Eleven of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker’s troops showed up for a two-day reconnaissance excursion at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin ahead of next week’s biennial battle with Europe, with all playing the Straits Course that will be home to the 43rd edition of the matches in rain, sunshine and warm temperatures while dealing with a variety of wind directions.
The 12th man, however, remains a mystery.
But the 11 heeded Stricker’s calls, for his motto has always been that the U.S., which has lost nine of the last 12 matches and was pasted in Paris in 2018, is to “out-prepare the other team.” With all five of his assistants on hand Sunday and Monday, camaraderie on Team USA was well in hand and pairings were a pivotal discussion among his vice captains, players and caddies during the time.
“The guys played in showers on Sunday. We saw a lot of different weather,” Stricker said in a phone call with Golfweek Monday night as he drove to his home in Madison in the Badger State. “Bring your bug spray. Oh, my, it was unbelievable. I think it was a great two days. We got a lot done. We had some nice discussions and talks. It was nice to have the caddies there. It was a very productive two days. Any successful team, in any sport, it’s nice to have the players get along and communicate with each other.
“This is a good bunch of guys who are a part of this team. I’m excited about it. Very encouraging. Very good participation. Good conversations, all positive.”
A little Whistling warm up?
Love that for us pic.twitter.com/mWprDM1uW3
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 13, 2021
One player, however, did not make the trip – Brooks Koepka. The world No. 9 and winner of four majors, who has played well in two Ryder Cup matches, remains in doubt for next week’s play after suffering a left wrist injury during The Tour Championship that forced his withdrawal.
“I’m leaving it up to him. Talking to him every other day. I’m just going to say that we’re focused on him playing. It sounds positive,” Stricker said. “He wants to be there and he’s working hard to be there. He’s rehabbing and his caddie is with him. I haven’t talked to him for a couple of days. I’ll give him a jingle tomorrow.”
Stricker didn’t say if there’s been talks about a contingency plan if Koepka could not play. Nor did he reveal any of the pods assembled during the two days at Whistling Straits.
“No, I won’t tell you,” he said. “Sorry. Nice try.”
As for Stricker, his countdown to next week is full. He’s playing in an outing Tuesday at Wisconsin Dells and then will head west to play in this week’s Sanford International in South Dakota on the PGA Tour Champions.
“I have a lot going on,” he said.
But the Ryder Cup will always be on his mind.
“It’s going to be tough. Every one of these Cups is tightly contested, right?” he said. “We’ve been on the wrong end of things, nine of the last 12 times. It will be a big challenge. But my guys are excited. They’re fired up. They’re chomping at the bit. They’re excited what I’ve seen the last couple of days.
“Them showing up shows me the willingness to do whatever it takes to try and win this Ryder Cup.”