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As PGA dust settles, Johnson joins Watson among Ryder qualifiers

by | Special to CBSSports.com

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- In a consolation prize that barely registered in the devastated mind of Dustin Johnson and left Bubba Watson with a contact high, the two men can call themselves Ryder Cuppers if not PGA champion.

In the aftermath of one of the wildest and most bizarre endings in major championship history, both Watson and Johnson made enough points to move into the top eight automatic spots for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

It paled in comparison to the big fat Wanamaker Trophy that they gave to Germany's Martin Kaymer, but it was a worthy parting gift for the two Americans who played the best down the stretch at Whistling Straits on Sunday.

"Ryder cup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Watson Tweeted minutes after losing to Kaymer with a scrambling double bogey on the last of a three-hole playoff.

"Yeah," was all Johnson could say before leaving the course after a controversial two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a trampled bunker cost him his own spot in the playoff.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin offered his own congratulations in a Tweet to the two players who leaped into the top eight and displaced Anthony Kim and Lucas Glover for automatic spots. Pavin will hold a press conference Monday morning in Milwaukee to discuss his eight qualified players.

"Wow!!! 1st-congrats to Kaymer. Dustin-you are a class act&played great. Bubba-awesome tourney. To both: CONGRATS on making the 2010 RC Team."

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Also playing his way in Sunday with a high PGA finish was Matt Kuchar, whose tie for 10th moved him past Kim and kept him in the eighth and final spot despite being passed by Watson and Johnson.

"I made the Ryder Cup, so that's all I care about," Watson said. "You're playing for your country. You're playing for the USA. Until 2016, we don't have an Olympics. That's my Olympics. I've wanted to play the Ryder Cup my whole life. I've made many a putts when I was eight and 10 years old to win the Ryder Cup."

Watson vaulted from 19th to third on the points list behind Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan, who were the only two players who guaranteed spots before the PGA Championship deadline. Johnson moved from ninth to sixth behind veterans Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

Jeff Overton, who finished 71st after playing Sunday's final round alone in a record 2 hours, 9 minutes, finished seventh ahead of Kuchar.

"We're going to have a lot of new blood on this team," said Mickelson of the four rookies who qualified.

Just outside looking in and needing one of the four wild-card picks from Pavin that will be announced Sept. 7 are, in order of points, Kim, Glover, Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods.

Zach Johnson finished tied for third in the PGA to move up from 21st place to 11th. "I hope it doesn't hurt," said Johnson, who received a congratulatory text message on his performance from Pavin. "He's in a difficult position and regardless of what [Pavin] does, I'm going to support it. One, because he is a friend and two, because I know he's going to make the right choice. But to me specifically, I got a few more weeks to prove myself and that's going to be my objective."

'I've wanted to play the Ryder Cup my whole life,' Bubba Watson says. (Getty Images)  
'I've wanted to play the Ryder Cup my whole life,' Bubba Watson says. (Getty Images)  
The makeup of the team as is has the players excited. "I like the way it looks, to tell you the truth," said Stricker, who secured his place on a fourth consecutive U.S. team and fifth in his career. "It's young, but yet all the guys on that team are playing great. They're up there week in and week out, Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Overton. For the most part guys that are going to make that team have played some really solid golf all year long. So that's good. I'm not sure who the captain's picks are going to be, but I'm sure they will be four good ones, everybody's made a strong push to try to make that team and guys have been responding and playing well."

Stricker believes the team will be similar to the one in 2008, when the underdog Americans with six Ryder Cup rookies won back the prize at Valhalla.

"You need that young movement to be on that team," Stricker said. "They will gain experience as they keep making these teams and the older guys have that experience and kind of can help those guys along. And pretty soon those young guys are the old guys, you know, so it just keeps evolving. But it's fun to be with those young kids because they have no fear, they hit it a mile, and they go and find it. And it's a different type of game now and but it's fun to watch."

If Stricker had his druthers, he would like Pavin to pick Woods and reprise the pairing that went 4-0 in last year's Presidents Cup.

"I would love to play with him again," Stricker said of Woods. "We talked about it earlier this year back in May. The reason it works, I think we get along with one another very well. I think we complement each other's games nicely. Two different style games, but I think we putt well, we get it up and down well. And I think mostly we're comfortable with each other and I'm comfortable with him, which I think in years past some of his partners haven't been too comfortable playing with him and I am."

A week after his worst professional performance when he worried that he could not contribute to the team the way he was playing, Woods sang a different tune after finishing tied for 28th in the PGA.

"I think I got a chance of maybe helping out in singles -- save me for the singles," Woods quipped. "No, I mean, I feel like my game is a lot better than it was obviously last week. And given a little bit more time it's starting to head in the right direction now, which is good. And I'm looking forward to it, hopefully Corey will pick me on the team."

Scott Michaux is the columnist and golf writer for the Augusta Chronicle


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