Shane Lowry facing tough decision on Ryder Cup, and we can't blame him
This is a choice no golfer would look forward to making.
First off, the good news for Shane Lowry.
The Offaly man's joint 12th place finish at the USPGA Championship was enough to earn him just shy of $178,000 and significantly boost his chances of retaining his tour card in the United States.
Lowry was in the mix for the famous Wanamaker trophy on the final day but he could not string enough birdies together on a day when the likes of winner Brooks Koepka and runner-up Tiger Woods were shooting the lights out. Two bogeys on the homeward stretch saw Lowry miss out on a Top 10 finish but he will be pleased that he put himself in such a decent position to win after a tough start to the year.
Lowry entered the final Major of the year down in 156th in the US money list and in serious danger of losing his tour card. That card had been sorted for three years when, in 2015, he got an exemption after winning the prestigious WGC Bridgestone.
Up next for the 31-year-old is likely to be the Wyndham Championship and, if all goes to plan, he could yet get back to Europe and push for an automatic Ryder Cup spot. Europ captain Thomas Bjorn is already digesting the Ryder Cup comments made by Rory McIroy (below) that have thrown his participation into doubt so he could do with Lowry keeping up his good run of form.
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Lowry needs to finish in the top 125 at the Wyndham Championship, in North Carolina, this weekend to secure his US card. That must be his first priority and we can not blame him from putting Ryder Cup thoughts to one side until he does that.
A decent finish at the Wyndham may yet propel the Clara native up the Ryder Cup's 'World Points' list. He currently lies 21st there and has 12 men ahead of him in terms of automatic qualification. He would need a top three finish this weekend to even stand a chance of catching Ian Poulter, who is in the last automatic spot.
He is slightly better placed on the 'European Points' list (19th) but his schedule clash means he will miss a chance to climb those standings at this weekend's Nordea Masters.
Should Lowry secure that US card, he may seek to play in the final two European Tour events carrying ranking points - the Czech Masters in Prague and the Made in Denmark Tournament (August 30 to September 2).
The only other Irish player within reach of an automatic spot is Paul Dunne - 17th on the 'European' list and 21st on the 'World' list. These are the 8 players currently in Europe's automatic qualifying spots:
- Francesco Molinari (Italy)
- Justin Rose (England)
- Tyrrell Hatton (England)
- Tommy Fleetwood (England)
- John Rahm (Spain)
- Rory McIlroy (N.Ireland)
- Alex Noren (Sweden)
- Ian Poulter (England)
Meanwhile, the USA team has now confirmed it's 8 automatic qualifiers and it is stacked as hell. Leading the way are Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth.
The first 8 members of our team!
See you in Paris. #GoUSA🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/yw7jouYxFB
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) August 13, 2018
Woods told reporters, after the PGA, that he is hopeful of making it into the US team for next month's event, in France.