United States captain Steve Stricker made six selections Wednesday to round out his Ryder Cup team, and there were few surprises. The U.S. side is now complete and will head to Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, for the 43rd Ryder Cup to take on Europe in two weeks.
Stricker went by the book with Xander Schauffele (seventh in the final Ryder Cup standings), Tony Finau (eighth), Jordan Spieth (ninth), Harris English (10th) and Daniel Berger (12th). He skipped Patrick Reed (11th) and went with a young, budding star in Scottie Scheffler (14th). That means the U.S. team looks like this.
- Collin Morikawa (rookie)
- Dustin Johnson
- Bryson DeChambeau
- Brooks Koepka
- Justin Thomas
- Patrick Cantlay (rookie)
- Tony Finau
- Xander Schauffele (rookie)
- Jordan Spieth
- Harris English (rookie)
- Daniel Berger (rookie)
- Scottie Scheffler (rookie)
The United States has lost seven of the past nine Ryder Cups, including two of the past four on home soil. The U.S. side got trounced in 2018 at Le Golf National in Paris, 17.5-10.5. However, the hope this time around is that at a big golf course with a team that excels in driving distance, Stricker's side will have a built-in advantage.
The first five captain's picks were fairly straightforward. Finau, Schauffele and Spieth would have all qualified in a normal year (the captain's picks were originally expanded from four to six because of the COVID-19 pandemic), and they were absolute locks, both because they were so high in the Ryder Cup standings and because they all have significant team experience.
English, Berger and Scheffler were all hovering around the top 12 for most of 2021, and all have been strong of late. Of the entire pool of candidates on both teams, all three rank in the top seven in strokes gained over the past three months and they take some good momentum into Whistling Straits. English is third in strokes gained over the past three months and has had the most well-rounded two years of his life in 2020-21. Berger is fifth and will be scared of literally nobody on the Euro side. Scheffler is seventh and is an elite driver of the ball who has thrived in major championship conditions (three top 10s in 2021 at the four majors).
Also, all three are rookies, which means that six of the 12 U.S. players will be in their first Ryder Cup. Stricker pointed out that U.S. rookies are 40-29-17 record in the Ryder Cup and discussed why he's so excited to have a fresh set of players on his team.
"They bring in an excitement level that is unmatched," said Stricker. "They are eager, they are willing to learn, they just want to have that opportunity and they will do anything for that opportunity. I see that much in these six guys here as well in that they are just eager to get in there and play and they are excited to be a part of this. I'm not saying that veterans aren't, but they just come here with eyes wide open and 'put me in coach,' kind of attitude. So it's refreshing. It's great to see."
The biggest snub, I suppose, was Reed, who was precluded despite his sterling 6-1-2 Ryder Cup record in 2014 and 2016. He wasn't as good in 2018, going 1-2-0 in Paris and only winning his singles match. There was also the matter of him sort of throwing his teammates under the bus in a way that probably didn't delight them too much after the 2018 edition.
"It was a very hard conversation," said Stricker, who also noted that he really took into account what other players thought about potential captain's picks. "I called him first thing. He was my first call. I knew, you know, that it was going to be hard. But he took it like a true champion, and I apologized many times to him and just wanted to make sure that he knew that it was a very difficult decision. He handled it like I said a champion and really took it well. Very disappointed as you can imagine, but he said all the right things and handled it very well."
The interesting caveat in all of this is Brooks Koepka's health. It's a bit up in the air after he had to withdraw from the Tour Championship after hitting a tree root and injuring his wrist on Sunday afternoon. If he requires a replacement, Stricker could go with Reed or Webb Simpson, who finished 13th in the Ryder Cup standings and would be a tremendous addition to the U.S. team room.
The 43rd Ryder Cup matches start Friday, Sept. 24.
2020 Ryder Cup gear now available:
The Ryder Cup starts Sept. 24, and team-issued gear is now available. Get jackets, polos, hats, hoodies, and much more to support your team. Shop here.
We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.