At Bethpage Black, one of the most intimidating courses on tour, three golfers: Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, and J.B. Holmes have come out with their play and said “I want a Ryder Cup spot”. This is the last week of automatic qualifying for the U.S. side, and so far, it is the sidestory to the FedEx Cup playoffs that has rejected its ancillary role this week.
After round one of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Reed and Scotland’s Martin Laird are co-leaders, one stroke ahead of Fowler, Holmes, Kevin Chappell, and Emiliano Grillo.
T1 Patrick Reed, Martin Laird -5
T3 Emiliano Grillo, Kevin Chappell, Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes -4
T7 Jason Day, Jonas Blixt, Jhonattan Vegas, Sung Kan -3
T11 Billy Horschel, Scott Piercy, Adam Scott -2
T19 Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk -1
T34 Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Bubba Watson E
T52 Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas +1
T69 Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Russell Knox +2
T86 Si Woo Kim, Jimmy Walker, Steve Stricker +3
WD Henrik Stenson +3
How the Leaders Did It
Reed and Laird both got into the lead with similar rounds: they both took advantage of birdie holes on the front nine, and limited mistakes on the more difficult back nine. Reed had three birdies and an eagle, all on the front nine. Laird had four birdies on the front nine, and then played the back nine -1. Reed excelled in the putting department, while Laird was more solid tee-to-green.
Better Than Expected
J.B. Holmes, apparently motivated by a potential Ryder Cup spot, broke out of his recent funk with a four-under 67. Since his solo-third place finish at The Open Championship, Holmes has missed the cut in all three tournaments he has played, which dropped him from 7th to 9th in the Ruder Cup standings, a very significant drop with only the top 8 qualifying automatically.
While it’s still early, South Korea’s Sung Kang is projected to make the biggest jump in the current standings. Going into the week 122nd, Kang is projected to move all the way up to 67, well within the range for a Deutsche Bank Invite. Jonas Blixt, Mr. 100 to start the week, is projected to move up to 49th.
We Expected Better
Justin Rose might be experiencing an Olympic hangover. The Gold Medal winner at the Olympics in Rio bogeyed three holes in a row on the back nine and posted a disappointing two-over 73. Brooks Koepka is secure for both a Ryder Cup spot and the top 100, but a two-over 73 was not what he had in mind for his first round. Defending FedEx Cup champion Jordan Spieth, was one of the back nine’s higher profile victims, going out in +2 and finishing even par for the day.
Si Woo Kim, who was dominant in his victory at the Wyndham Championship last week, struggled with consistency today, with four birdies, five bogeys, and a double bogey. At +3 74, Kim hoped to follow up his breakthrough victory much better.
Making a Mistake?
Shane Lowry knew it was a gamble to sit out The Barclays in favor of the European Tour’s Made In Denmark, but right now, it is looking awful. Hoping to make an impression on European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, Lowry shot +4 and sits in a tie for 131st place.
Meanwhile, Lowry came into the week 87th on the FedEx Cup standings, and is currently projected to finish 105th, with the top 100 moving on to round two of the playoffs in Boston. He will need a lot of help to survive the week.
“I’m obviously very happy with the no bogeys part, I played really nicely on the front nine, it was downwind, there were some par-5s that were downwind and gettable, and I took advantage of the easier holes out here. That back nine is brutal, I played very nicely on the back to shoot one-under. A couple of nine up-and-downs for par, and then made a birdie on 16, so I’m obviously very happy with my score.”
–Martin Laird, first round co-leader.