Ryder Cup places up for grabs
This week's USPGA Championship will have a big effect on the make-up of next month's Ryder Cup teams.
Last Updated: 07/08/12 9:14am
Davis Love is excused for looking the happier of the two Ryder Cup captains as golf tries hard this week to take some of the sporting attention away from the Olympics.
The USPGA Championship is the last major of the season and it is also the last counting event in the race for places in Love's team to take on Europe next month.
While Jose Maria Olazabal does not have a reigning major champion in the field at Kiawah Island - famous for its 'War on the Shore' staging of the 1991 Ryder Cup - Love has three.
Keegan Bradley is the man defending the title, Bubba Watson is Masters champion and Webb Simpson holder of the US Open.
With Tiger Woods back up to world number two and Bradley, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker at the head of things in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this weekend - Bradley won it when Furyk shockingly double-bogeyed the final hole - Love can take a relaxed view to things.
Olazabal, meanwhile, can still point to the fact that Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are first, third and fourth in the world.
But while Donald continues to churn out high finishes and McIlroy appeared over his midsummer blues in Akron - he tied for fifth with Justin Rose - Westwood's third-round 81 and 70th-place finish in a field of 75 was not what he or his captain wanted to see at this point in the season.
Europe's 'Big Three' have done enough already to qualify automatically and Rose, 2010 hero Graeme McDowell, Paul Lawrie - last capped in 1999 - and Francesco Molinari should be in Chicago as well.
Star names running out of time
But that means three of Olazabal's star names still have to secure their places in the three weeks that remain of their race.
Martin Kaymer, world number one only 15 months ago, has now dropped out of the leading 20 and has just one top-10 finish since February.
Sergio Garcia, cock-a-hoop when he won back-to-back tournaments late last year, seems to be searching for that spark again.
They are ninth and 10th on the table and then there is Ian Poulter - inspirational in the last two Ryder Cups and surely one of Olazabal's two wild cards if he does not climb from his current 12th place, but desperate not to have to fall back on that as his way to a fourth cap.
Padraig Harrington also remains outside the current top 10 after a 19th-place finish in Reno.
The three-time major champion did not qualify for the World Championship event, but will, of course, be at Kiawah Island trying to repeat his 2008 win in the event on the course where he and Paul McGinley lifted the World Cup for Ireland in 1997.