Olympics present problem for Ryder Cup qualifying


By Doug Ferguson - AP Golf Writer



SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — The Olympics has thrown another wrinkle into the golf schedule, this one affecting the American team for the Ryder Cup.

The PGA Championship typically is the final event to earn one of the eight automatic qualifying spots, and then Davis Love III would have four captain’s picks leading up to the Ryder Cup matches that start Sept. 30 at Hazeltine.

Because the PGA has been moved to the end of July ahead of the Olympics, qualifying for the Americans won’t end until Aug. 28 after The Barclays.

Love is looking beyond standings because of the Olympics.

For example, Rickie Fowler has slipped to No. 10 in the standings. He is going to Rio de Janeiro, taking him out of at least two tournaments (Travelers Championship and John Deere Classic) that others behind him in the standings might not play.

Bubba Watson (No. 7 in the standings) is playing next week at the Travelers Championship as the defending champion. However, Matt Kuchar (No. 8) and Patrick Reed (No. 11) will be in Rio for the Olympics.

“I think the assistant captains and I are going to be challenged, because we have so many factors like the Olympics that we haven’t really dealt with before,” Love said. “Rickie just told me he’s going to be down there for 11 days. You have to factor in that there’s two weeks he could have played here.”

It’s more than just the Olympics.

Brooks Koepka was at No. 3 until an ankle injury knocked him out of a lucrative World Golf Championship and the British Open, where money counts double toward the Ryder Cup standings. Koepka now is at No. 9, and his ankle is not at full strength.

Daniel Berger, who won in Memphis a week before the U.S. Open, withdrew from the WGC event at Firestone and The Open with a shoulder injury. He is at No. 16.

Love said he is keeping an “unofficial points list” in his head among those who are playing well, but either don’t have enough tournaments because of injury (Jim Furyk, for example) or might be missing events because of the Olympics.

“We know who is playing well and who is not playing well,” Love said. “And we know who our team wants as their teammates or their partners. We have a longer list maybe than you would think.”

Love could get a little more clarity this week, anyway. The PGA Championship also is worth double points.

NO SMOKING: A week into making good on a bet, the caddie of Henrik Stenson was starting to struggle.

Gareth Lord had a friend in Florida who told him he should quit smoking, and the conversation led to a bet: If Stenson wins a major, Lord stops smoking.

And then Stenson won the British Open, closing with a 63 for a three-shot victory at Royal Troon.

Stenson could tell his caddie was struggling when Lord jokingly told him on more than one occasion, “I wish Phil had shot 59.”

Tuesday morning on the range as the story was going around, someone did some quick math and realized Lord should be on his ninth day of no smoking, not seventh day.

“I had so much to drink, the first two days didn’t count,” Lord replied.

LONG DRIVE: Rory McIlroy thought he had his first victory of the week before the PGA Championship even started.

For the third straight year, the PGA of America staged its “Long Drive Championship,” this time on the first hole at Baltusrol. Jordan Spieth was the early leader at 314 yards, but that was before McIlroy hammered one 345 yards.

“I hit one out there pretty good this morning,” McIlroy said Tuesday. “Not going to lie to you, I’ve been checking the board since to see if anyone’s got up close to me. I saw Gary Woodland on the putting green just as he was going out, and I said, ‘That’s one of the guys I’m worried about.’ I thought he could maybe get it out there by me. But thankfully, he missed the fairway.

“I don’t know if I’m still on top, but I hope so by the end of the day.”

By the end of his news conference, he received the bad news — Byeong Hun An ripped one 347 yards, and that was the winner.

An received a gold money clip, while McIlroy had to settle for the silver and Nicolas Colsaerts (341 yards) received a bronze clip.

RUN OF THE LINKS: The Irish Open is moving to July next year, making it three straight weeks of links golf through the British Open.

The European Tour said Tuesday that the Irish Open will be played at Portstewart Golf Club on July 6-9. That’s the week before the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links on the Ayrshire coast, followed by The Open at Royal Birkdale.

It will be the first time Portstewart, which dates to 1894, hosts a European Tour event.

“To get that date right before the Scottish is huge,” said Rory McIlroy, the tournament host. “To play a round of links golf leading into the Open, hopefully we can attract some marquee names to come over and play. With it being at the start of July, hopefully — fingers crossed — we can get some decent weather.”

By Doug Ferguson

AP Golf Writer

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