By Steve Keating
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – United States captain Jim Furyk got a close look at two potential picks for next month’s Ryder Cup showdown in Paris when he was paired with Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele for the opening round of the PGA Championship on Thursday.
While his European opposite number Thomas Bjorn was forced to withdraw from the year’s final major with a leg injury and observed his troops from behind the rope, Furyk was able to study at close quarters two big-hitters who have a chance to make his Ryder Cup roster.
The most impressive performance on the day, however, was produced by the old warhorse himself as Furyk carded a one-under 69 to outshine the young guns, who the captain said might have felt a bit of added pressure playing in the company of the man who could decide their Ryder Cup fate.
Schauffele shot a level par 70 while Finau laboured to a 74.
“I always put a lot of pressure on myself when I was playing with the captain in a Ryder Cup (as) I did in 2016 with Davis (Love III),” said Furyk.
“Both (Finau and Schauffele are) really talented young players, they got off to tough starts this morning… they scrapped it out.
“They’re tough players. They fought hard and Xander got it back to even par, Tony had some bumps and bruises along the way but he fought and fought and made some birdies.”
The top eight players in the Ryder Cup standings, which will be finalised after the PGA Championship on Sunday, will earn automatic berths for next month’s showcase with the final four spots left to Furyk.
Competition will be fierce for Furyk’s captain’s picks with names such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the mix along with Schauffele and Finau, who are 11th and 13th in the Ryder Cup point standings.
Furyk will announce three of his selections after the second FedEx Cup Playoff event, the Dell Technologies Championship on Sept. 3. The final pick will be made after the BMW Championship a week later.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to play too much with Tony but … I have seen him play, know him real well, talk to him in the locker room,” said Furyk. “That’s the first time I ever played with Xander, so exciting.”
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)