x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Barclays the start of a wild finish to the PGA season

Plenty of intrigue exists on the PGA Tour, where golfers are not only vying for a spot in the FedEx play-off but may also be competing for a wild-card spot on the US Ryder Cup team.

Dustin Johnson is hoping he can prove to US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III that he is worthy of a wild-card selection to the team.
Dustin Johnson is hoping he can prove to US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III that he is worthy of a wild-card selection to the team.

US $10 million (Dh36.7m) represents a considerable carrot for any golfer involved in the conclusion to this year's FedEx Cup.

That the PGA Tour's season-long tussle retains such an appeal is obvious. Starting Thursday when The Barclays tees off the first of the PGA's final four play-off tournaments, the might of the American circuit - and now some notables from its European sibling, too - will compete for an eye-watering windfall.

Rigour can turn to riches.

However, this year pledges more subplots than usual. A handful of United States stars harbour hopes of inclusion in Davis Love III's Ryder Cup team, not least Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

With a strong core already for next month's duel with Europe as Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker join Johnson and Fowler are in the battle for Love's wild-card picks.

Three of those four spots, confirmed on September 4, are expected to go to the former trio, but the uncertainty deems the stakes are even higher this week at Bethpage Black, and in seven days' time at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Johnson certainly hopes so.

"[Davis] probably already has the guys he's going to pick and these next couple weeks could change his mind," said Johnson, the man ranked 26th in the FedEx standings, a position that would no doubt have been higher had a back injury not delayed his season beyond the Masters.

"I've played pretty solid all year and think I'd be a great asset to the team. If I play well the next two weeks, I'd hope I'd definitely be in consideration."

Ryder Cup places are not the only rewards on offer during the play-offs.

There is the PGA Tour Player of the Year award, last year's battle between Luke Donald and Webb Simpson, then No 1 and No 2 in the FedEx table, extended to five or more players.

Victory in a FedEx play-off event could propel to the title any of the current four major champions - Bubba Watson, Simpson, Ernie Els or Rory McIlroy.

Tiger Woods, 10-time player of the season, three-time victor this year and two-time winner of the FedEx Cup's bumper bounty, might have something to say about it. Or maybe he will be too preoccupied with this year's final, most intriguing subplot: him and McIlroy, Woods's heir apparent, going head-to-head in a clash of golf's resplendent recent past against its formidable future.

That $10m does not seem quite so shiny now.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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