Last chance for Woodland, Day to earn automatic Presidents Cup spots
August 17, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Gary Woodland is currently projected to finish 10th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, Ill. – Neither Gary Woodland nor Jason Day want to settle for being captain’s picks on their respective Presidents Cup teams.
“The goal is not to be in that predicament,” Woodland said.
“I would like to earn my way on,” Day added.
Yet the reality is this: Unless they can go low in the final round of the BMW Championship, it appears each one will remain on the outside looking in when the eight automatic spots for the U.S. and International teams are confirmed Sunday night.
Entering the week, Woodland and Day were each ranked ninth in points. Woodland was about 350 points behind No. 8 Patrick Cantlay in the U.S. standings that are based on a FedExCup points calculation. The Australian Day was less than four points behind Chinese Taipei's C.T. Pan in the International standings that are based on world rankings.
Projections through three rounds at Medinah still have each one outside the top eight.
Tony Finau, who started the week ranked 10th in the U.S. standings, has leapfrogged Woodland and is projected to fill the opening left by Bryson DeChambeau, who has slid out of the top eight projections. In fact, Woodland is projected to 10th now.
Day, tied for 36th through three rounds, needs to finish solo 19th or better to pass fellow Aussie Cameron Smith, who is not in the field this week. An additional factor is No. 10 Jazz Janewattanond of Thailand, who is one stroke off the lead through 54 holes at this week’s Asian Tour event. If Janewattanond wins, he could also gain enough points to move inside the top eight.
In the end, though, it likely will not matter for either Woodland or Day if they fail to automatically qualify. Odds are that both will be at Royal Melbourne this December, even if U.S. Captain Tiger Woods and International Captain Ernie Els have to wait a few months before making it official when their picks are announced in early November.
Woodland is this year’s U.S. Open champion, and in Presidents Cup history, just a handful of Americans have failed to make the team in the year of their major victory, the last one being in 2011 when Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship.
As for Day, it's hard to imagine Ernie Els leaving one of Australian’s best players and a former world No. 1 off the International team that is hoping to use its home-course advantage at Royal Melbourne. In fact, both Els and assistant captain Trevor Immelman sent Day good-luck texts this week.
Automatic spot or captain’s pick? Day and Woodland both said their focus is more on showing good form than fretting over scenarios.
“I’m not really worried about that as much as I need to go out and play some good golf,” said Day, who shot a 3-under 69 Saturday to move to 6 under for the week. “If I can go out and shoot a low one tomorrow, hopefully that will take care of it.”
Day has missed the cut in two of his last three starts, including last week’s THE NORTHERN TRUST when he dropped from seventh to ninth in the International standings, and followed by announcing his split with caddie Steve Williams after six starts. Since the Masters when he finished T-5, Day has made eight individual stroke-play starts and has just one top 10.
But he feels something good is just around the corner.
“I feel like I’m very close to shooting a low one,” Day said after his round Saturday. “It’s very, very close. It’s right on the border. Just got to be patient with it. I’ve been saying that pretty much the whole year, it feels like.
“Sometimes when you’re trying to work and get back to the good form, you have to be patient. That’s all you can do. I’m still trying my best.”
Woodland, meanwhile, definitely seemed at his best Saturday when he shot a bogey-free 8-under 64. At the time, the 64 was just one shot off the Medinah course record set by Hideki Matsuyama in the second round before Justin Thomas's third-round 61 broke the course record for the third time in as many days. Woodland had a 7-foot putt on the 18th hole to shoot 63 but missed.
“Would’ve been nice to knock that in but it wasn’t a bad putt,” Woodland said. “Not going to complain about 64.”
It’s his lowest round since shooting a 63 in the final round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last November. It also eclipsed the 65 he shot in the second round at Pebble Beach in June that set him for his weekend run to the U.S. Open title.
Since then, Woodland has made four starts, missing two cuts. Wife Gabby also delivered their twin girls earlier this month, and Woodland said Saturday that it was tough emotionally. But he seemed to find his groove in the second round at Liberty National, making the cut by shooting 4 under in his final nine holes that Friday.
“Playing four rounds last week was huge for me,” said Woodland, 9 under through three rounds. “I’m getting some things worked out on the golf course. It’s a little hard to do it on the range.”
But he did find something on the Medinah range Friday night, successfully carrying that to the course Saturday. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. “It’s as good as I’ve hit it in a long time,” he said.
No doubt that’s good news for Captain Woods. It’ll make it easier to add Woodland to the team no matter what happens Sunday.
“The way I played today,” Woodland said, “if I continue to do that, everything should be all right.”