THE United States will be seeking just a third victory in 10 Ryder Cups when Europe visit Whisting Straits Golf Club in Haven, Wisconsin this week.
In the nine Ryder Cups played since the beginning of the 21 century, Team America have managed to win the biennial team event only twice – in 2008 and ’16.
Of the last 12 meetings, Europe won nine times.
And given the developments surrounding their preparations for this year’s showdown, the Americans appear to have again pushed the “self destruct” button.
Much of that has centred on Brooks Koepka and his comments made in a recent interview with Golf Digest, in which he mentioned “the challenges – both on and off the course – of a Ryder Cup where ‘you go from an individual sport all the time to a team sport one week a year’ ”.
It goes without saying that Koepka, because of his outspokenness, and to some degree maybe his success too, is not well-liked by certain sections of the American media.
Thus, the onslaught that followed the Golf Digest interview has been unrelenting. So bad has it gotten that Paul Azinger, an NBC commentator and 2008 US Ryder Cup captain, weighed in on it.
He suggested that Koepka should quit if the US team “if he doesn’t love it. He should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup”.
US captain Steve Stricker has publicly stayed a distance from the controversy, which has been compounded by the running feud between Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, who is also on the team and qualified automatically.
Stricter, for his part, has mixed experience with youth, and have six players who will be making the Ryder Cup debuts at Whisting Straits. The debutants who qualified automatically are British Open champion Collin Morikawa and FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay. They are joined captain’s picks: Daniel Berger, Harris English, Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler.
Tony Finau and Jordan Spieth, who also have Ryder Cup experience, likewise were Stricker picks.
Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are teh two automatic qualifiers, while Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples are vice-captains
Conspicuous by his absence from that of 12 list is Patrick Reed. “Captain American” as he is fondly known, was somewhat troubled by illness recently and not among Stricker’s picks for that reason.
But Reed returned to action at the season-ending Tour Championship to make the point that he was indeed ready to do a tour of duty if called upon to do so. And his omission from the team led to some unsavory comments of the US captain on social media. Among others, ESPN reported that skipper Stricker was called as a “coward” over the omission of a player who served his country with distinction in the three Ryder Cups he has been part of – Reed has a 7-3-2 record to back that up.
It was also highlighted that Stricker was a vice-captain of Jim Furyk in 2018 when the Americans were vanquished 17½-10½ in France.
That year, Reed was at odds with Furyk after been left out of two of the rounds.
With all this going on, and possibly a bit more to come before things get underway in earnest on Friday, Stricker appears to have his work cut out.
He will know deep down inside that Europe will have no mercy, even if the US do have home advantage and will enjoy the support of a loud and partisan crowd.
And if they do go down, as many outside of north America suspect, he will probably ask why himself did they push the “self destruct” button again?