Sobel: Schauffele Leads the BMW, But Finau Still Has Inside Track on Final Ryder Cup Pick
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Xander Schauffele
- Xander Schauffele has gotten off to a hot start at the BMW Championship and is the co-betting favorite to win at 4-1 odds, along with Justin Rose.
- Schauffele is vying for Jim Furyk's final captain's pick for the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup team, but Tony Finau, the favorite to make the squad, isn't fading away.
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Forget the upcoming Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson pay-per-view event. We need a live feed of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk this weekend.
Don’t tell me you wouldn’t pay $24.99 for that.
Here’s guessing that Furyk had a nice little weekend planned. Maybe listen to a few English-to-French tutorials, make sure the team rainsuits don’t leak and instruct his new vice-captains on the proper peanut-butter-and-jelly-making techniques.
Then he was going to wake up Monday morning and announce Tony Finau as the final captain’s pick for his team.
Now that might not be such an easy decision in a few days.
That’s because Xander Schauffele, another potential candidate for the last roster spot, owns the BMW Championship lead after Round 2, all of which should make us want a channel glued to Furyk as he remains glued to the weekend telecasts.
Meanwhile, Finau is a mere five shots off the pace and still showing off for the captain.
In other words, it’s a good problem to have for Furyk.
The conventional wisdom tells us that this was going to have to be a two-way miss for the pick to be given to anyone but Finau. Somebody else in contention was going to have to win the tournament, while he was going to have to struggle under the pressure of locking down the spot.
While Schauffele is doing his part, Finau is hardly fading away — which is one reason even the leader himself is buying into that conventional wisdom.
Following an opening-round 63, Schauffele admitted: “I feel like I need a win. Might not be enough. Tony is an ATM or Top-10 machine, you know. He’s been killing it and playing great golf. I feel like if I were Jim right now I would pick him, to be completely honest.”
He didn’t back down from that statement after a second-round 64 propelled him into the lead.
“I’m sort of in a position where I feel like a win is the only way I’d even be in consideration,” Schauffele said. “I mean, Tony obviously is the guy right now. He just shot 64, as well. He’s not making it easy on anyone else trying to get on that team. So, hats off to him for playing really well.”
Even though Schauffele is right, the spirit of waiting on that last pick is still getting overlooked.
Four years ago, all four captain’s picks were announced after the second FedEx Cup playoff event. Billy Horschel then won the final two tournaments, but with no allowance to select the “hot hand,” he didn’t even have a chance to be chosen.
That changed two years ago. With a week off in between the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup, the final pick was tabled until after the finale. Ryan Moore played his way into a playoff at that tourney, ultimately playing his way onto the team, despite hardly being a frontrunner before then.
But again, it’s a different scenario this time around.
Finau’s resume is chock-full of rationale to give him the spot.
He finished top-10 in the year’s first three majors, top-four in each of the previous two playoff events and ranks 11th in birdie average this season. He also carries the intangible quality of being a likeable guy who could pair with nearly anyone else on the team in the first four sessions.
“I try not to really change anything,” Finau said of getting the final spot on the team. “To me, I’ve been playing good golf all year and I don’t need to put more pressure on myself than what’s already there. It’s a lot easier to say than it is to do.”
Schauffele won last year’s Tour Championship, finished top-six at two majors this summer and is now leading another big-boy field.
Against anyone else, Schauffele’s resume would stack up favorably; against Finau’s, it probably comes up a bit short, even with a win this week.
Two big-game hunters who tend to play their best golf when it means the most.
Once again, it’s a good problem for Jim Furyk to have.
It would be even better if we could watch him mulling it over this weekend.