Ryder Cup captains Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington balance competing, planning for future
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington reduced his discretionary picks from four to three for next year’s biennial clash.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker will be sticking with four picks as he leads a team trying to win back the coveted gold trophy.
“We haven’t thought to change that at all,” Stricker said Wednesday at Bethpage Black, home to the 101st PGA Championship. “I think our process that we’ve gone through over the years has worked. I’m comfortable with having the four picks. I think it gives us a lot of flexibility on guys in that 9 to 15 to 20 range and who’s playing well. I think we’re happy with what we’re doing.”
Although the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin is 16 months from now, it’s on the minds of the team’s leaders. The Ryder Cup is played over just three days, but the preparation to get to the first tee for the first match is a two-year process. And captain’s picks are just one of the numerous decisions the two will be concentrating on ahead of the 2020 meeting by Lake Michigan.
As the two will tell you, there is a bunch of background to deal with, from choosing the team uniforms to figuring out how to set up the team room. From finding the proper place for the training room to figuring out where caddie dining will be. From gathering reconnaissance on players to devouring stat sheets looking for an edge. And on and on and on.
But some decisions stand out, like Harrington’s decree on captain’s picks.
“My opinion on this matter is that players who qualify tend to be more confident and assured of their place on the team than players who are selected. Having qualified and being selected over the years, I certainly felt that, and from talking to other players, I feel that,” Harrington said Tuesday at Bethpage Black.
Harrington also gave fair warning about how he’ll determine his three picks. The 2020 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the European Tour’s flagship event, will be played one week before the Ryder Cup and will be the last opportunity for someone to impress Harrington enough to be a pick.
“I would be on the side of making the players jump through a few more hoops to be on the Ryder Cup team. The Ryder Cup is a bigger deal than people think,” said Harrington, 47, who won the 2008 PGA among his three major titles. He continued.
“Anybody who wants a pick is going to have to turn up. Nobody has an excuse not to turn up at the BMW Championship in the U.K. They can’t say they are playing another event, or they are somewhere else. If you want a pick, you’re going to have to turn up and play a big tournament with the other players who are interested in that pick so that I can make a definitive decision as late as a week before the tournament. I’m a believer in having players who prove they have a commitment and want to be in the Ryder Cup.”
Both players will be playing a lot of golf the rest of this year and in 2020, in some part to eye players who could be on their teams. But they also remain competitors, and both are playing the second major championship of the year.
Harrington is coming off a tie for 12th in the AT&T Byron Nelson while Stricker won his first major championship last week in the Regions Tradition on the PGA Tour Champions. It was Stricker’s fourth with on the PGA Tour Champions to go along with his 12 PGA Tour titles.
“My number one priority is to be prepared for next September and to be ready and do everything possible to get a team that we can win with and that everybody is going to be comfortable with and hopefully get the best golf out of our players,” Stricker, 52, said. “But I’ll continue to do what I’ve been doing and play a little bit on both tours and see where that takes me. Winning last week has kind of changed my focus maybe a little bit, maybe gearing more towards some of those Champions Tour majors and trying to win more of those. That was fun. I’ve never been able to win one of those. So that was a neat experience.
“But I’m very happy to be here, too, as well.”