Steve Stricker called himself old school. After all, he has been a big part of the American Ryder Cup effort over the past decade.
They were also part of many lost.
Yes, the US dominated the President’s Cup, and these guys were there too. But it was a minor victory at Royal Melbourne for Woods two years ago as a playing captain, just as it was for the US in the same event in 2015 in South Korea.
Meanwhile, the US has lost nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups. What was a strong team in 2018 smoked in France.
So what did Stricker do?
He conveyed the years-long mandate of experience and went with the youth.
Six members of his team, which will face Europe in Wisconsin on September 24, are Ryder Cup newcomers – Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Harris Engels, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler.
With a chance to gain experience with Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, Stricker instead opted for four newcomers among his six picks: Schauffele, English, Berger and Scheffler. Neither Engels nor Scheffler played in the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.
“What’s nice to see is that they’ve all been playing golf for a long time,” Stricker said Wednesday during a news conference announcing his captain’s choices. ‘It made the choices in my eyes pretty easy. After consulting with the six guys who made the team and my assistant captains, we ended up on these six guys pretty easily just because of their shape, the way they fit Whistling Straits; their performance on and off the golf course and in the team room, I experienced this with some of these guys.
“So it was a natural match for these six to join the rest of them.”
And Stricker, who said he relied on his vice-captains to analyze all the players’ matches, got some interesting statistics: since 2008, the year Stricker made his Ryder Cup debut as a player, the newcomers are in the American Ryder Cup 40- 29-17.
“We are looking for the best players to perform here at Whistling Straits, and these six guys we have selected feel like we are fit for Whistling Straits,” Stricker said. Some of them are not really newcomers. They have played in previous President’s Cup teams. Some of these guys have also mastered match competition. So we are excited. So we do not really feel like they are newcomers. ”
Scheffler was the choice that would get the most attention. Aside from never playing in a cup competition, he also did not win at the PGA Tour. Rickie Fowler is the most recent pick in 2010 who has yet to win before playing in a Ryder Cup. Jeff Overton also caught up with this team as a rookie.
Captains usually look for guys who were there did it. It did not always work. Case: Woods and Mickelson scored a joint 0-6 in 2018.
But Scheffler has many positive aspects to note. He has been in the top 20 in the last six major championships, including four top-10 finishes. As Stricker pointed out, he took Europe out Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
That tournament is not the Ryder Cup, but it is interesting that Stricker and his team considered it important. And it’s not like he has to carry the team. Scheffler is likely to be part of a predetermined team game for four-ball or four-stroke.
Stricker is also well aware of this Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth won 3-1 in Paris; that Schauffele and Cantlay won 2-2 and 2-0 in foursomes in Melbourne; that Dustin Johnson has top-10 finishes at two PGA Championships played in Whistling Straits. That Brooks Koepka, as healthy, and Tony Finau offers a lot of firepower. And that’s before we get to Morikawa, the Open champion and one of the game’s leading iron players.
There are numerous possibilities, and Stricker has been more focused on their success in the game over the past two years than any problems he has experienced because he did not participate in a Ryder Cup.
And let’s be honest, except that the US, except in 2016, when they won the Hazeltine victory, has little to cheer about for the Americans. Some of their best players to lose years were newcomers – in 2010, Rickie Fowler; in 2012, Keegan Bradley was a force; in 2014, Reed and Spieth did well.
In the end, Stricker ended up with the top 10 guys in the Ryder Cup points, a system that goes back more than two years. Touch all you want about Reed, but he is 0-7 in team matches at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup without Spieth as his partner. Simpson did not make the touring championship this year.
So Berger and Scheffler step up with a great opportunity. They are newer and younger.
Stricker counts on it.