Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele have more on their minds this week than winning the PGA Championship. Specifically, a little gold trophy: the Ryder Cup. The stakes have been raised this week for both players, as they have been grouped with U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Jim Furyk on Thursday and Friday at Bellerive. The group tees off at 8:17 a.m. on Thursday. Both Finau and Schauffele are on the cusp of qualifying for the team on points; Finau currently sits at No. 13 on the list, while Schauffele is 11th. Each would surely be a contender for a captain’s pick if they fail to crack the top eight, but this week is their chance to take the decision out of Furyk’s hands and secure an automatic spot.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Furyk said that the grouping was coincidental. “I didn’t ask for it,” he said before adding that he didn’t mind the arrangement.
“I think it’s a great pairing for me. It probably isn’t the best pairing for them,” he said. “I was in that situation paired with Davis looking for a spot in ’16, and I remember I put a lot of pressure on myself at Congressional, playing Tiger’s event there. So I know what they’re going through. I hope that it doesn’t faze them. I hope it doesn’t bother them. I want them to enjoy the PGA Championship and worry about winning a major championship. But I guess I’m kind of thankful for it, but I didn’t—you know, I had the opportunity on the Tour this year and Thomas [Bjorn] had the same, to pair guys together, if I wanted. I did not ask for that. I don’t think—I never ask to be paired with anyone on Tour this year. I just didn’t think that would be fair to the guys.”
Furyk said he’s played with Finau, but this will be his first competitive round with Schauffele. He said that he texted Schauffele when he saw the tee times.
“I just wrote a little text saying, boy, I saw you got the bad end of the stick on the pairings this week, and he just—you know, a little smiley face came back on the text.”