Tony Finau will have to wait until next week for his likely Ryder Cup selection, thanks to two of the biggest names in golf history and the hottest player in the game.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk announced Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau as his first three choices Tuesday, leaving the 12th spot on the team open for next Monday's final pick. Finau, a West High School graduate and Lehi resident, is the favorite for that spot among most golf observers. Golf Digest suggested Finau “doesn't need another tournament to make his case.”
The eight automatic qualifiers last month were Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
The Ryder Cup matches vs. Europe are scheduled Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. Furyk's selection of Matt Kuchar as an assistant captain is considered a good sign of Finau's status, removing a contender from the mix. Xander Schauffele is now viewed as Finau's biggest competition for the spot.
“I want someone that has a good body of work, someone that’s playing well right now, but definitely that person has to fit” with the other 11 players, Furyk said in a news conference.
Finau would become the first Utah native to play in the Ryder Cup and the first golfer who was living in Utah at the time to compete in the event since Johnny Miller in 1981. Sandy resident Mike Weir, from Canada, made five appearances for the International team in the Presidents Cup.
Woods and Mickelson were considered locks to make the U.S. team, as of the PGA Championship in mid-August. Finau and DeChambeau were viewed as 50-50 possibilities, before each performed well in the first two FedEx Cup Playoff events — with DeChambeau winning both tournaments and Finau finishing second in The Northern Trust in New Jersey and tying for fourth in the Dell Technologies Championship in Massachusetts.
“The more solid I play each week, I'm making it tough to not pick me, if I'm being honest,” Finau told reporters this past weekend.
If recent results mean anything, Finau added, “I think I'm going to be a hard guy to look past.”
Something unusual, such as Schauffele's winning this week's BMW Championship in Philadelphia, would have to happen for Furyk to pick anyone other than Finau. The Playoffs are down to 70 contestants with no 36-hole cut this week, so not even a poor round or two should derail Finau's candidacy.
Last September, his closing 64 gave him a tie for seventh in the BMW, then played near Chicago. More important, he moved into the top 30 in the standings, positioning him for his big 2017-18 season with access to all four major tournaments. He responded by finishing in the top 10 of the first three majors and making the cut in the PGA Championship.
Junior Ryder Cup
Finau is hoping to become a Ryder Cup rookie, but he already has international experience after playing in the Junior Ryder Cup in 2004 and '06. Davis High School senior Cole Ponich will follow Finau's path by playing in this year's matches, Sept. 24-25 in Paris.
Ponich, who’s committed to BYU, is one of six boys playing for the American team, along with six girls. He made the Rolex Junior All-American second team in 2017 and won this year’s State Junior Amateur, beating State Amateur champion Preston Summerhays in the final match at Oakridge Country Club.