AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Matt Kuchar finished with a 12-foot birdie at the Bridgestone Invitational, which had no bearing on the outcome but still had a few ramifications.
Kuchar tied for third, so that putt was worth an additional $249,250. It cost Jordan Spieth enough world ranking points that Dustin Johnson moved ahead of him to No. 2 by the slimmest of margins.
And that birdie putt could send Kuchar to the Olympics.
Whether he earns a spot in Rio de Janeiro is now out of Kuchar's hands. The Americans are allowed the maximum four players because all of them are among the top 15 in the world ranking, and the birdie allowed him to move to No. 15. Still to be announced is which four Americans will go to Rio.
Of the top four in the world ranking — Johnson (2), Spieth (3), Bubba Watson (5) and Rickie Fowler (7) — Watson is the only one who has said he is going. The biggest question marks of that group are Spieth and Fowler. That's why Kuchar's birdie putt was so important, because if two Americans choose not to go, those spots could end up going to Patrick Reed and Kuchar.
Kuchar wants to play in the Olympics, though it's still a long way off. Not only does he need at least two players to withdraw, he has to be sure he stays among the top 15 in the world ranking after this week.
Olympic qualifying is based on the world ranking published next Monday, and that brings Phil Mickelson into the equation. Mickelson would have to finish alone in second at the Scottish Open — he won the last time it was held at Castle Stuart — to move ahead of Kuchar and be in position for any Olympic withdrawals. If Lefty were to win, he would have a mathematical chance to move ahead of Reed as the first U.S. alternate.
J.B. Holmes, Shane Lowry and Chris Wood also are at Castle Stuart and could bump Kuchar from the top 15 if they were to win. A victory by Wood likely would be enough for him to reach No. 15 and give the U.K. three players.