There is no PGA Tour event this week, which is an extreme rarity, as the Tour gears up for the start of the new wraparound season next week in California. The Ryder Cup, delayed by one year due to the pandemic, is the following week from Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, and Team USA captain Steve Stricker named his six captain's picks Wednesday to go with the six automatic qualifiers. There were a couple of minor surprises, perhaps. The Americans are -187 moneyline favorites on the Caesars Sportsbook golf odds with Europe +188 and a draw +1200. Team USA features nine of the top 11 players in the world.
Stricker named Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler as his six captain's picks – the first four were locks and notable omissions were Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson.
Reed has a terrific 7-3-2 record (3-0 in singles) in his three previous Ryder Cups, but his health was why he was passed over by Stricker. He missed a month with an ankle injury as well as pneumonia before returning at the Tour Championship where Reed was understandably a bit rusty and finished tied for 25th in the 30-player field.
Reed finished 11th in Ryder Cup qualifying points, ahead of both Berger (12th) and Scheffler (14th). Simpson also has played in three Ryder Cups and has a record of 4-4-1. He was 13th in points.
"That was a very, very difficult call, kind of lost sleep over that one," Stricker said of Reed. "He's a tremendous competitor, he brings a lot to match-play golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darn good. ... But I think just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch." Stricker said he apologized many times to Reed.
It will be the first Ryder Cup appearances for Berger and Scheffler. Since May, Berger has recorded five Top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour. Scheffler is a big hitter off the tee and is seventh on Tour in birdie average, making 4.39 birdies per round. It's also the first Ryder Cup for English, who has two victories on Tour this year and is considered a terrific putter, ranking 12th in strokes gained: putting this past season.
They join automatic qualifiers in Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka. It's always possible that a player has to withdraw due injury – Koepka had to WD from the Tour Championship due to a wrist issue – or COVID. Schauffele, Cantlay and Morikawa are also Ryder Cup rookies.
"Yeah, we've talked about if we have to replace Brooks, but we're not there yet," Stricker said.
Phil Mickelson had been a part of every Ryder Cup since his debut in 1995 but was never a realistic choice as a player and will serve as one of Stricker's vice captains in Wisconsin. The 43rd Ryder Cup begins at the Whistling Straits on Sept. 24. Caesars Sportsbook has odds out on the top American points scorer in the Ryder Cup and it's Thomas at +600.
Europe has won the seven of the past nine Ryder Cups and would keep it with a draw -- there has been one, in 1969 -- thanks to a 17.5-10.5 rout three years ago in France. Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are all confirmed on Team Europe and will be joined by four other qualifiers and three captain's picks. Those will all be set after this week's BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour. Padraig Harrington is the Team Europe captain.
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