5 players who used PGA to earn spot in Ryder Cup

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Poor John Daly.

For a half-century or more, winning the PGA Championship in a Ryder Cup year meant an automatic spot on the U.S. team. That ended in 1991, which happened to be the year Daly won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick as the ninth alternate.

He remains the only American professional to win two majors without every playing in the Ryder Cup.

The criteria has evolved over the years, but one thing has remained: The PGA can go a long way in deciding who makes the U.S. team — and who doesn’t. Two years ago, Hunter Mahan was No. 9 in the standings and missed the cut at Kiawah Island. He was not among the four captain’s picks. Brett Wetterich had the final spot in 2006 and missed the cut, and no one was able to pass him.

Here are five players who made the most out of the PGA Championship to earn a spot in the Ryder Cup:

• Larry Nelson made his debut in the Ryder Cup in 1979 by winning all five matches he played, a feat no other American has matched. Two years later, he won the PGA Championship to get on the team and went 4-0 in the Ryder Cup. His prospects looked bleak in 1987 when he wasn’t among the top 20 in the Ryder Cup standings going into the final major of the year.

He closed with a 72 in tough conditions at PGA National to force a playoff with Lanny Wadkins, and then beat Wadkins with a par on the first extra hole. The victory made him an automatic selection to the team. Wadkins, the runner-up, also earned enough points to qualify.

“This is the second time I’ve made the team at the last minute by winning the PGA,” he said. “I think we have a very good team and I’m very happy to be back on it.”

Be careful what you wish for. Nelson, who had been 9-0 in the matches, went 0-3-1 as the Americans lost for the first time at home.

• David Toms was 13th in the Ryder Cup standings going into the 2001 PGA Championship, trailing Ryder Cup veterans Jim Furyk and Brad Faxon.

He took a captain’s pick out of the equation when he set the major championship record with a 265, making a par from the 18th fairway at Atlanta Athletic Club to beat Phil Mickelson by one shot.

It was his first Ryder Cup, though it would have to wait. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks three weeks later wound up postponing the matches by one year. His partner for the 2002 matches at The Belfry? Mickelson, the man he beat to a major. Toms went 3-1-1 in his Ryder Cup debut, beating Sergio Garcia in singles in a U.S. loss.

• Bubba Watson was 18th in the Ryder Cup standings and wasn’t getting much attention as a player with prodigious length but only one PGA Tour victory at Hartford that summer. On a wild Sunday at Whistling Straits, he closed with a 68 and got into a playoff with Martin Kaymer — a playoff that did not include Dustin Johnson because of his unfortunate grounding up a club in a bunker on the 72nd hole.

Watson lost his chance to win by hitting into a hazard on the third and final hole of the playoff. He was close to tears — not because he lost, but because of the Ryder Cup.

“I made the Ryder Cup,” Watson said. “So that’s all I care about.”

• Brad Faxon was 11 shots out of the lead and in 14th place in the Ryder Cup standings going into the final round of the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera.

One round changed everything.

Faxon shot a 28 on the front nine at Riviera and tied the major championship record with a 63. He finished alone in fifth place, and earned just enough points to move up to 10th and earn a spot on the team.

The hardest part was waiting to see if it would be good enough.

“My stomach is in knots,” Faxon said. “On the course, people were starting to yell, ‘Ryder Cup,’ people were starting to yell, ‘59,’ people were starting to yell, ‘win.’”

All he won was a spot on the team. That was enough.

• Jeff Maggert didn’t win much on the PGA Tour. He was clutch when it came to making the Ryder Cup team.

He was outside the top 10 in 1995 when he closed with a 69 and tied for fourth at Riviera to earn a spot on his first team. Two years later, he closed with a 65 at Winged Foot to finish third and earn a spot on another team.

The real high-wire act was at Medinah in 1999. And all he could do was wait.

Maggert was No. 10 in the standings and missed the cut. His hopes of a third straight team appeared to be over, especially when Bob Estes made a late charge Sunday. Estes needed a two-way tie for fifth to make the team and he was alone in fourth with three holes to play. But he made bogeys on the 16th and 17th and finished 11th in the standings.

“Playing the Ryder Cup is a close second to winning a major,” Maggert said.

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