U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker wearing multiple hats at PGA Championship
Steve Stricker is pulling double duty at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Stricker is not only a competitor, playing in his 23rd PGA Championship, but as the current U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, is also taking advantage of the opportunity to get to know prospective members of his team.
“It detracts from what I've got going a little bit,” Stricker said Wednesday about his dual role at the Ocean Course. “I'm still able to compartmentalize and get into my own little space and work on my game to figure out what do I need to do well here this week to compete.”
Wearing two hats is something Stricker has become quite agile as, in 2021, he began splitting his time competing on both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. And, with much success.
In April, Stricker earned his sixth career PGA Tour Champions victory at the Chubb Classic and notched six more top 10s in eight starts. He’s also contending on the PGA Tour with a T4 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Stricker has reason to be optimistic about his game as he makes his return to the Ocean Course, where he was T7 in 2012.
“Thinking of The Ocean Course, knowing what I experienced back in 2012, I knew conditions are going to play a pretty big role,” Stricker said. “It usually gets windy here. That finishing stretch -- you're going to miss some greens because of the conditions.”
Those conditions will demand hyper-focus from the Ryder Cup Captain, who will be paired during the first two rounds with two players who are currently on the bubble in the Ryder Cup Point Standings - Daniel Berger and Billy Horschel. Stricker will have two days to assess their potential as Berger sits at No. 9 and Horschel at No. 12 in the standings and would each need a Captain’s Selection in order to make the squad. Due to the pandemic, the top six players in the standings will qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup Team with the remaining six players being selected by Captain Stricker.
“A lot of it now is watching players and see how they are doing during tournaments and playing practice rounds with some of these guys,” Stricker said about his preparations as Captain. “I played with Will Zalatoris Monday and Jordan [Spieth] yesterday. So, it's a great opportunity for me to come out and see some of these guys that are making their way up the points list.”
Stricker has leaned heavily on Tiger Woods, who was one of Stricker’s assistants when he captained the Presidents Cup in 2017. Stricker says he was recently on a Zoom call with Woods, who continues to rehab from a rollover car accident in February.
“I'd love to have him there. Who wouldn't, right?,” Stricker said about Woods possibly making the trip to Wisconsin. “He would do anything for you and he's totally, totally vested in the situation and the process and almost to the point of he's on it early and so much, it's like, ‘dude, we've still got months to go yet.’”
In less than four months, the six players who qualify via the Ryder Cup Point Standings will be finalized upon completion of the BMW Championship followed by Stricker’s six selections.
“Putting is a huge deal, getting it in the hole, getting it around because in match play, that's the key part, making crucial putts, getting it up-and-down,” Stricker said about what he will be looking for in potential picks. “When you look at it all, when it comes down to it, can the guy make the putt when he has to?”
It all came down to a final putt on the 18th green at the Ocean Course that determined the outcome of the 1991 Ryder Cup. Bernard Langer let a par putt slide by that would have won his match and retained the Cup for Europe. Instead, it was the Americans who walked away victorious, turning the tide for the U.S. who had gone without a win since 1983. Stricker will also look to bring back the Cup for his team, in his home state of Wisconsin, and shift the momentum for the U.S., who has won just three times in the last 10 matches.
“I'm excited,” the Captain said about the upcoming match. “I wish we would have played it already but I'm still looking forward to September and that opportunity to win the Cup and bring it back home.”