Much like an overpacked burrito, today’s newsletter is beefy but worth it.
Day of atonement
With Hurricane Henri bearing down on host venue Liberty National, the PGA Tour pushed back the final round of the Northern Trust. Monday saw multiple additional delays, but once the golf got started it delivered.
Seeking his first win since the U.S. Open, world No. 1 Jon Rahm was in full control—until he wasn’t. After two bogeys over his final four holes, the Spaniard was out, and Tony Finau and Cam Smith were in. On the first hole of the playoff, Smith pumped his tee shot out of bounds, opening the door for Finau to collect his first PGA Tour victory since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. The Puerto Rico Curse is over, and Tony Finau is a free man. Results
Anyone who has paid attention to golf in the 1,975 days since Finau’s last win knows that the big Utahn is one hell of a player. He has maintained his spot in the top 25 of the Official World Golf Ranking since the fall of 2018. Over that span, he has racked up eight runner-ups but zero wins. In the moments after his victory at Liberty National, Finau’s relief was palpable.
The Northern Trust wasn’t just about first place. It was the opener of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and 70 players moved on to Caves Valley for this week’s BMW Championship. Six players—Alex Noren (T-4 at the Northern Trust), Erik van Rooyen (seventh), Tom Hoge, Harold Varner III (T-11), Keith Mitchell (T-8), and Harry Higgs (T-16)—snuck inside the top 70 of the FedEx Cup standings to extend their seasons. Hoge made the largest jump (from No. 108 to No. 48), and Mitchell earned his spot by birdieing his final three holes at Liberty National.
Off to Inverness
The American and European Solheim Cup teams were both announced on Monday:
Team USA: Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Ally Ewing, Austin Ernst, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Megan Khang, Lizette Salas, Jennifer Kupcho, Yealimi Noh (captains pick), Mina Harigae (cp), Brittany Altomare (cp)
Team Europe: Sophia Popov, Charley Hull, Carlota Ciganda, Georgia Hall, Anna Nordqvist, Emily Kristine Pedersen, Leona Maguire (cp), Matilda Castren (cp), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (cp), Madelene Sagstrom (cp), Celine Boutier (cp), Mel Reid (cp)
As at most Ryder Cups, the American team will have the on-paper advantage at the 2021 Solheim Cup. Eight of the top 30 in the Rolex Rankings will represent the U.S., whereas Sophia Popov is the only top-30 player on Europe’s roster. That said, several European captain’s picks—Maguire, Koerstz Madsen, and Sagstrom especially—have played incredible golf lately. And remember, despite its relative lack of depth in 2019, Team Europe knocked off the United States in dramatic fashion at Gleneagles. The battle continues next weekend at Inverness Club.
The plot thickens
On the men’s side, just one month remains before the long-awaited Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. Here’s how things stand after the Northern Trust:
Automatic qualifiers: Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, and Justin Thomas
One final automatic berth will be given out after this week’s BMW Championship, and Steve Stricker will make six captain’s picks after the Tour Championship. On the heels of a victory at the Northern Trust, Tony Finau looks like a good bet to earn the sixth automatic spot. Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Patrick Cantlay, and Daniel Berger are likely to be captain’s picks if they don’t leapfrog Finau this week. So by our calculations, one last pick will be up for grabs between Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Scottie Scheffler, and… maybe Phil Mickelson? Reed’s availability, however, is up in the air. According to a statement given by his wife Justine to CBS’s Amanda Balionis, he has been hospitalized with double pneumonia and doesn’t know when he’ll be back.
The European team will consist of nine automatic qualifiers and three captain’s picks. The automatic spots don’t get finalized until the conclusion of the FedEx Cup, but Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood, and Shane Lowry currently occupy the top nine positions. Victor Perez, Robert MacIntyre, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Bernd Wiesberger, Guido Migliozzi, and Justin Rose are in the conversation for Padraig Harrington’s captain’s picks.
For the first time, a PGA Tour event will be going to the Baltimore area. This week, Caves Valley Golf Club will host the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, the second of three FedEx Cup playoff events. The 1991 Tom Fazio design previously hosted the 1995 U.S. Mid-Amateur, the 2002 U.S. Senior Open, the 2005 Men’s NCAA Championships, and the 2009 Women’s NCAA Championships. For more on Caves Valley, read Brendan Porath’s piece for Golf Digest. BMW Championship Tee Times
The 41st Curtis Cup kicks off at Conwy Golf Club in Wales on Thursday. Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck headline Team USA, while Louise Duncan leads Team Great Britain & Ireland. Foursomes and four-ball matches will be played Thursday and Friday, and singles matches will close out the event on Saturday.
Just two events remain in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, and players hoping to earn PGA Tour cards are in Ohio this week for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Tee Times
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Paulie’s Picks: BMW Championship – Two weeks left in the FedEx Cup Playoffs! Make the most of your DraftKings and one-and-done picks with Paulie’s help.
Shotgun Start: Ryder Cup roster debates, The Curse gets canceled, and a Caves Valley primer
Will Gray of NBC Sports Edge joins for this packed Wednesday episode recapping the Monday finish, looking ahead to the schedule for the week, and drilling down on the Ryder Cup roster shuffling with just two events, and maybe only one for a few, to go before picks are made. Brendan begins by asking Will about his transition to gambling coverage and any surprises he has encountered as golf has run into the embrace of legalized gambling. Then they review the final round of the Northern Trust, where Tony Finau finally broke through for his second PGA Tour win. Is the PR Curse officially dead? Are we overdoing it on the narratives about what it means in multiple ways? Then they’re on to the BMW this week, spotlighting a couple of their favorite aspects of the second leg of the courier cup and also providing some early intel about the first-time PGA Tour host, Caves Valley in Baltimore. An event of the week is crowned as they run through the rest of the schedule and then they discuss the Ryder Cup points race and roster options in the final week, which Will has been studying up on. They also touch on Patrick Reed’s health situation and how that might impact the roster. The Journeyman of the Week is a high-profile stud coming out of college who failed to make the postseason for the first time since he got his card. Will then closes with some SEC football predictions and handicapping insights because he can. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Whether you’re in the cool climate of a cave or the blistering heat of a California valley, make sure you have proper headgear. There’s a Fried Egg hat for every kind of weather!