When the FedEx Cup Playoffs return to Indianapolis for the first time since 2012 Thursday, there's going to be more on the line for some than just an opportunity to take home golf's richest prize at the Tour Championship two weeks later.
Three of Davis Love III's four Ryder Cup spots will be named following the third leg of the playoffs in the Circle City, and most of the contenders for those spots will be in action. And while some team members like Phil Mickelson think the spots should be obvious, a win from any number of American players would certainly vault them into the conversation for being one of Love's selections after the weekend.
Here's a look at a few of the contenders -- and their chances to clinch one of the three spots available after things finish up at Crooked Stick this week.
Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler
If there are three names that are obvious inclusions to the Ryder Cup roster, they would have to be the three other U.S. Olympians, right? Coming to Indianapolis, Watson and Fowler are still inside the OWGR Top 10 -- and Kuchar's the eighth-highest-ranked American coming in at 17th. It's nearly unthinkable that players sitting that high in the world rankings would be left off a Ryder Cup roster if healthy, but it's already happened this year -- Russell Knox won't be on the European roster despite being one of the world's top 20 players.
Still, there's compelling arguments for keeping Watson, Kuchar, and Fowler at home. None of the three has been spectacular by any stretch this year, combining to win a grand total of zero events worldwide over the course of the past eight months. Add to that, each has had the opportunity to try their had in Ryder Cup situations -- and none of the lot has provided anything more than replacement-level results to the roster in past Ryder Cups.
It's still hard to imagine any of these three being left off the U.S. roster. Fowler's probably had the biggest summer struggle of the three, but his likability among players and role on the Task Force makes his inclusion seem pre-ordained. Watson has two major championship titles. Kuchar just won a bronze medal for the United States with a final-round 63 in the Olympics. These three might not be perfect candidates, but it's hard to find anyone with a slam dunk better case.
J.B. Holmes, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas
Here's where things start to get a little messy. Love won't need to completely fill out the roster until after the Tour Championship in two weeks, but it's completely possible that any of these three could find themselves on the roster after the weekend.
JB Holmes has the best argument to be on the roster -- and possibly one better than any of the above three. Of players that weren't automatic qualifiers for the roster, only Bubba Watson acquired more Ryder Cup points during this cycle. Holmes was a mere $200,000 in prize money behind Zach Johnson in eighth, and had a chance to play his way onto the time on the final Sunday at The Barclays. Add to that, Holmes has been a pretty solid asset for the U.S. in international team play over the course of his career. He owns a 4-2-2 career record across his two national team appearances (2008 Ryder Cup, 2015 Presidents Cup) and paired well with Bubba Watson in Korea. Hazeltine is a bomber's course, perfect for Holmes. He's made a career of just missing out on these teams in those intervening years, but if golf is a game where your results on the course should speak most loudly -- Holmes should be on the team. Even if it's not, Holmes should be on the team.
No selection to the roster would draw more ire from American Golf Twitter than Jim Furyk. Davis Love mentions Furyk's name at nearly every opportunity possible when discussing captain's picks, noting that he missed four months of the qualifying cycle and would be higher in the standings if it weren't for the wrist injury. He shot 58 on a Sunday morning at the Wyndham a few weeks back when you probably weren't paying attention at all. He finished T-2 at the U.S. Open. These are the arguments for Furyk's inclusion.
The primary against his inclusion? Well, he's not a good Ryder Cup player! Jim's been on every U.S. Ryder Cup team since 1997. He's won his singles match four times -- and two of those wins came in 1997 and 1999. The other two came in 2004 and 2008. His career foursomes/fourball Ryder Cup record is 6-18-3. Looking for a reason to include a guy that's been out-and-out bad in this format for the majority of his career at a long-hitters track that won't suit him seems, uh, bad. Add to that, he won't even be in the field this week in Indianapolis because he didn't qualify.
Oh, and Bill Haas! Bill Haas would be a fine choice, I guess. He's got three Presidents Cups under his belt. He's done little of note in 2016 and does most of his damage in recent seasons before March, but sure. Bill Haas would be fine.
Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Scott Piercy, Kevin Na
It's hard to imagine any of these players will be in contention for the spots up for grabs this weekend -- unless they're able to bring home a win at Crooked Stick. But there's no question, Justin Thomas is going to be the fan favorite to take home the final Ryder Cup spot. He'll be playing the closest thing he's had to a home game in his PGA Tour career this week in Indianapolis, too -- Thomas grew up just under two hours away in Louisville.
There's no question Thomas' length off the tee would be an asset at Hazeltine -- and he might be the type of personality that would excel in a Ryder Cup setting. He didn't get Ryder Cup points for his win in Malaysia at the CIMB Classic over Adam Scott last November, so he'd be higher in the standings if that event counted -- like it should have.
Berger's around the same age as Thomas and in a similar situation -- picking up his first Tour win in Memphis this summer. But he's been injured a bit since and hasn't impressed after returning other than a top-5 finish at the Travelers. Scott Piercy tied Furyk's second-place finish at the U.S. Open and had another runner-up at the Bridgestone. Kevin Na would drive his playing competitors insane -- and he's been pretty good this year, too!