Philadelphia, PA – With two big events in the next two weeks, what is currently the U.S. Ryder Cup team could look a lot different in no time. Part of the reason is that next week's PGA Championship is worth double points.
The team as is stands now includes - Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan.
That is a solid base for the team. Woods and Mickelson will be the veterans showing the newcomers the ropes.
Watson, Johnson, Kuchar and Mahan have all been through the rigors of the Ryder Cup, while Dufner and Simpson would be the first-timers.
Captain Davis Love III won't makes his four captain's picks until September 4, the day after the second FedExCup Playoff event ends.
The two biggest names not on the team at this point are Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk. Stricker has represented the U.S. every year since 2007 at the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. He has five top-10 finishes, including a win, in 13 starts this year, so his selection should be a given.
Despite a strong opening to this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Furyk's case will be a little tougher. He has just four top-10s in 17 starts, and has missed the cut in two of his last four starts. So he is struggling of late, but he has been on every American team since 1997.
His track record will be hard to overlook, but is there enough room to pick both as they head into these last two events ranked 13th and 15th on the points list.
If both are chosen, that means two players from a group that includes -- Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson -- won't make the cut.
Dating to the Masters, Bradley's best finish is a tie for 24th at the Byron Nelson.
Fowler earned his first tour win at the Wells Fargo back in May and came right back with a share of second at the Players. In his last three starts, he hasn't finished in the top 30.
Snedeker shared third at the British Open, but finished outside the top 30 in his other two starts since returning from a cracked rib.
Johnson also missed significant time with a back injury. However, since returning, he has won in Memphis and shared ninth at the British Open.
If the standings stay the same after the PGA Championship, here's how I think it shakes out.
Stricker is a lock, mostly because of how well he plays when paired with Woods. And his Midwestern roots don't hurt.
Bring one of the recently injured guys. Thanks in part to his win and his playing on the last two national teams, Johnson is the choice over Snedeker.
The final two spots will come from the other three players - Fowler, Furyk and Bradley. It might not seem fair to eliminate Bradley, last year's PGA Championship winner, but both Furyk and Fowler have more top-5s and more top-10s.
The deadline for the wild card picks was pushed back a few years ago to get the hottest players. Bradley's last top-25 was at the Houston Open, IN APRIL! That doesn't equal hot, so sorry Keegan, you'll have to wait to make your first national team.
Of course, if Bo Van Pelt or Bill Haas or Kyle Stanley wins the PGA Championship, all of this will have to be reworked.
If you think that selection will be tough, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal has just two captains picks. Ian Poulter, Thomas Bjorn and Padraig Harrington are among those on the outside looking in right now.
No pressure captains, the Ryder Cup is in seven weeks.
LIFE-CHANGING WEEK FOR KOHLES
Imagine you are one of thousands of recent college grads looking for work. Not a stretch for many.
Ben Kohles was among that group for about a little while. After sharing 18th at the prestigious Porter Cup, Kohles turned pro for last week's Web.com Tour event, the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational.
The 22-year-old Virginia graduate opened with a 66 to put himself in contention. He remained there until the final round, where he birdied two of the last three holes to get into a playoff.
Kohles birdied the first playoff hole to win the title, over Luke Guthrie, who by the way was making just his fourth tour start after finishing his senior year at the University of Illinois.
Kohles became the 13th player to win in his Web.com Tour debut. However, he was the first of those 13 to have zero professional starts to his name before said first victory.
He immediately jumped inside the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list.
Kohles joked afterwards, "Coming straight out of college I didn't have any money to my name, but I guess I have some now."
Including this week, there are 12 Web.com Tour events left this year. If Kohles earns another $40,000 or so, he'll get his PGA Tour card for 2013.
Talk about seizing an opportunity of a lifetime. Good luck, kid.
* Padraig Harrington is among a small of players competing at the Reno-Tahoe Open this week that will also being playing at the PGA Championship next week. Seems strange to me for two reasons: first, the Reno-Tahoe Open is using the go-for-broke Stableford scoring system and second, the fact that Reno is 4500- feet above sea level, while Kiawah Island, host of the season's final major, is just 13 feet above sea level. The adjustment for how far balls are traveling will throw many of those players off next week.
* The guys on the Champions Tour are a hearty bunch. There are some 40 players that competed last week at the Senior British Open that went right to this week's 3M Championship. They'll get to relax after this with just three events in the next six weeks.