Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
By Joel Beall
Henrik Stenson won’t earn one of the automatic berths for Team Europe when Ryder Cup qualifying ends in two weeks, far behind in both the European and World point rankings the club uses to construct its roster. Depending on perspective, Stenson’s latest decision could signify his belief that he’s already on the team via captain’s pick.
Stenson announced on Monday that he’s pulling out from the Northern Trust at Ridgewood, the first leg in the PGA Tour’s four-tournament postseason.
The 2016 Open winner played last week at the Wyndham, where he was the defending champ, recording a respectable T-20 finish. However, this has not been a particularly prosperous summer for Stenson, logging a lone top-10 finish—a T-6 at Shinnecock—since the Masters. The 42-year-old has been hampered with elbow issues, forcing him to the sidelines for a number of events. It should be noted the ailment doesn’t appear to be messing with his ball-striking, as Stenson ranks first on tour in strokes gained/approach. Unfortunately, other parts of his game have suffered, particularly around (128th sg/atg) and on the greens (177th in putting).
Stenson’s Northern Trust absence won’t eliminate him from the postseason, ranking 50th in the FedEx Cup standings. But with the Ryder Cup deadline approaching, many viewed the playoffs as a chance for Stenson to make an 11th-hour pitch to captain Thomas Bjorn. Conversely, with five of the projected eight automatic selections set to make their first appearance for the Europeans, Stenson’s experience—he has four Ryder Cups under his belt—perhaps makes him a surefire bet for one of Bjorn’s four picks.
Also sitting out the Northern Trust is Rory McIlroy, who wasn’t listed when the field was finalized. This wasn’t a total surprise; the four-time major winner indicated he might skip Ridgewood in St. Louis.
“I need to assess where I’m at, and I think the best thing for me to do right now is take a couple of days off and reflect on what I need to do going forward,” McIlroy said at the PGA Championship. “I’ll do some practice this week and see if I feel ready to go there and play five out of six weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup.”
Others missing the Northern Trust include Rickie Fowler, who is nursing an oblique tear, Patrick Rodgers, who is getting married this week, and Bud Cauley, who has not played since a car accident at the Memorial.