AKRON, Ohio – While this week’s tournament at Firestone is billed as a World Golf Championships event, you wouldn’t know it by the lack of European representation.
Although 77 players have qualified, only 61 will tee it up at the Bridgestone Invitational. Most of the absences come from European Tour players, as the circuit withdrew its sanctioning of the event once it was scheduled opposite the 100th playing of the Open de France.
That move led several notable Europeans, including Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett, to skip Akron to instead play this week in Paris. It also put defending Bridgestone champ Shane Lowry in an awkward position.
Because the event is not sanctioned this year, European players won’t receive any Ryder Cup points for their results this week at Firestone. Additionally, the players in France will receive double points, putting Lowry at an even bigger disadvantage as he chases a potential spot at Hazeltine.
He wasn’t likely to qualify prior to the U.S. Open, but a runner-up finish at Oakmont moved him to 11th in the world points standings, with the top nine currently projected to earn automatic bids. Despite the drastic improvement, the Irishman insists he never wavered in his commitment to defend his lone PGA Tour title this week.
“My manager, Kieron, we talked about that,” Lowry said. “Before the U.S. Open, he wanted to keep me entered in the French, but I said to him, no matter what happens at the U.S. Open, I’m going to go to Firestone. Didn’t reconsider it at all.”
Lowry’s win here last year also brought with it a three-year PGA Tour exemption, and he has spent this season juggling a schedule between the two tours. It’s one that will keep him busy for the rest of the summer, where he hopes his good play will continue and ultimately net him a position on Darren Clarke’s squad.
“Obviously I’m just outside the Ryder Cup team right now, but we’ve got plenty more tournaments,” he said. “I’ve got Scottish (Open) next week, The Open, the PGA, and I’ve got all the FedEx (Playoffs), and where I’m trying to make the team is off the world points list, so they’re all world ranking events.”