options he wants.

"It's been tough," Bradley admitted. "I'm going to really be excited for it to be over. I think about it more than I should. That's my own fault. There's no way I can sit back and not think about it. It's impossible."

At the turn

Phil Mickelson decided this week that he will play the Deutsche Bank Championship, but it was not a lock. Managing schedules this time of year has become problematic for the top players, who have been on a grueling run that concludes with four straight $8 million tournaments in the FedEx Cup playoffs. And then, for players such as Mickelson, the Ryder Cup in Scotland follows after a week off.

There are six players who were eligible for this week's event who are skipping it: Dustin Johnson (personal leave), Graeme McDowell (paternity leave), Paul Casey (paternity leave), Jason Dufner (neck injury), Sergio Garcia (rest) and Justin Rose (rest).

Rose summed it up when he said a Ryder Cup year makes it more difficult. So does not having an off week during the playoffs. "I could have powered through, I think, otherwise," he said.

But there are family considerations, too, as Rose's son, Leo, is beginning school. "So if there was one week that has to give, this was it," Rose said. "And I want to play my way into Atlanta [the Tour Championship]. I didn't fancy taking a week off before that. Deutsche Bank is one of the tournaments I love, a significant event to me. It's where I made enough money to get my tour card in '03.

"I think it was the right week for me to miss this year. I'm just trying to back my game up, and I'm trying to give myself enough in the tank to do that."

Back nine

This week's Italian Open is the last qualifying event for the European Ryder Cup team, as captain Paul McGinley will make three at-large selections on Tuesday.

The drama is mostly settled, with one rather large possible exception: Scotland's Stephen Gallacher can make the team outright if he can finish in the top two at the Italian Open. That would bump out Graeme McDowell, who is skipping this week's Deutsche Bank Championship due to the birth of his daughter on Monday.

McDowell could have wrapped up a spot with a higher finish at the Barclays, and now he is hoping to secure a spot through the world points list. But the Northern Irishman did the sporting thing by wishing the best for Gallacher this week.

"I hope Stevie goes to Italy and does the job, as that will throw the cat among the pigeons, but then, he's had a great year," McDowell said before departing Ridgewood Country Club. "And with the Ryder Cup being in Scotland, I certainly would not begrudge him a spot in the team, so whatever happens, happens. I've not put enough world ranking points on the board this week, but it's been a good summer and I've done my part and I'm sure [McGinley] is aware of that, but my Ryder Cup qualifying run is over.

"I will be flying to Colorado for the BMW Championship when Paul announces his three picks and while I'm hoping to be part of a fourth Ryder Cup team, I wish Stephen Gallacher well this week in Italy," McDowell said. "I hope he gives it a shot and he would be a great addition to the team in Scotland."

Gallacher, who won in Dubai earlier this year, lives just 40 miles from Gleneagles and would clearly be a strong pick, even if he doesn't make the team. But McGinley also has Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood to consider and can only take three. All three of those players have their pluses; given his Ryder Cup success, Poulter would seemingly be a lock. But none of the three have played particularly well this year.

Bob Harig | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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