HOYLAKE, England — The final major of the year has come and gone, and yet many questions about the makeup of the United States and European Ryder Cup teams still remain.
Nearly two months after the event, The Open Championship served as a fitting stage for many players to make strong cases for their candidacy. For others, it cast more doubt on whether they should be in their respective teams come September.
Here are the players who strengthened their case for Roma this week and those who didn’t:
Brian Harman: Back up
Harman should keep his passport handy because he is likely to go to Rome. Points and world rankings aside, there’s no way Harman will be left out of the squad after taking home the Claret Jug and jumping to No. 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The Georgia player was 20th in the Ryder Cup rankings earlier in the week, and now he is sure to make a significant step up and join the team in September, when the Marco Simone Golf Club should suit his eyes and game well.
“I love playing in the match,” Harman said on Sunday, as he refused to let his chances of making the team get in the way. “I’ve done well in all the match tournaments I’ve played in. I had a really good junior record and amateur match record. I like the head-to-head competition.”
Max Homa: Back up
One could argue that what Homa did at the Presidents Cup last year (four wins in four matches) was enough to all but guarantee him a spot on the US Ryder Cup team. But entering the week at Hoylake, Homa had struggled to shine in the majors, most notably missing the cut at the US Open.
Homa appeared this week at Royal Liverpool Golf Club without much fanfare, relaxed and ready to play his game. It was shown. He shot an opening-round 68, but followed it up with a disappointing 73. Then on Saturday, he was paired with Rory McIlroy and battled the weather favored by McIlroy to card a 70. On Sunday, Homa moved up to a tie for 10th, giving him a best-ever Cup finish at a major.
Tony Finau: The stakes are down
Here are Finau’s last seven starts: T-23, T-72, missed cut, T-32, T-45, missed cut, missed cut. Although Finau won the Mexico Open in April, his stretch of poor results also includes three events in which his best finish was T-32 at the US Open – not exactly ideal for someone who was likely a safe pick when the year began.
Justin Thomas: Unclear stock
All the results, statistics and logic say that Thomas should not be in this year’s Ryder Cup team. He has missed four cuts in his last six starts and posted two of the worst rounds of his career in the last two majors. And yet, no one seems to be overly concerned about it. Captain Zach Johnson, who roomed with Thomas this week at The Open, didn’t hint at whether Thomas’ performance would keep him out of the team, calling him a “stalwart in the event” and saying he’s not worried about him in the long run because it’s only a matter of time before he finds it.
Thomas must find her soon. He is just outside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup playoff picture (75th) and will need to play the 3M Open and Wyndham Championship to try to get into next year’s designated events. If Thomas doesn’t make the playoffs, it’s hard to see how Johnson would justify picking him.
Collin Morikawa: The stakes are down
Morikawa hasn’t been the same since January, when Jon Rahm trailed him from 9 shots back on the final day of the Sentry Tournament of Champions. A top-10 at the Masters felt like a positive sign that he was cutting in the right direction, but since then, Morikawa has missed five cuts, including this week at The Open.
The 26-year-old pulled out of the Memorial with a back injury and although he said he was healthy enough to play at the US Open, it’s fair to wonder if he will need an extended break that could jeopardize his selection for Rome.
Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth: Neutral stock
Spieth and Fowler didn’t play their best golf at Hoylake, but they didn’t play their worst either. They both finished tied after being paired on Sunday. Their performance this season, in Fowler’s case, and their previous experience in team events, in Spieth’s case, should be good enough to land them both on the team.
Cameron Young: Stocks
Despite a disappointing finish in the final group on Sunday, Young showed he’s back to form after back-to-back top-10 finishes (sixth at the John Deere Classic, tied for eighth at The Open). Young had struggled over the past three months, missing the cut at the PGA Championship and his highest finish coming in a tie for 32nd at the US Open. But Hoylake showed he’s turned his game around, and the next month could be enough for him to prove he deserves a spot on the U.S. team.
Sepp Straka: Shares
If it wasn’t for fellow Georgia Bulldog Harman, the Aussie could have won this year’s Open Championship and claimed his first major title as well as a guaranteed spot on the European team. Regardless, Straka is likely on the back of his latest stretch that now includes a runner-up finish at a major. Four top-10 finishes this season, a top-five finish at The Open and a win at the John Deere Classic should be more than enough for him to either qualify for one of the top six spots or become one of Luke Donald’s six captain’s picks.
Robert MacIntyre: Stocks
As of this weekend, MacIntyre was third in the European Ryder Cup standings, which meant he would automatically qualify for the team if the season ended on Sunday. Despite a T-71 finish at The Open, thanks to his runner-up finish at the Scott Open, MacIntyre has put himself in great position to make the team.
Alex Noren: Back up
The world number 67 would not normally be mentioned among the contenders for a Ryder Cup spot. But after a strong week at The Open in which he finished at even par, Noren could be considered for one of the final spots on the team given his experience. Noren went 2-1-0 in his Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National in France and defeated Bryson DeChambeau in his singles match to close out the Americans. If Donald decides to go the more experienced route for his captain instead of youth and potential such as Ludvig Aberg, expect Noren to receive significant consideration.
Adrian Meronk: Back up
Meronk’s performance in major championships this year has left a lot to be desired. Coming into The Open, Meronk had missed the cut at all three previous majors. But he has a win on the European Tour this season, as well as an Italian Open victory at the Marco Simone Golf Club, which alone could put him in a guaranteed spot in the team.
The 30-year-old Pole helped himself this week by putting together a strong performance at Royal Liverpool, finishing level and tied for 23rd — his career-best finish at a major. Not only is this likely to increase his Ryder Cup points total (currently fifth), but it will also make it easier for Donald to pick him if he falls out of the automatic spots.
Rasmus Højgaard: Stocks down; Nicolai Højgaard: Shares
The Hojgaard twins had very different outings at Hoylake as Rasmus dropped to 7th and missed out, while Nicolai finished in a draw and tied for 23rd. The role reversal complicates things a bit for Donald, given that if either of them were to be selected, it appears that Rasmus was the favorite entering the week. While Rasmus was sixth in the Ryder Cup rankings, Nicolai was 38th. It will be interesting to see how Donald approaches both and whether he decides to bring both (likely), one of them (most likely) or neither.
Victor Perez and Yannik Paul: The stakes are down
It wasn’t the best week for Paul or Perez. Paul entered the week ranked fourth in the Ryder Cup but kept missing the cut, while Perez – who was ranked seventh – made the cut but finished tied for 41st. At the moment, it still looks likely that they will both be in, but they will need to continue to perform well on the European Tour over the next few weeks to lock down their places. Like Noren, both will be hoping that their age and experience will be considered assets when it comes to filling out the squad, rather than being overlooked for young, young players like Aberg, the Hojgaard twins or even Adrien Dumont de Chassart.