The only experience that matters to Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker is how the youngest U.S. team in history prepares for Whistling Straits in a bid to win back that shiny gold chalice.
Equipped with the most captain’s picks in Ryder Cup history, Stricker added four more rookies to his team on Tuesday to join the six players who earned automatic spots. His six selections included obvious choices and, as always, a few that could have gone either way.
Stricker chose the next four players in the Ryder Cup standings — Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Harris English — along with Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler.
“We are looking to the best players to perform here at Whistling Straits, and these six guys that we picked we feel like fit Whistling Straits to a T,” Stricker said.
Missing was Patrick Reed, who thrives in team events. He has a 7-3-2 record in three previous Ryder Cups and is undefeated in singles.
Reed, however, hasn’t seriously contended in the 18 tournaments he has played since his lone victory at Torrey Pines. Of greater concern to Stricker was his health.
Reed was hospitalized for five days with pneumonia in his lower lungs that made him fear for his life, missing the final two qualifying events. He returned at the TOUR Championship and tied for 17th in actual score against a 30-man field.
“That was a very, very difficult call — kind of lost sleep over that one,” Stricker said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He brings a lot to match-play golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darned good. … It was just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch.”
Stricker made it clear he wanted players whose game suited Whistling Straits — a course along the bluffs of Lake Michigan that tends to favor power — and said he wanted his players to know it well ahead of the Sept. 24-26 matches.
All 12 players and their caddies are expected for a two-day practice session over the weekend.
“My message from day one has been to try to out-prepare the other team,” he said.
The six picks join six who earned automatic spots — Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.
All are among the top 21 in the world ranking. Six have never played in a Ryder Cup. Eight are still in their 20s, and the average age (29) is the youngest ever for the Americans.
“I think it’s a good time for a younger influx of players,” said Schauffele, the 27-year-old Californian and Olympic gold medalist.
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