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Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Ryder Cup subplots ooze during Open week


LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- On Wednesday at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes driving range, I caught up with Bo Van Pelt. We discussed a number of things, including his second-place finish a few weeks ago at the AT&T National, his time on his boat during his two-week break, links golf and the food in Blackpool.

I wanted to know his thoughts about making the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will meet the Europeans in September in Medinah, Ill. It would be his first appearance in the biennial matches. A good finish here at the Open Championship could lift him in the standings. Presently, the 37-year-old former Oklahoma State star is 13th.

"I'm not worried about it," he said. "I know that I'm going to have to earn my way on the team. I'm not going to get picked. There are a lot of guys that people would like to see on the team a lot more than Bo Van Pelt."

Much is at stake this week for Van Pelt and a number of others vying for spots on captain Davis Love III's team. Double points are awarded at this year's majors for American players.

At the moment, there are some big names sitting outside the top eight automatic qualifiers: Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Bill Haas. These players are all in the field this week.

In September, Love will most likely choose his four captain's picks from this group. But any one of these players, including Van Pelt, could move into the top eight with a high finish at Lytham.

The top six in the standings -- Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, and Phil Mickelson -- are locks for the team. But Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan, Nos. 7 and 8 on the list, respectively, could get run down by any of the guys from nine to 16.

In 2010, Fowler's strong 14th-place showing in the Open Championship at St. Andrews contributed to Corey Pavin's decision to make him one of his four captain's picks. Stewart Cink had only three top-10s in 2010, but his victory at Turnberry a year earlier made him a respectable captain's pick.

The European team will be comprised of five players from its points list and five off the world points list. Then Jose Maria Olazabal, the European team captain, will make two wild-card picks. Heading into the Open, the 10 leading European players are Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson and Sergio Garcia.

But Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Nicolas Colsaerts, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Ian Poulter could catch Kaymer, Hanson and Garcia.

The team won't be announced until Aug. 27, the Monday after the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

So this week is very important for all the players on the bubble. The computers will do their work with the points systems, but the two captains will be watching closely at this tournament within a tournament.

Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at evans.espn@gmail.com.