Captain Stricker will have to be unorthodox before Ryder Cup
If you’re an avid golf bettor – and many IRC members are such due to the legendary tips of our in-house golf guru, Warren Todd – you’ll already be licking your lips for the 2020 Ryder Cup, the latest renewal to be held a year late due to Covid-19, between 21-26 September 2021, at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
Spanning 91 years and now 42 competitions, the Ryder Cup is among the last great professional sporting events where winning, and not prize money, is the reward.
While Team USA, captained by Steve Stricker, has been officially announced, the auto qualifying has not yet finished for Team Europe. After this upcoming weekend’s BMW PGA Championship in the United Kingdom, the nine auto qualifiers will be official. Team captain Padraig Harrington will then choose the remaining three slots. See US team and likely European team here.
The US team are coming off a drubbing in 2018, when the scoreboard at Le Gold Nationale read 17½-10½ in favour of the Europeans, who have won seven of the nine Ryder Cups since the turn of the century.
For Americans, we know, losing the Ryder Cup is like losing a war and while they should be entirely used to both by now, the Yanks apparently still give their 2018 Captain, Jim Furyk, the blame for the defeat when the simple fact is that they were comprehensively outplayed by the Europeans, led by Thomas Bjorn.
There are many, however, who rekindle the narrative that Team Europe, this century, has enjoyed better chemistry and more heart. This is something the wily veteran Stricker will be addressing with his team in the run-up over the next week-and-a-half, and trying his best to enforce when the players start squaring up on September 21.
There are several experts and fans who believe the USA have already lost the 2021 Cup because their top players have personal issues with each other – by that, they can only mean the long feud between Brooks Koepka and Bryson de Chambeau which has flared up periodically over the last three years.
Golf Digest reported: “We live in a ridiculous digital age where narcissism and performative drama are the norm, so it would be tempting on the surface to downplay the Koepka-DeChambeau feud as nothing more than two guys who don’t like each other getting bored on Twitter or rolling their eyes on camera.
“Two things make it different. First, both of them are very good, and both are major champions who are likely to win more. Second, Koepka’s move of semi-tacitly encouraging fans to heckle DeChambeau, and rewarding those who do, is unprecedented. In terms of being purposeful, it’s the most aggressive thing I’ve seen or read about in golf, and it makes this feud more personal and more combustible than when it was just a series of tweets.”
We know that Koepka’s fans’ chanting of ‘Brooksy, Brooksy!’ when De Chambeau plays has now been banned, with on-course officials and security officers asked to remove any rowdy spectators who make themselves guilty of trying to upset ‘The Scientist’. But in the country town of Haven, where Whistling Straits is situated,’ doze good ole’ ‘Merican spectators will greatly outnumber European fans who step out of line so heckling is an unlikely occurrence.
What will Stricker have to do, then, to ensure that his team members play in 100 percent support of each other, and for their country? How can he ensure that there will be a chemistry here? Is it enough to accept that professionalism and sportsmanship will enjoy full priority over personal issues?
Word has it that Stricker and his team will be assembling as early as next Monday for practice rounds and strategy discussions, but what will they be doing about bonding?
Stricker started by omitting from the team one Patrick Reed, regarded as a general irritation for team-mates and not looked upon in respect for his one-sided feud with Jordan Spieth.
But Stricker still has Koepka and De Chambeau to deal with in closed chambers.
One IRC associate suggested calling in the help of veteran teamsters Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Stricker this week named Mickelson as his vice-captain, but Tiger is probably still on his back with a very sore ankle and able to advise by phone and spiritual presence only.
Phil has sold his own Gulfstream Jet to partner with flight operator Vista Jet, who is reportedly on call for his family trips. But he has how own pilot’s licence and will be an ideal flying tour guide for a trip to Las Vegas with Stricker and the boys.
With Phil’s gambling prowess, he can manoeuvre strikes around a poker table or at the roulette wheel using Koepka and De Chambeau as his ‘wingmen’. Team mate Dustin Johnson can arrange some weed and blow for the after party, and Tiger will probably know every corner of every hotel on the strip where pretty women hang out.
The flight to Vegas from Wisconsin takes about three-and-a-half hours, and there will be opportunities, to and fro, for masseuse therapists to rub out some strained muscles, or for tiny Thai ladies (or midgets) to walk from one naked back to another applying foot therapy. As long as Stricker has a lady each for both Koepka and De Chambeau. If there’s only one, and the meticulous Bryson gets busy first, Brooks will have to wait too long for his turn and things will flare up again. Unless, of course, Stricker has a single, game lady lined up for a les groupe de trois, said to be the most beautiful bonding experience of them all.
Being a Brit I should be supporting the European team, but I am not too sure about Padraig Harrington, and it feels to me as if they’ve left full team selection too late with the US already actively planning as a unit. Padraig reminds me a bit of ‘Pop’ – the jolly character who appears on the Rice Krispies box alongside ‘Snap’ and ‘Crackle’. I am not near a golf expert, can only air my views as an avid lounge spectator, but I am not sure about Padraig’s leadership skills. Something worries me, though I can’t put my finger on it and could well be wrong.
In making a call (before Warren Todd plies his trade in Ryder Cup week), I’m going for a comfortable US win this year because I think that Stricker will be a very good captain. I suspect that his players will leave all their issues aside to deliver their best, if only so they can make America Great Again and are able to say ‘Our Country Needed This!’ when they hug each other, and each other’s pretty blonde wives, after the tournament. – IRC.