Steve Stricker discusses the loss at Le Golf National, the Patrick Reed situation, what he plans to do differently as captain and more.
The PGA of American has decided to shop local when it comes to the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain. On Tuesday, the PGA officially tapped Steve Stricker as the man to lead the American contingent at the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits, in his native Wisconsin. Stricker has won 12 times on the PGA Tour and played on three Ryder Cup teams as a player in 2008, 2010 and 2012, but he’s the first American Ryder Cup captain to have never won a major. Along with his successful playing career, Stricker has been a vice captain at the last two Ryder Cups (2016, 2018) and was a winning captain at the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National.
SI.com’s Ryan Asselta had a chance to catch up with Stricker, who made two things abundantly clear—captaining a Ryder Cup in his home state will be the biggest thrill of his career, and any fracturing in the U.S. locker-room from the 2018 matches in Paris is dead and buried.
Ryan Asselta: Steve, to captain the U.S. team at Whistling Straits, in your home state of Wisconsin—where does this rank with some of your biggest career achievements?
Steve Stricker: It’s at the top of the list. It's such a huge honor to be a part of this competition, but now to lead them as a captain is very special and humbling all at one time. It's a great thrill. My wife Nicki and the kids are very excited for September 2020. Then the great state of Wisconsin, you know, they're very passionate about sporting events. It's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere. I'm sure it will be overwhelming at times and really cool other times, too.
RA: We are about 19 months out from the matches. What's your first order of business as team captain?
SS: We’re going to head up to Whistling Straits this week and take a look, even though there's a couple feet of snow on the ground, we're going to take a look and go over a few things up there
I'm sure I'll reach out to some of the players to try and take in as much information as I can and then lean on the stuff I've learned while being a captain or assistant captain over the years. So there's a lot of information that I can receive and hopefully apply some of that going forward.
RA: The one criticism or knock against you is that you're the first U.S. captain without a major championship on his resume. Is that a fair criticism?
SS: I guess it's fair because it's never been done before, to captain without a major, but I don't think it's a qualification that the PGA feels like is necessary anymore.
Just because you win a major, that doesn’t qualify you to be a Ryder Cup captain. That’s the PGA’s stance and I tend to agree. I’ve put in the time with these teams as assistant and then being the captain of the Presidents Cup team. Outside of Davis Love, I don't know if there have been too many guys that have done all of the work I’ve done as an assistant before being a Ryder Cup captain. So I've got a lot of experience on my side.
RA: There’s a slight change in the selection process for 2020, as all four of your captain's picks will be made on the same day. This does away with the hot hand or “Billy Horschel” pick we've seen the last few years. Why was that decision made?
SS: I think it will make for a little bit easier transition, to get our team formed altogether and at one point instead of kind of waiting. We can then go ahead with starting some of the planning process and get the guys on the same page. It was tough not knowing who that last guy was going to be. I think just having everybody announced, at the same time, it's a little bit easier to start the planning process.
RA: You were vice captain in. What did you learn from those matches that will help you captain in 2020?
SS: In Paris, I think the bottom line is that the Europeans just made more birdies than we did. We gave some holes away by making bogeys. The golf course was tough for us and I don’t think our guys handled that very well. We just got outplayed. Sometimes in competition it just comes down to the competition itself and who is a better team. That was the Europeans.
RA: There were some issues with the U.S. players that arose during the matches in Paris. Most notably, Patrick Reed made strong comments and complaints regarding pairings. Do you plan to communicate any differently with the players when it comes to pairings and decisions that are made from a team perspective?
SS: I don't know if I’ll communicate any differently, but I am definitely going to communicate with these guys and listen to them. I want to make sure they know where I stand and I want to know where they stand on things. I've been reaching out already to some guys that potentially could make the team. I believe in the communication part but also the listening part on top of that is even more important. You know, you've got to listen. I'll be doing that.
RA: There was the Reed comments and then the reported issue between Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. Does anything need to be repaired with the U.S. team?
SS: From what I understand of the Brooks and DJ situation, a lot of that was false, and not correct. There was not an issue there.
I've talked to Patrick Reed, and that issue is pretty much put the bed. He reached out to the players and apologized. He told me he was upset the way he handled the situation and should have never said those things and he apologized to the players for that. Patrick says he is there for the team and he's looking forward to Whistling Straits and wants to be a part of that team. He’s learned from Paris and he's ready to move on.
RA: Do you expect the result in Paris to eat at players and possibly motivate them in 2020?
SS: Yeah, possibly for sure. You can always use those experiences. Sometimes you learn more from failures than you do from the positive things that happened in your life. There will be guys that'll be on this next team that experienced Paris and they can use that to their advantage. We’ll mention it probably a little bit, but we won't dwell on it and we'll be looking forward so that we can get these guys playing at their highest level.