Cantlay takes final automatic spot on US Ryder Cup team

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Patrick Cantlay, left, reacts after sinking his putt on the 18th green as Bryson DeChambeau, right, lines up his putt during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Patrick Cantlay earned the sixth and final automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team by winning the BMW Championship on Sunday.

All that meant was avoiding a phone call from the captain, Steve Stricker, after the Tour Championship to inform him of being a pick.

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Because of the pandemic that delayed the Ryder Cup one year until Sept. 24-26, qualifying began the day Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters. It ended 28 months later with six players assured a spot at Whistling Straits, and the real drama still a week away.

Collin Morikawa, who won two majors during the qualifying process, topped the list. He was followed by Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas, all of whom had mathematically locked up their spots.

Tony Finau was in the sixth spot until he was surpassed by Cantlay's victory. Cantlay and Morikawa will be making their Ryder Cup debuts.

The U.S. team has six captain's picks this year instead of four, a decision made during the midst of the pandemic and so much uncertainty about the golf schedule.

Cantlay was considered a shoo-in to be picked even if he didn't make the team. Ditto for Finau after he won The Northern Trust last week, and Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. They are the next three in the standings.

Harris English, a two-time winner this year, is No. 10 in the standings.

Stricker will make his picks official after the Tour Championship. Among the candidates are Daniel Berger, Webb Simpson, Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns, and the curious case of Patrick Reed, who had a big week without even playing at Caves Valley.

Reed, who has a penchant for match play with his marvelous short game and relentless attitude, has been out the last three weeks, first with an ankle injury, then with what he described as bilateral pneumonia.

He faced long odds of being among the top 30 who advance to the Tour Championship, but it worked in his favor. Of the 10 players behind him in the FedEx Cup standings, only Rory McIlroy finished among the top 25 at the BMW Championship.

And when K.H. Lee made bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway, that allowed Reed to stay at No. 30. That means Reed, if healthy, gets a chance to play at East Lake in what could amount to an audition for the Ryder Cup.

Europe, meanwhile, still has two more events before its qualifying ends.

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