(Reuters) - With just six days to go before United States captain Tom Watson announces his three wildcard picks for next month's Ryder Cup, the heat is on for several players competing at this week's Deutsche Bank Championship.
On Tuesday, Watson will round out his 12-man team to take on holders Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland from Sept. 26-28 and Ryan Moore, Brendon Todd, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan are among those vying for a spot.
Mahan enhanced his Ryder Cup claims in resounding fashion by winning his sixth PGA Tour title at The Barclays on Sunday, and in all likelihood has already been inked in by Watson for Gleaneagles as a red-hot 'form' horse.
For the rest, though, this week's FedExCup playoff event at the TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts will be a 'last chance saloon' as they strive to impress the U.S. captain with their play before the Sept. 2 wildcard announcements in New York.
"I've laid down the gauntlet for those who want to be on the team: Play well and I'll give you a look. Don't play well and I won't," Watson said about the potential Cup contenders in his most recent captain's blog.
While Mahan is widely viewed as a near-certainty to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team for a third time, the 32-year-old American took nothing for granted after his two-shot triumph at The Barclays.
"I don't know who he (Watson) is thinking about or what his process is, but I needed a strong couple of weeks, a strong major and a strong couple of playoff events, to have a chance," Mahan told reporters.
"Obviously a win, it helps a lot. Obviously playing well at the PGA (Championship) helped a lot," he said, referring to his tie for seventh in the year's final major at Valhalla earlier this month.
"I have no idea what he's thinking or if he has any sort of strategy, but I think a win is a good step in the right direction."
The nine players confirmed as automatic Ryder Cup selections after the PGA Championship were Masters champion Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson.
Jason Dufner is 10th in the U.S. Cup standings but is unlikely to be a captain's pick by Watson, having not played competitive golf since he withdrew from the PGA Championship with two bulging discs in his neck.
The Americans are already without long-hitting Dustin Johnson, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence to deal with "personal challenges", and Tiger Woods, who ruled himself out of Ryder Cup consideration due to lingering back problems.
The most likely candidates for Watson's three wildcard picks are Moore (11th in the standings), Todd (12th), Bradley (13th), Simpson (15th), Snedeker (20th) and Mahan (25th).
Moore and Todd, who have current form on their side, would be Ryder Cup rookies while Bradley, Simpson and Snedeker would all be making their second appearances in the biennial team competition - if selected.
"I really think he's going to pick guys who have good form and who have proved it all season long," said Todd, who won his maiden PGA Tour title at the Byron Nelson Championship in May and has recorded six other top-10s on the circuit this season.
"I'm sure he's going for some experience, too, if he can get it but I feel like if you can just be the guy who is playing the best, you're probably going to get a pick."
The Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the PGA Tour's four lucrative playoff events, starts on Friday and features an elite field of 94 players.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)