Stricker turns page - Favors youth over experience

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2021 Ryder Cup Matches / Whistling Straits
Posted on
September 12, 2021
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

 

USA Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker announced his picks Wednesday for the upcoming 43rd Ryder Cup matches and his decision spoke volumes on where the American squad is heading -- youth is now the future as only four on Team USA are in their 30s. 

 

 

Stricker's announcement featured six rookies joining the squad for the matches being played at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. The number of rookies is the most for the American squad since 2008 -- ironically when Stricker played as a rookie on that winning USA squad at Valhalla.

The six picks are:
- Tony Finau
- Xander Schauffele
- Jordan Spieth
- Daniel Berger
- Harris English
- Scottie Scheffler

Insiders presumed before Stricker's announcement that Finau, Schauffele and Spieth were more than likely given their respective overall success this year and world ranking position.

 

The choices of English and Berger were not unexpected given how both played this year with two wins each on the PGA Tour season that just concluded.

The final choice then boiled down to a contest between several different players including Patrick Reed, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Sam Burns, Billy Horschel. Kevin Kisner and Jason Kokrak.

 

Given European dominance of the matches -- winning 9 of the last 12 and 7 of the last 9, the formula for turning things around was clearly evident with anyone with eyes to see. The last matches were played in 2018 in Paris and the American squad was simply pulverized -- losing 17 ½ to 10 ½. The last time the USA squad has won on foreign soil stretches back to 1993.

 

Stricker is determined to bring back the Cup to American soil and in going with a newer squad of players it's clear he sees that direction as needed in order to reassert the USA golf presence in the sport's oldest professional team competition.

The Wisconsin native highlighted the increasing younger age of those competing successfully on the PGA Tour and how rookies when selected for the matches have shown the capacity to compete successfully. This awakening comes after previous 2018 USA skipper Jim Furyk announced his four captain selections which included Finau, Bryson DeChambeau, Tiger Woods and Mickelson. Finau showed much in the Paris matches -- going 2-1 but it was the complete failure of Woods and Mickelson who combined for zero points in a total of six matches. The writing was most certainly on the wall that a new pathway had to be found.

 

With this year's event being contested on the Straits Course the need for players with sufficient length off the tee was also a clear priority. The layout, previously the venue for three PGA Championships, can play upwards to 7,790 yards and with its location next to Lake Michigan can often mean blustery days are indeed possible.

Scheffler's selection was the one of special note. The 25-year-old Texan has not won, thus far, on the PGA Tour although he's been in contention on a regular basis. In four of the last five starts he's had in a major event he's finished in the top eight in each of them.

 

 

Stricker's selection of Scheffler came down to three key considerations -- recent form, overall fit to the Straits Course and the capacity to be a positive force in the team room. While a number of people wondered why Patrick Reed was not selected it was Stricker who stated recent health concerns were an issue -- Reed was hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia following The Northern Trust. Stricker also mentioned Reed's overall body of work was less than the people he chose with his captain's picks -- including Scheffler.

 

 

Interestingly, unlike all the others on the USA team, he's never played as a member of a professional golf team match although selected to the 2017 U.S. Walker Cup team. The flipside for Stricker was Scheffler's impressive performance earlier in the year during the WGC Match-Play event where he defeated the likes of world-ranked number one Jon Rahm, Ian Poulter and Schauffele. Scheffler finished 19th on the money list and following last week's Tour Championship is ranked 21st in the world. How often he plays in the matches and the results he generates will be the final barometer on whether Stricker's faith in him is justified.

On the European side, captain Padraig Harrington will make his final selections once the BMW PGA Championship concludes at Wentworth this week. Unlike the American side -- nine players qualify for Team Europe based on points. That means the 50-year-old Irishman will need to select three players to round out his team. Like Stricker, the three-time major champion will need to balance the virtues of past experience with recent form from players now ascending the ranks.

 

 

United States Team -43rd Ryder Cup

Player Hometown Age Previous Ryder Cups OWGR
Daniel Berger Jupiter, Fla. 28 Ryder Cup Rookie 16
Patrick Cantlay Jupiter, Fla. 29 Ryder Cup Rookie 4
Bryson DeChambeau Clovis, Calif. 27 1 (2018) 7
Harris English Sea Island, Ga. 32 Ryder Cup Rookie 11
Tony Finau Lehi, Utah 31 1 (2018) 9
Dustin Johnson North Palm Beach, Fla. 37 4 (2010, '12, '16, '18) 2
Brooks Koepka West Palm Beach, Fla. 31 2 (2016, '18) 10
Collin Morikawa La Canada, Calif. 24 Ryder Cup Rookie 3
Xander Schauffele Las Vegas, Nev. 27 Ryder Cup Rookie 5
Scottie Scheffler Dallas, Texas 25 Ryder Cup Rookie 21
Jordan Spieth Dallas, Texas 28 3 (2014, '16, '18) 15
Justin Thomas Louisville, Ky. 28 1 (2018) 6
U.S. Captain: Steve Stricker, Madison, Wisconsin
U.S Vice Captains: Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson

 

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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