On paper, the Wyndham Championship seems like a lull on the PGA Tour schedule. It comes the week after a WGC where nearly all the best players in the world competed last week in Memphis, and before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs next week at Liberty National.
But the Wyndham annually has the intrigue of players playing for their jobs as they battle to make the playoffs and keep their PGA Tour card for next season. The spots on the bubble are often reserved for nondescript players who aren’t expected to compete every week, but this year there are several accomplished veterans who find themselves near the cut line this week.
Rickie Fowler enters the week at 130th in the FedEx Cup standings after a trying season with just one top 10 finish in 23 starts. Fowler showed flashes of good play with a T8 finish at the PGA Championship followed by a T11 at the Memorial. It appeared that Fowler could be turning a corner, but was stuck in neutral for most of the summer.
He shot an opening round 64 in his last start at the 3M Open and for a moment it looked like it could be Fowler’s week of redemption, but he failed to break 70 the final three rounds and finished a disappointing T34.
Fowler is obviously disappointed with the position he is in, but he knows that one great week can turn it all around.
“Not in the position we wanted to be going into this week, but all it comes down to is just playing solid golf,” Fowler said. “I can't necessarily put extra pressure or anything like that, but yeah, need to get some points to secure my spot in the Playoffs and make more birdies than you do bogeys and play some solid golf and everything will be alright.”
Fowler isn’t the only big name on the bubble. Adam Scott should be safe at number 121, but Fowler, Justin Rose, and Tommy Fleetwood are all on the outside looking in. It is certainly surprising to see these players struggle, but Fowler offers a simple explanation.
“The only way you can explain that is golf. That's kind of what it comes down to. Obviously you have ups and downs. As soon as you feel like you have the game figured out, it will humble you very quickly,” Fowler said. “It's an impressive group to be a part of. We're just in the wrong spot at this time of year, so hopefully we can kick things into gear and get ourselves tee times for next week.”
With the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits looming next month, there is more at stake this week than just the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Rose finds himself 15th on the world points list for European team qualifying and will likely need a captain’s pick from Padraig Harrington to avoid missing the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2010. Like Fowler, Rose is determined to let his play do the talking.
“I know the situation I'm in. I need to show him just a little bit of form, which will make his job a little bit easier,” Rose said. “There are scenarios that if certain players play great and knock certain players out, that could jeopardize a situation for me. So there's a lot up in the air, but it's all down to me.”
Fowler is currently not in the conversation for a captain’s pick from Steve Stricker, so it would take a massive turnaround to avoid missing the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012. The Ryder Cup is a special week for Fowler whether he is playing or not, so he is open to being in the team room even if it needs to be in an assistant captain role.
“If the guys wanted me there, I'd be there in a heartbeat,” Fowler said. “They're such fun weeks to be a part of whether you're playing or not. Some of my favorite times have been when I've sat out and basically got to be there as a makeshift assistant captain. if I got asked or had the opportunity to go be a part of it, it would be awesome.”