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Morikawa, Johnson first to clinch Ryder Cup positions

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Collin Morikawa watches his drive from the 5th tee in round 4 of the men’s golf individual stroke play during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on August 1. AFP

Morikawa, Johnson first to clinch Ryder Cup positions

Two-time major champions Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson will be key players to watch this week as the US PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs begin at the Northern Trust tournament.

Morikawa leads the season points standings entering the three-event season finale that concludes with the Tour Championship while Johnson is the defending FedEx Cup champion.

Both Americans also have become the first to clinch berths on the US team for next month’s Ryder Cup matches against Europe at Whistling Straits.

A field of 125 this week at Liberty National in suburban New York will be whittled down to 70 for next week’s BMW Championship in Baltimore and 30 for the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Morikawa, who won last month’s British Open and last year’s PGA Championship, has won twice this year to top the points chase.

“It’s great to start out number one going into the playoffs. It means I was doing something right throughout the regular season. We had a couple wins, a couple top-10s – overall, it feels good. My game feels good,” said Morikawa.

“Not everyone has the luxury of knowing where they’re going to stand coming to the Tour Championship, but I at least know I’m going to be there, I’m going to have a chance with four rounds no matter where I stand.”

After taking last week off following his victory at Royal St George’s and a trip to the Olympics, Morikawa plans to focus on being in peak form for the final event rather than trying to stay on a winning roll as he did last year after his first major win at the PGA.

“The way I looked into the playoffs last year, I was so focused, especially after that PGA win, let’s go win, win, win, and I think I was almost burnt out by the time I got to that third week,” he said.

Johnson, who won last year’s Masters and the 2016 US Open, is the defending Northern Trust champion, winning last year at TPC Boston on his way to taking the FedEx Cup crown. He ranks 17th in points this year but was only 15th at the start when he won in 2020.

“It’s the playoffs. It’s definitely a sense of urgency to play well and contend for the championship,” Johnson said. “I feel like the game is starting to round into form. It’s a lot closer to what it was last year. I’m looking forward to the playoffs. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

‘Not just about you’

Johnson and Morikawa are set for the Ryder Cup with Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Olympic champion Xander Schauffele in position for the other four berths available on points.

Koepka and DeChambeau have had a spat over social media that has caused some worries for observers about chemistry for the US team, but Johnson sees no concerns about such matters.

“Doesn’t matter what our differences are. When you get to the Ryder Cup and you’re on the team, it’s not just about you,” Johnson said.

“We’re not just playing for ourselves, we’re playing for our country. You’ve got other teammates, your captains, your family, all the fans that are there. It’s definitely important that everyone comes together and plays as a team.

“So we’re all adults and we gather as a team and as a whole for that week, so I don’t feel like there’s any issues with that.”

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