The case for and against those hoping to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team

AP Photo/Peter Morrison

ATLANTA -- The past two weeks saw a scramble for the last automatic places on the U.S. Ryder Cup team -- and might have made captain Steve Stricker's job a bit easier.

A good bit changed from the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Tony Finau won the Northern Trust in a playoff over Cameron Smith and then Patrick Cantlay prevailed over Bryson DeChambeau in a six-hole sudden-death playoff at the BMW Championship.

Cantlay's victory pushed him into the sixth and final qualifying spot, bumping out Finau, who had claimed that position a week earlier. Finau occupies the seventh position and seems assured of one of Stricker's picks.

Neither was necessarily a lock for a pick a few weeks ago, which says something about how big their victories were and the way they were accomplished.

The six automatic spots are held by Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Cantlay.

It is unlikely that Stricker will stray too far from the final points list in deciding his next six. Stricker, with the help of his vice captains (to this point) Jim Furyk, Davis Love III and Zach Johnson (could Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods be added?) have this week to figure it out, with the picks coming on Sept. 7. The Ryder Cup is Sept. 24-26 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

Here is a look at the other players not in the top six, in order of their place in the final standings.

Tony Finau

7th in standings

His victory at the Northern Trust, with a clutch back nine and a sudden-death victory, answered a lot of questions and all but made him a lock. Finau is considered a team guy and his ability to make birdies in best-ball is an asset.

There is little reason to not pick the guy who finished seventh in points and is playing well at this moment. Prior to the Northern Trust, Finau had a spotty summer. But it would be a shock to leave him off now.

Xander Schauffele

8th in standings

The Olympic gold medalist was only bumped out of the sixth spot two weeks ago and was seemingly a lock all summer. Despite not winning on the PGA Tour -- and he earned no points for his Olympic victory -- Schauffele has been a consistent high finisher in the majors and had a good partnership with Cantlay at the Presidents Cup.

It is difficult to see any negatives at this point. Schauffele is ranked fifth in the world.

Jordan Spieth

9th in standings

He's had an excellent bounce-back season, with a victory at the Valero Texas Open and seven other top-10 finishes. He's gone from 92nd in the world following the Farmers Insurance Open to 14th.

There is no reason not to pick Spieth at this point. He went 3-1 with Justin Thomas in France, and at 7-5-2 overall, he is one of the few U.S. players with a winning Ryder Cup record.

Harris English

10th in standings

A career season has seen English win twice, finish third at the U.S. Open and fourth at a WGC event to vault into the Ryder Cup contention. It's tough to see someone who's won, is 11th in the world and is 10th in points not make the team.

He's never played in either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. So if lack of experience matters, that would appear to be reaching for a reason for not to pick him.

Patrick Reed

11th in standings

He is, after all, "Captain America". He's one of the most passionate American players who loves the competition and gets fired up to compete in such circumstances. At 7-3-2, he has a rare winning U.S. record, and he's 3-0 in singles. Despite any perceived camaraderie issues, it's hard to imagine leaving him out.

If Stricker needed a reason not to pick Reed, he has a legitimate one. An ankle injury keeping him out of the Northern Trust was not a big deal. But being hospitalized for double pneumonia and missing the BMW Championship is quite concerning. Reed has now missed three tournaments he planned to play, and his viability for the Ryder Cup is fair to consider and might not be worth the gamble.

Daniel Berger

12th in standings

A fiery player who fell outside the top 100 in the world in 2019 while dealing with injuries, Berger rebounded last year following the pandemic shutdown and has been inside the top 20 all year. He won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, has seven other top-10 finishes and went 2-1 at the 2017 Presidents Cup experience.

There's not much to dislike about Berger. You could quibble about his lack of Ryder Cup experience, or if he's a good fit -- which seems unlikely.

Webb Simpson

13th in standings

Simpson has plenty of Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup experience and he seemingly can be a partner for anyone. He might fill that role nicely with DeChambeau, if asked, and his ability to putt well is an asset in the Ryder Cup.

The emergence of Cantlay and Finau in recent weeks has potentially hurt Simpson's chances. He's dropped from sixth in the world to 20th this year. For Simpson to get a pick, Stricker needs to be thinking of him for a specific role.

Scottie Scheffler

14th in standings

Scheffler has seemingly done everything but win in his two-plus years on the PGA Tour, contending often, showing numerous skills and ascending to the top 20 in the world. If the U.S. side is looking to get experience for some of its young players, Scheffler should be on the list of those considered.

It is rare for a player who has never won on the PGA Tour to get a captain's pick, and Scheffler has no experience in either the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup. (Rickie Fowler got a pick in 2010 without winning and performed well.)

Jason Kokrak

15th in standings

It would be fun to see the long-hitting Kokrak paired with someone like Dustin Johnson or Koepka in fourball and see how many birdies they might produce. A two-time winner, Kokrak has found his stride over the past year. If Stricker is trying to think outside the box and use his picks to their fullest, he will get consideration. His length is well-suited for Whistling Straits.

Lack of experience in these competitions is his biggest drawback. He is also no higher in points despite winning twice this season and has been pretty quiet since his win at Colonial.

Sam Burns

16th in standings

A huge jump from 154th in the world to 25th was fueled by his first victory at the Valspar Championship. He also finished second at the Byron Nelson and lost in a playoff at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude. The idea of adding young talent for the future is intriguing and Burns has been decent in the playoffs.

Despite winning and two other seconds, Burns is still way out of the top 12 and facing a ton of competition.

Billy Horschel

17th in standings

A fierce competitor who would be great in foursomes, Horschel has had a solid year and won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in March.

His biggest issue is the crowded field. Horschel has never played in the Ryder Cup. He would face a daunting course, and at this point, it's about matchups with possible partners. If Stricker sees a fit, then that is his ticket to Wisconsin.

Kevin Kisner

18th in standings

Kisner's victory at the Wyndham Championship is a reminder of his tenacity. He won the WGC-Match Play in 2019, went 2-0-2 in his only Presidents Cup appearance in 2017 and is considered an excellent putter who excels at match play.

He's had an average year until his victory at Wyndham, which only moved him into the top 20 in points. Whistling Straits is also not his kind of course.

Kevin Na

19th in standings

A gritty competitor who lost in a playoff at the Wyndham, Na has proven himself to be a likeable sort who has overcome slow play issues and might be an intriguing option for Stricker, especially with his ability to putt.

Like Homa, has he done enough? Is putting a big enough strength to overcome other negatives? Is there a specific player he would make a good pairing with for a match or two?

Phil Mickelson

20th in standings

He's Phil Mickelson, legend, Hall of Famer, six-time major winner, including this year's PGA Championship. He's got tons of leadership skills, has been around these team events forever and would make an excellent partner for DeChambeau in fourball.

He's done almost nothing aside from the win at Kiawah. Mickelson's best finish was a tie for 17th at the WGC in Memphis, and he admitted he needed strong playoffs to get consideration, which didn't happen. He missed the cut at the Northern Trust and had a horrible second round at the BMW. Pencil in Phil for a vice captain's role and a future Ryder Cup captaincy.