Phil Mickelson holds last Ryder spot

Updated: August 8, 2012, 9:25 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has a simple message for the Americans trying to earn one of the eight automatic spots on his team this week at the PGA Championship.

Relax.

He knows from experience it's not that simple.

Phil Mickelson, who has qualified for every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team since 1995, has fallen to No. 8 in the standings and has a tenuous lead -- the equivalent of $40,690 -- over Hunter Mahan at No. 9. A little further back are Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.

Because the points are double at major championships, even Matt Every at No. 37 in the standings has a mathematical chance to earn a spot in the Ryder Cup.

"I know there's several guys that are working really hard to try to make the team," Love said Wednesday. "So hopefully, they will relax and just play the PGA this week and work their way in."

Love tipped his hand at a couple of players that would seem to be safe. He was surprised to find out that Mahan, one of only four players to have won at least twice on the PGA Tour this year, was not among the top eight. And even though Furyk made double-bogey on the final hole to lose at Firestone last week, he noted that the former U.S. Open champion "is playing very well week in and week out now."

As for Stricker?

"I've said several times, we'll be plugging holes, matching pairings, things like that," Love said. "Obviously, if Steve Stricker was on the outside, we have a guy that likes to play with him. That's a lock."

That would be Tiger Woods, who teamed with Stricker for a 2-1 record in the last Ryder Cup.

Woods is the only American player who mathematically has locked up a spot on the team, though it's safe to say that two-time winner Jason Dufner, Masters champion Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley, the PGA champion who won last week at Firestone, are safe bets. Behind them are U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Mickelson.

Mickelson is the only player who has not either won multiple times, a major or The Players Championship this year.

"We have a lot of guys playing very, very well from top to bottom," Love said.

It would seem this is an especially big week for Mickelson and Mahan to earn a spot on the team, but more for Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson, two of them might be left off the team. It's a big turnaround from last time, when no one really stood out as captain's picks for Corey Pavin except for Woods.

Now, Love has too many good players to choose from -- all of them winners this year -- and someone will be deeply disappointed.

Love will not have to announce his captain's picks until the first week in September, after the second FedEx Cup playoff event. Even if a player like Mickelson doesn't make the team, he has at least two weeks to show some form. But no one wants to have to wait to be picked if he can help it.

Love will get a close look at Lefty because they are paired the first two days at Kiawah Island. Love was asked if there was a scenario that Mickelson, who has never needed to be a captain's pick, could be left off the U.S. team.

"I've talked to Phil several times this week and watched him play a little bit, and he's very excited about making the team," Love said. "I think he and Steve and a lot of guys are trying really hard to make the team, and that might be hurting them a little bit. We have all been there. The last few weeks, you press a little bit, you try a little too hard. I have a feeling that Phil is going to play well sometime in the next three weeks, and it will be back to normal for him.

"It would be hard to play without him. He's been such a big part of a lot of Ryder Cups in a row."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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