Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Steve Stricker made his six captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team – Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Harris English, who were next on the points list after the automatic qualifiers, then added Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler. To get to Berger and Scheffler, Stricker passed over veterans Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson. Also left in the lurch were notable grinders like Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner and Billy Horschel. Do you like Stricker’s picks or would you have done it differently?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I like Stricker’s picks, although I notice you left Phil Mickelson off the list of “in the lurches”. Phil DID win the PGA Championship on a very difficult course a few months ago, and his record in the Ryder Cup is epic, if not for performance, then at least for longevity. I probably would’ve come to the same conclusion if I were Captain Stricker, but it must have been a difficult decision, especially from the public optical and locker-room-influence points-of-view. As it is, the captain had a very strong field of candidates to choose from, so his choices can’t really be criticized too strongly.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I’m not sure why Stricker decided to bypass Reed and Simpson. Maybe Strick’s was worried about Reed’s recent hospitalization, that he’s not fully recovered? There’s nothing wrong with Scheff and Berger, they’re fine players, but Reed and Simpson bring way more to the table with experience. And experience matters in these team events. As it is now, Scheff and Berger already have more pressure on them than other players on the team and we haven’t even teed up. Should they not have a good week, it will be pointed out to both them and Captain.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA Of Canada: Stricker is in the same situation as every person in a political position. The only way he can win is to win the Ryder Cup. Even if he does win there will always be people who criticize his approach. Every Captain should either pick the top 12 money winners or have no automatics and the captain picks the entire team.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): First off, how is Xander Schauffele a captain’s pick? He’s been ranked in the top 8 in the world for the whole past calendar year and he’s currently 5th. That seems strange to me, maybe they need to tweak their Ryder Cup rankings! Anyway, I digress. I like the top 4 picks, I think they needed to be picked, and have all been playing well. As for the last two, they certainly surprised me. Webb Simpson, I thought would be an obvious pick, especially given how much he’s improved his putting. I’m sure he left Reed off of the team because they will already have enough drama with Brooks and Bryson, and he didn’t need another headache on the team. And I would have leaned towards Kevin Na over Scheffler, but who knows. The US has to figure out some new formula that works, maybe this is it.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It’s always good for the game when Reed isn’t involved, and based on the Match Play alone Scheffler is a solid pick. When Simpson is on — and he’s been really good most of the year — he’s a great partner in alternate shot and a steady player. That was a tough call to take Berger and could backfire.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m good with the first four but iffy on Berger who hasn’t shown much lately and Scheffler who’s never even won a PGA Tour event. To me the Ryder Cup boils down to putting. Patrick Reed is #2 and Kevin Na is #4 in Overall Putting Stats. Way ahead of Scheffler at #43 and Berger at #90. Even Simpson at #23 would have been a better choice.
European captain Padraig Harrington only had three captain’s picks and went with veteran Ryder Cup achievers Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter plus 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry. On the outside looking in was Justin Rose, who has been a team member for five of the past six Ryder Cups. Do you agree with Harrington’s choices?
Deeks: Yes, I agree with these choices, too, although I really like Rosie and I’m sorry he lost out. But he hasn’t been playing up to form the last couple of years, and that’s that. Sergio refuses to quietly fade away, and that’s admirable. Poulter could fire up a warehouse of terra cotta soldiers, so unless his personal handicap has gone into double digits, he’s a presence you want in your locker room. Lowry’s a character and a popular guy with everyone, but he can quietly shoot the lights out when required. I think this’ll be a great, and tight, Ryder Cup.
Loughry: I think Harrington had harder choices to make. I really like Rose, but his golf the past 2 years has been extremely inconsistent, and last few months (for him and expected excellence). Garcia and Poulter have played a little better over the past year and both add just as much experience and prowess as Rose. I like Team Europe overall, even without Rose.
Schurman: Neither Garcia, Poulter, Lowry or Rose are dominating any tour. Based on past performances Rose should go ahead of Lowry, a first timer. However, because the Cup was cancelled in 2020 due to Covid, Lowry didn’t get his due well-earned spot as the Open Champion.
Rule: Again, Garcia and Poulter are Ryder Cup stalwarts and need to be on the team. Poulter in particular as he’ll just annoy the US crowd and get under the team’s skin. I would have thought Rose was a safer pick than Lowry, neither has had a great year. Maybe Padraig just felt he needed a bit more Irish flavour on the team.
Quinn: Looks like a fun young team with lots of talent, so Paddy did a good job adding the vets. He could have done what Sticker did with Phil and name Rose a vice-captain, but he’s a bit young for that.
Mumford: I feel bad for Rose but love the Lowry pick. Lots of emotion and the ability to go deep when he needs to. As for Poulter and Garcia, I guess you ride those old war horses till they have nothing left. Hopefully, they have a few more Ryder Cups in them. Both ramp up the entertainment value and always seem to ignite Team Europe.
Brooks Koepka withdrew from the Tour Championship when he struck a tree root and injured his wrist. His status for the Ryder Cup is not known but if he’s unable to play, who’s your alternate for Team USA?
Deeks: Billy Horschel would be my pick. He just won the Euro Tour’s PGA Championship this past weekend, with a final round 65… does that not indicate he can beat Euros under pressure?? I think it’d be great if Mr. Ego (Koepka) would voluntarily step aside and let Stricker pick Billy.
Loughry: I’d take Reed if Brooks isn’t able to make it a go. He is Captain America after all. I know he had a recent illness, but he showed some form at East Lake, and the man knows how to handle the pressure at these Team, events, he thrives. I’d take him as long as he’s healthy over any of the other players worth considering.
Schurman: I think he should play regardless even if it’s one handed. I’m not anti-American, just pro-Europe. If that doesn’t work, then invite Reed. He just came out of the hospital. Whatever they do, I hope they don’t invite Horschel; he thinks he has something to prove by not receiving a courtesy phone call from Stricker.
Rule: Well, that would be a shame if he couldn’t play, I’m excited to see the team dynamics with him and Bryson! But if he isn’t there, it’s probably a good thing for the team, Webb Simpson can step in and provide some veteran leadership and solid play. My dream is that Tiger makes a miraculous return and takes Brooks’ spot. Anything’s possible, right?
Quinn: Based on Wentworth and his win in the Match Play, it has to be Bill (can’t be ‘Billy’ after age 10) Horschel, despite his oddly calling out Stricker for not calling him to tell him he wasn’t an original pick. He should get a call soon because having seen the TV close up of the offending root, and given that it’s the same wrist he injured before, can’t see Koepka playing.
Mumford: I think Reed is the obvious choice unless there is a groundswell of opposition to him from the rest of the team. He is Captain America, he gets under opponent’s skin and he’s a putting machine. If there are team chemistry concerns about Reed or his recent health issues prevent him from playing, then Na jumps the queue in my opinion. He’s also annoying but that would work in the American team’s favour.