Ryder Cup: Paul Casey can give Colin Montgomerie a red face
Colin Montgomerie faces a nightmare scenario if Paul Casey wins the Tour Championship in a fortnight's time.
With it, the Englishman will take the FedEx Cup, plus that $10m bonus cheque, the Sunday before the Ryder Cup! Talk about setting an unhappy agenda for European skipper Colin Montgomerie's week at Celtic Manor.
And it wouldn't make the Ryder Cup build-up any easier for Padraig Harrington, arguably the most controversial of the three wild cards Monty chose ahead of Casey. Especially as Harrington yesterday fell out of the world top 20 for the first time in four years. Second place in the BMW Championship lifted Casey to World No 7, while Harrington's failure to make the 70-man field at Cog Hill rendered him unable to prevent his slide to No 22.
This is the Dubliner's lowest ranking since June 2006. Harrington, who entered 2010 as World No 5, is without a win on Tour since August 2008, when he picked up his third Major title in 13 months, the US PGA Championship, at Oakland Hills.
It's tempting to suggest American golf's most popular fall guy, Dustin Johnson, spared the European Ryder Cup captain's blushes with Sunday's victory at The BMW Championship.
Yet Casey wobbled like a toddler on a tricycle as he came down the back nine at Cog Hill.
In surrendering a three-stroke tournament lead with slipshod bogeys at 13, 14 and 15 on Sunday, the Englishman did little to advance his case for Ryder Cup selection.
Yet that will be forgotten next Sunday week in Atlanta if Casey claims the biggest and most prestigious prize in professional golf.
He goes into the PGA Tour's showpiece in fifth place in the rankings and, as a result of the redistribution of points, any one of the top five is guaranteed the FedEx Cup should he win the Tour Championship.
With 2500 points on offer to the winner of The Tour Championship, 1500 to second, 1000 to third, 750 to fourth and a sliding scale thereafter, the mathematical advantage enjoyed by the top-five going to Atlanta becomes clear.
And despite his ropy performance down the stretch last Sunday, Casey is capable of winning at East Lake, even if this is his first appearance at The Tour Championship.
Should that happen, the European skipper will be filleted by the British press — and unlike Nick Faldo in the wake of his controversial decision to pick Ian Poulter for Valhalla in 2008, Monty will face the full wrath of the media at home.
As for Europe's wild cards, Harrington, Edoardo Molinari and Luke Donald, the pressure on them to perform at the Ryder Cup is already so great, it's difficult to imagine how it could be increased as they line up their first tee shot at Celtic Manor.
However, life plainly would be a lot more comfortable for Molinari, Donald and, especially Harrington, if their legitimacy as captain's picks was not the subject of rabid questioning in the days leading up to the match.
While all three of Corey Pavin's picks, Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler, failed to make the 30-man field for The Tour Championship — Europe's Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter were prominent among those who also missed out.
Yet, the US skipper still has three of his men, Matt Kuchar, Johnson and Steve Stricker, in the FedEx top five and in form at just the right time.