News & Opinion

Rainy BMW clouds playoffs, Ryder pick

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – It’s never a good thing when you walk into a PGA Tour media center and the first two interview transcripts seen sitting on a table are from Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition, and the circuit’s onsite weatherman, Joe Halvorson.

No offense, fellas. But players were nowhere to be found midday Sunday at the BMW Championship. They were all at the movies by then. That's the type of week it has been on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Brotherly Love might be fine and dandy here, but Mother Nature has been on a rant, sending rain in small buckets. Even Rocky Balboa wouldn’t train in this stuff.

Rains that began on Thursday before the Eagles’ Super Bowl-celebrating home opener took a short break on Friday for Round 2 but continued to pelt down through the weekend, drenching the city with the slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon.

A day after inclement weather delayed the third round of the BMW for seven hours, steady rains that saturated Aronimink Golf Club caused fourth-round play at the BMW Championship to be washed out for the day. White said Sunday that the Tour, with an off week on its hands, will do all that it can to complete 72 holes here. Halvorson even said the Tour might have an early window to finish the tournament today (Golf Channel has coverage from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. EDT) as the weather system heads north before more rain moves in.

Players are scheduled to tee off today in threesomes on Nos. 1 and 10 beginning at 7:30 a.m. (tee times), with leaders scheduled to tee off on the first hole at 9:20 a.m. That's assuming a course that has taken on 3 inches of moisture on the weekend and greens with standing water can be prepped for play. On Sunday, White called the fairways at Aronimink "iffy" and the tee boxes "sloshy." The bunkers held up OK, but by 2 p.m., a decision was rendered that the golf course could not be played.

“We can't push water around, and we’ve gotten over 3 inches of rain since last night and today right about now, and it just ... like I say, we kind of have been shoveling sand against the tide, unfortunately," White said.

If this morning brings more than scattered light showers, there won't be play once again, and there likely won't be a 72-hole finish, either. Storms are expected to intensify starting at about 2 p.m. A Tuesday finish is a longshot; it could happen only if half the field were to finish 18 holes today, which they might need flippers to do. Yes, playoffs or not, there’s a good possibility we’ve seen the last shots struck at the 2018 BMW Championship.

That's a shame, because the tournament has such a strong leaderboard (it started with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy co-leading on Day 1), terrific support, an abundance of storylines and lots of great scoring. It's Round 3 of the playoffs, and there’s a great deal at stake. If the tournament were to end now, Justin Rose (at 17 under) would be the winner, and Xander Schauffele long will rue the 10-foot par putt that he missed at his final hole late Saturday. He and McIlroy are one shot behind Rose (scores).

Of course, a 54-hole finale would come with many moving parts. For instance, given that Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are sitting well back, in a tie for 33rd, a victory credited to Rose would propel him to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Also, if there’s no further play at Aronimink, Jordan Spieth would miss the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. He began the week ranked 27th, and inside the magic top-30 bubble; as it stands now, he’s tied for 39th and projected to be No. 31, and first man out (standings). He has ended his season at the Tour Championship in each of his five previous years.

Another potential problem for Spieth should he not make it to East Lake? Because he failed to add a “new” tournament (one he hadn’t played in the past four seasons) to his 2017-18 schedule, he is required to play 25 tournaments. He needed the Tour Championship for his 25th start. The Tour has not said what penalty, if any, Spieth might face should he log only 24 starts.

Who would be the man responsible for knocking Spieth out? Keegan Bradley, who made three clutch putts coming home late Saturday, would move from 52nd to 30th should his solo sixth-place performance become final. He'd earn 400 points and edge Spieth (60 projected points) by 20. Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, has battled balky putting and has not been to the Tour Championship since 2013. Also moving into the top 30, and thus gaining entry to the Tour Championship, would be Schauffele, who happens to be East Lake’s defending champion. He entered the BMW at 41st in the FedEx Cup playoffs but would rocket to 12th. By Newton's Law, Emiliano Grillo (who began BMW at No. 29) would move out.

Woods is projected to improve slightly, from 25th to 24th, in the standings and, like Bradley, would be bound for East Lake for the first time since 2013.

If the tournament is shortened to 54 holes and current scores are deemed final, the top five heading into the Tour Championship at East Lake would be, in order: Bryson DeChambeau, Rose, Justin Thomas, Johnson and Tony Finau. Any player entering East Lake inside the top five who wins the event would be crowned FedEx Cup champion, capturing its $10 million bounty.

Finau, who will miss at least the opening day of his Tony Finau Foundation two-day golf and luau today at home in Utah, has more at stake than just getting to East Lake with his fate in his own hands. Something that is out of his hands is the final pick for the 2018 Ryder Cup team. Captain Jim Furyk holds that in his palm. The pick appears to have narrowed to twentysomethings Finau and Schauffele, with Finau the front-runner. Schauffele likely would need not only to play today but win to earn Furyk's pick. Furyk’s decision on his final roster spot was scheduled for 9 a.m. today, but, like everything else in this town, it went on hold thanks to Mother Nature's wrath. Furyk pushed it back indefinitely until there is a final result at BMW.

By then, Furyk might as well opt to go with Noah as his 12th man. The captain might need an ark to get out of town.

Jeff Babineau is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America who has covered golf since 1994, writing for such publications as The Orlando Sentinel, Golfweek and Golf World. Email: jeffbabz@att.net. Twitter: @jeffbabz62