LOUISVILLE Kentucky (Reuters) - Being a part-time player these days, American Steve Stricker never contemplated making a fourth Ryder Cup appearance for the United States this year at Gleneagles in Scotland.
He is happy to perform a background role and, having been appointed this week by U.S. captain Tom Watson as an assistant for the biennial team competition, he was sticking to that plan despite flourishing at the PGA Championship.
"I haven't played all that well this year and I'm just trying to have a good tournament here this week," Stricker, 47, told reporters on Friday after surging into contention for the title with a three-under-par 68 in the second round.
"Try to finish the year off in a positive form and move forward, so it (the possibility of playing at the Ryder Cup) really hasn't crossed my mind too much."
With just this week's event remaining before the top nine on the U.S. Cup standings earn automatic selection for Gleneagles, Stricker languishes in 38th spot after playing the PGA Tour on a limited basis over the last two years.
However, Watson himself pointed out that Stricker could still qualify for the team as a player if he wins the season's final major at Valhalla Golf Club this week.
"I would have to do something very special and that would be either win or maybe finish second," said Stricker, a 12-times winner on the PGA Tour who has represented his country at the last three Ryder Cups.
"I'm obviously going to try to do the best I can this weekend, but it hasn't really crossed my mind as a player just because I haven't played that much."
Asked if he would be more effective as a player or vice-captain at Gleneagles, Stricker replied: "It's going to sting, I'm sure, when I'm over there as an assistant captain, watching the guys and wishing I was a playing part of the team.
"I'll cherish the moment of just being a part of it in any way, shape or form. Hopefully I can help out a little bit.
"It's all about the guys there and how they are playing and what they bring to the team. I'm just going to help out in way Tom asks me, or anybody else asks me to," said the American after finishing Friday's play at five-under 137, four strokes off the pace.
He was delighted to rack up four birdies and a lone bogey on a difficult day for scoring on a rain-saturated layout.
"I'm very happy with it and happy to be in (the clubhouse) and finished," said Stricker, who raced to the turn in four-under 32 before cooling off on his back nine. "Conditions were tough out there.
"I really hit the ball nicely the first nine holes today. Slowly kind of struggled on the other side, but I hit a lot of nice shots. All in all, good two days and look forward to the weekend."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)