Fourteen players still are mathematically in contention for the four remaining automatic berths on the 12-man team. In order, Fred Couples, reigning U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart, Lanny Wadkins, Hale Irwin, Paul Azinger and Corey Pavin clinched a spot.
Additionally, in a departure from the past, U.S. captain Dave Stockton will make two wild-card selections and the PGA champion will not receive an automatic bid.
So any way you look at it, there figures to be no shortage of subplots this week.
These days, the man on the hot seat is Stockton, whose two picks, which he will name Tuesday when he announces the team, could prove to be make-or-break decisions.
No matter which direction he goes - and there are many, from Tom Watson to Raymond Floyd to Jack Nicklaus to Curtis Strange to Tom Kite - the choices undoubtedly figure to generate a good deal of discussion.
Stockton, who is playing in the PGA via the lifetime exemption afford him by his two PGA titles, has asked each of the six players who have clinched to give him a list of four men they would like to see included. Stockton wouldn't get too specific about the responses, other than saying they were varied and contained several surprises. He did heavily hint that Nicklaus, quite impressive in winning the Senior U.S. Open two weeks ago, probably is somewhat of a longshot for one of the two wild-card spots. Stockton also said he
considers chemistry to be a big key and would be factored into the equation.
"I started with a short list of possibilities about a year and a half ago," Stockton said. "This has been the un-fun portion of my job. There are a lot of guys we can look at. So the list has gotten longer instead of shorter. It depends on who does what. You find out who can breathe at a major, and that is why they are so important in looking at Ryder Cup players.
"I'll make two guys happy and a lot of them mad at me. I'm going to take two that I think will fit the team, not necessarily somebody who has won the most money ever, but maybe someone who is hot. We've put a lot of pressure on these guys, with all the press coverage about the Ryder Cup. Some of them are not playing their normal games. They all realize just how important it is."
So what would be an ideal scenario for potential Ryder Cuppers this week?
"It would be starting at 8 (in the standings) with (Mark) Calcavecchia through 16 with Davis Love, for all those guys to finish in the Top 10," Stockton said. "I don't care what order. I just hope they all play well.
"I wouldn't mind a five-way tie for 11th place. Then I can say, "OK guys, we all fly down to Kiawah, play 18 holes and the two best get in. It would certainly get me off the hook."
Well, there is one other way.
"I guess if I win my third PGA, I could pick myself," Stockton said, smiling, "because I know that course (at Kiawah) as well as anyone."
Stockton has to worry less about the four remaining automatic bids. He just has to wait and see who finishes strong.
Right now, Nos. 7 through 10 in the Ryder Cup standings are Mark O'Meara, who is coming off a strong showing in last month's British Open, Calcavecchia, Wayne Levi and Tim Simpson. In an intriguing twist, Simpson is paired with No. 11 Steve Pate and No. 12 Tom Kite in the first two rounds, although PGA president Dick Smith, the club pro at Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill, attached no significance to it.
That might have been somewhat true until 10 years ago, when the United States was winning the Ryder Cup with relative ease against a contingent strictly from Great Britain. But in 1985, the Europeans won at The Belfry Golf Club in England, the first time the Americans failed to retain the Cup, and things never have been the same.
The Europeans won again two years later, this time on American soil at Nicklaus's Muirfield Village Club in Dublin, Ohio. It was the first time Team USA had lost at home since the format began in 1927. And two years ago, back at The Belfry, the guys from across the pond kept the trophy out of American hands once again when the proceedings ended in a draw.
It's sort of like the America's Cup in sailing. Nobody really cared too much about it until the United States lost. But these days, emotions are beginning to get a little tense.
Whatever the makeup of the squad, though, Stockton is psyched.
"I'm happy with the 10 I've got right now," he said. "I'd like to see some of them come out of here with some really good vibes. I want somebody to jump up and show me they're at the top of their game. I have no qualms that we'll be ready to play. I don't think we'll have a weak link."
INVERNESS REPLACES ARONIMINK
The Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, which hosted the 1986 PGA and four U.S. Opens before that, will be the site of the 1993 PGA as a replacement for Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, which dropped out because it could not comply in time with the PGA's new anti-discriminatory policies.
The 1995 PGA went to Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., which hosted the 1983 PGA and the 1948 U.S. Open.
Oak Tree G.C., site of the 1988 PGA, has asked to be "released from its commitment" to hold the 1994 PGA. No replacement will be named at this time.
PGA officials stressed that, one year after the controversy over the all- white membership at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., this decision had nothing to do with a minority issue. Even though Oak Tree has an all-male membership, this move supposedly is business-related and concerns numerous management changes taking place because of the impending sale of the club by the Landmark Corp.
Nick Price withdrew to be with his wife, who is expecting their first child any time now. He has been replaced by Brad Bryant, the sixth alternate. Doug Tewell is replacing Paul Azinger, who still is recovering from minor shoulder surgery and dropped out following a practice round Tuesday afternoon. Azinger's Ryder Cup status is unaffected by his withdrawal . . . British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch (back spasms) decided not to withdraw . . . Former President Gerald Ford received the Distinguished Serice Award at the annual PGA dinner last night, the highest tribute the organization can bestow upon a non-PGA member.
POINT STANDINGS FOR RYDER CUP: SEPT. 26 TO 29 AT KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C.
UNITED STATES TEAM
The U.S. Ryder Cup team is chosen on the basis of points compiled by the PGA of America, which players accumulate from Jan. 7, 1990, through the 1991 PGA Championship. The top 10 finishers on the points list qualify, and captain Dave Stockton will select two final players to complete the team. Points are awarded for Top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour co-sponsored events, with bonuses (double the points) for golf's major championships. In addition, the 1991 PGA champ will receive 25 bonus points.
(Includes all those players who still can make the U.S. team)
1. x-Fred Couples 721.250
2. x-Payne Stewart 546.250
3. x-Lanny Wadkins 525.199
4. x-Hale Irwin 517.500
5. x-Paul Azinger 501.250
6. x-Corey Pavin 498.000
7. Mark O'Meara 425.417
8. Mark Calcavecchia 407.500
8. Wayne Levi 407.500
10. Tim Simpson 392.250
11. Steve Pate 388.750
12. Tom Kite 357.143
13. Chip Beck 339.643
14. Gil Morgan 313.750
15. Scott Hoch 313.084
16. Davis Love III 291.250
17. Mark Brooks 290.000
18. Bob Tway 267.084
19. John Cook 260.953
20. Larry Mize 244.429
x - Clinched a berth on the 12-man squad.
Players receive points at 26 European Tour events. The top nine point scorers following the Volvo German Open (Aug. 23 to 25) automatically qualify. Captain Bernard Gallagher will select three additional players.
1. Seve Ballesteros (Spain) 307,734.63
2. Colin Montgeomerie (Scot.) 275,015.70
3. Ian Woosnam (Wales) 246,851.75
4. Steven Richardson (England) 240,048.02
5. Bernhard Langer (Germany) 186,528.33
6. David Feherty (No. Ireland) 184,375.78
7. Eammon Darcy (Ireland) 175,623.80
8. Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain) 174,533.37
9. Sam Torrance (Scotland) 159,868.95
10. Per-Ulrik Johannason (Swed.) 133,162.30
11. Nick Faldo (England) 119,865.78
12. Anders Forsbrand (Sweden) 119,555.95