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U.S. Ryder Cup race intensifies in final round

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Among the litany of subplots unfolding on a busy Sunday at Kiawah the race for the final qualifying spot on this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup seems secondary but things could get interesting at the season’s final major.

Phil Mickelson is clinging to the eighth and final qualifying spot and according to unofficial projections only the top 3 players – No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Jason Dufner and No. 3 Bubba Watson – are assured a spot inside the top 8.

For No. 4 Keegan Bradley to be bounced, however, Dustin Johnson would have to win, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker would need to tie for second and Mickelson would need to finish fifth or sixth. You get the picture.

The only thing that seems certain is that as long as Mickelson continues to play well – he was tied for 20th after finishing his third round – the harder it will be for those chasing him.

No. 9 Hunter Mahan, just 81 points behind Lefty, missed the cut, while No. 10 Stricker and No. 15 Van Pelt are currently in the top 10 at the PGA Championship but are 600 and 1,211 points behind Mickelson, respectively (two points are awarded for every $1,000 a player earns).

For Mickelson, the push to qualify for his ninth Ryder Cup team has been the mental tonic he’d been looking for. Admittedly lethargic since his near-miss (T-3) at the Masters, Lefty rallied on Friday to post one of four under-par rounds on a windswept day.

“I don’t care who you are, you want to make the team,” said Butch Harmon, Mickelson’s swing coach. “He wants to make that team, there is a lot of motivation for that. Phil’s never not been on the Ryder Cup team, that’s great motivation.”

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