The U.S. team is set for the upcoming Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler.
The biennial golf tournament is a showdown between teams from Europe and the U.S. Its atmosphere is unlike anything else in golf, and tickets for the Sheboygan County event sold out instantaneously when they became available in 2019. The tournament was postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it’s just weeks away, set to take place Sept. 24 to Sept. 26.
Six American players automatically qualified for the team based on a points system. They were Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.
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Wisconsin native Steve Stricker, captain of the U.S. squad, announced his additional six selections Wednesday morning from Whistling Straits. He chose Daniel Berger, Harris English, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth.
Half of the 12 players on this year’s team are Ryder Cup rookies.
“We were looking for the best players to perform here at Whistling Straits, and these six guys that we’ve picked, we feel like, fit Whistling Straits to a T,” Stricker said.
It’ll be the fourth Ryder Cup for 28-year-old Spieth, who is coming off a “resurgent year,” Stricker said. He finished second at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and he’s currently ranked No. 15 in the world after dropping out of the Top 75 in 2020.
Whistling Straits tests “every facet of the game,” Spieth said Wednesday.
“I really enjoyed playing it back in 2015. I thought it was just an awesome golf course,” he said.
Schauffele will become the first Olympic gold medalist to play on a U.S. Ryder Cup team, Stricker said. He took the top prize in Tokyo this summer.
Meanwhile, Scheffler’s selection was perhaps the biggest surprise of the day. He finished second at the World Golf Championships Match Play event earlier this year, defeating the likes of Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm. He brings distance off the tee, and his game has few weaknesses, Stricker said.
Before Wednesday’s announcement, Stricker called half a dozen players to let them know they weren’t selected for the team, he said. They included Patrick Reed, who was a hero for the U.S. squad in 2016 and an outspoken critic of his team’s performance two years later. Reed was hospitalized with pneumonia last month, and he’s still recovering.
“That was a very difficult call. I kind of lost sleep over that one,” Stricker said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He brings a lot to match play golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darn good.”
The entire team will play a practice round in Kohler this weekend. Stricker hopes to out prepare his European opponents, he said.
The European team is yet to be finalized. Rahm, Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood have already qualified.
The Ryder Cup will draw tens of thousands to Sheboygan County. Whistling Straits has previously hosted three PGA Championships and the 2007 U.S. Senior Open.
“It’s something I personally thought would never happen in my lifetime is to have a golf event of this magnitude, the biggest golf event in the world, held here in Wisconsin,” Stricker said. “Wisconsin has become a golf destination, and it’s hard to believe that because we’re in snow five or six months out of the year, but no matter where I go and play, people talk to me about Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wisconsin, so it’s really cool to see.”
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