Zach Johnson took last week off from the PGA Tour to be the best man in his brother’s wedding.
Steve Stricker skipped the past two tournaments to rest a hamstring he injured while water skiing in July.
Both are playing in the Deutsche Bank Championship, which begins today and is the second leg of the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs. Neither can afford not to, given his precarious position in the race to qualify for the upcoming Presidents Cup matches at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Johnson is 10th and Stricker 11th in the point standings for the U.S. team that will take on an International side Oct. 3-6. The top 10 players after the Deutsche Bank ends on Monday make the team. Captain Fred Couples will add two wild-card selections on Wednesday.
The International team, drawn from the rest of the world outside Europe, will be chosen similarly. The top 10 from the world ranking after the Deutsche Bank qualify, and captain Nick Price will make his two picks on Wednesday.
“I want to be on the team really, really bad,” Johnson said this week. “Once you taste one of those, especially if you lose, you want to be on another one the next week. It’s that important and that much fun. But I’ve got work to do.”
Johnson was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team a year ago that lost eight of 12 matches to Europe on the final day and fell on home soil in Chicago. So were six other Americans whose positions in or near the bottom half of the Presidents Cup top 10 have been in flux for the past month.
Jason Dufner was in 16th place before soaring to sixth with a tie for fourth in the Bridgestone Invitational and a win in the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, Johnson, Stricker, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson have been in and out of the top 10, and old warhorse Jim Furyk has been playing like a man on a mission to make his 16th consecutive appearance on a Ryder or Presidents cup team. He has played four of the past five weeks and finished in the top 10 each time, including second in the PGA.
“I’m kind of re-energized right now,” Furyk said. “I’m playing well and enjoying playing golf, and through the summer, I wasn’t, to be honest with you. I was tired.”