It’s the last week before the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs on the PGA Tour, and before the final women’s major championship of the season, the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England.
And there’s another LIV Golf League event in West Virginia.
A handful of PGA Tour stars, including Justin Thomas, Shane Lowry and Adam Scott, will try to make a push at this week’s Wyndham Championship to crack the top 70 in FedEx Cup points to make the playoffs.
That’s not the only thing at stake this week in professional golf. There’s also positioning for the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup later in late September.
Here’s what to watch in professional golf this week:
What’s next on the PGA Tour
Where: Sedgefield Country Club
Greensboro, North Carolina
Defending champion: Tom Kim
Purse: $7.6 million
Playoff spots on the line: The top 70 players in the FedEx Cup points list after Sunday’s final round will advance to next week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis, the first leg of the playoffs. That’s down from the 125 players who qualified for the first of three playoff tournaments in recent seasons. The top 50 will make the BMW Championship, and the top 30 will finish the season at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
There are a few familiar names who need to play well this week to make the playoffs. Lowry is 76th in points with 556; Thomas is 79th (546), Scott is 81st (517), Joel Dahmen is 82nd (515), Gary Woodland is 97th (436) and Billy Horschel is 116th (350). All of them are in this week’s field.
JT’s final push
Thomas is not only on the verge of missing the FedEx Cup Playoffs but his spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which once seemed to be a sure thing, might be in danger as well. Thomas has fallen to 14th in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings; the top six are guaranteed spots on the team that will compete against Europe at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club outside Rome, Italy, on Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
U.S. team captain Zach Johnson will make six captain’s choices after the Tour Championship.
Thomas probably needs to finish solo 18th or better this week to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
“I’m very confident, I am,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “It’s different than trying to win a tournament or making a putt for a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, whatever it may be, but it’s still that same feeling. I was and am so excited to be playing this week.
“Like I said, it’s a cool opportunity. It’s a great opportunity for me. I’ve been in the right frame of mind I feel like for the last kind of month or so. I’ve been in a lot better headspace of just a feeling like really good things are coming, But not as much expecting or saying, you know, when’s this going to be over?”
Thomas missed the cut in the 3M Open last week. It was the fifth time in his past seven starts that he wasn’t around for the weekend.
“It’s just making it not as big of a deal as it is and just having an understanding that just having good scoring and doing what I have in the past, and know that any week just one shot, one round, one tournament could flip it and in a month nobody’s talking about it anymore.”
Kim, who picked up his first PGA Tour victory by carding a final-round 61 in the Wyndham Championship last year, won’t be around to defend his title. He is skipping the event as he continues to recover from a grade-1 right ankle sprain that happened in an accident at his rental home at last month’s Open Championship.
Kim said he slipped in wet grass while stepping off a patio. He battled through the pain to tie for second at The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
“I am very gutted to not be able to defend my first PGA Tour win,” Kim said in a statement last week. “I am still having a hard time with my ankle, so I am getting the treatment I need to heal completely.”
He traveled to his native South Korea to receive treatment and hopes to be ready for next week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship.
What’s next in the LIV Golf League
LIV Golf Invitational Greenbrier
Where: The Old White Course
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Purse: $25 million
Rahm isn’t coming
There was widespread speculation in the sport that the LIV Golf League was courting Jon Rahm in recent months, but the Masters champion told the Spanish podcast Golf Sin Etiquetas this week that its team format never appealed to him.
Rahm told the podcast that LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman reached out to him in early 2022, but “instead of convincing me with the history of golf, which I love, he started sending me numbers, numbers and numbers.”
Rahm said he told Norman to reach out to his manager.
“In turn, I told my manager that this doesn’t appeal to me,” Rahm said.
Rahm told the podcast that his relationship with LIV Golf star Phil Mickelson, a fellow former Arizona State player, is still good.
“Phil respects my decision and I respect his decision,” Rahm said. “He has told me that I have no reason to go to LIV. And he has told me that several times.”
Mickelson wants an apology
The pending alliance between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has cooled some of the bad blood between the rival circuits.
Leave it to Mickelson, one of the PGA Tour’s most vocal critics, to spice things up again on social media.
Last week, the PGA Tour said in a memo to its players that a committee was working through how to allow LIV Golf League players back on the PGA Tour if a final agreement is reached with PIF.
Mickelson alleged on social media this past weekend that LIV Golf League players don’t want to come back.
“Not a single player on LIV wants to play PGA Tour,” Mickelson said. “It would require a public apology and restitution to LIV players for paying millions to Clout media to disparage all of us. A better topic is future sanctions for the many players who now come to LIV.”
Mickelson was referring to Clout Public Affairs, which the PGA Tour contracted to handle public relations during its fierce battle with LIV Golf.
What’s next on the LPGA Tour
Freed Group Women’s Scottish Open
Where: Dundonald Links
Defending champion: Ayaka Furue
Purse: $2 million
Boutier’s whirlwind week
Celine Boutier captured her first major championship at last week’s Amundi Evian Championship and doing it in her native France made it even more special.
She is the third woman from France to win a major championship, joining Patricia Meunier-Lebouc at the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship and Catherine Lacoste, an amateur who won the 1967 U.S. Women’s Open.
— LPGA (@LPGA) July 30, 2023
Boutier, who was born in Clamart, France, had fans rooting her for as she carded a final-round 68 to secure a 6-stroke victory. The former Duke star has residences in Dallas and Montrouge, France.
“I feel like people were kind of expecting me to do it,” Boutier said. “I think that was probably the hardest. The fact that, also, they wanted it as much, probably, as I did. I didn’t want to disappoint anybody, so that’s also something I had to kind of put aside and not really think about it too much to be able to play my best.”
Boutier finished second in last year’s Scottish Open, 3 strokes behind Furue. She climbed 11 spots to fourth in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Last year, Furue became the first Japanese woman to capture the Scottish Open. She started the final round 4 shots back but carded a 10-under 62, a course record, to pick up her first LPGA victory.
A 22-year-old rookie at the time, Furue had 10 birdies in the final 18 holes, including six in a row. Her 21-under total set a scoring record for the Women’s Scottish Open. She had seven wins on the Japanese Tour before earning her LPGA card.
“When I went back to Japan, all the Japanese fans, they already know the bunkers and the course is very difficult,” Furue told reporters in Scotland. “So they were very happy that I was able to win in that condition, and everybody said, ‘Great job, great job.'”
Korda back to No. 1
With a tie for ninth at the Amundi Evian Championship, American Nelly Korda has returned to No. 1 in the world rankings. She replaces Jin Young Ko, who finished 20th in France and had held the No. 1 spot for the previous 10 weeks.
It’s the fifth time in Korda’s career that she has been ranked No. 1 in the world, most recently from April 24-May 21. She has spent a total of 36 weeks at No. 1 in her career. Korda missed more than a month this season while recovering from a low back injury.
Roaring back to the top spot in the World Ranking. 💯
— TaylorMade Golf (@TaylorMadeGolf) August 1, 2023
Korda, U.S. Women’s Open champion Allisen Corpuz and Chevron Championship winner Lilia Vu have already qualified for the U.S. Solheim Cup team on points. The Americans will battle Europe at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain, on Sept. 22-24.
The top seven players in the U.S. Solheim Cup points standings after the CPKC Women’s Open in Canada on Aug. 24-27 will automatically qualify for the team. The top two players in the world rankings otherwise not eligible will also make the squad.
U.S. team captain Stacy Lewis will also make three captain’s choices.
Ryder Cup stock report
Here are the players who are trending up and down this week to make the Ryder Cup:
Up: Wyndham Clark — The U.S. Open winner joined world No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler as the only player to have mathematically secured spots on the U.S. team. Clark has seven top-10 and 12 top-25 finishes this season, including his first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo Championship.
From major champion to the Ryder Cup 🏆
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) July 31, 2023
Down: Justin Thomas — JT has been a stud in team events with a 6-2-1 record in two previous Ryder Cup appearances. But given Thomas’ recent form, he has to do something good to justify Johnson selecting him.
Up: Cameron Young — Young missed the cut at the 3M Open, but his recent top-10s at the John Deere Classic (tie for sixth) and The Open (tie for eighth) elevated him to eighth in the U.S. points standings.
Down: Sam Burns — Burns won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in March but has just one top-10 finish since. A missed cut at The Open dropped him to 13th in the U.S. team standings.
Up: Sepp Straka — Straka, from Austria, also missed the cut at the 3M Open. His victory at the John Deere Classic and a tie for second at The Open have him right on the bubble for the European team.
Down: Collin Morikawa — The two-time major champion could have really used a victory in the Rocket Mortgage Classic to cement his place on the team. He lost in a playoff to Rickie Fowler in Detroit in June.