The U.S. captain, Steve Stricker, completed the 12-man roster, which already included such stars as Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas.
The 12-man American Ryder Cup team was finalized on Wednesday and to casual sports fans it will be most notable for who is missing from the roster.
No Tiger Woods, whose first Ryder Cup was in 1997. No Phil Mickelson, a Ryder Cup standby for 26 years. Not even Patrick Reed, dubbed Captain America in recent competitions for his unapologetic defiance of European opponents and a sterling, undefeated record in the pivotal singles matches.
With his Captain’s Picks locked, @SteveStricker selects:
🇺🇸 Scottie Scheffler
🇺🇸 @JordanSpieth pic.twitter.com/wFGR3bw8IH
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 8, 2021
Reflecting the generational churn overtaking all of golf — competitive and recreational — the hallmark of this year’s American Ryder Cup squad will instead be its startling youth. The top qualifier for the team was also its youngest member, Collin Morikawa, 24. Eight players are under the age of 30.
Half the U.S. squad, which will face off against a team of European golfers for three days starting on Sept. 24 at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis., will be Ryder Cup rookies. One of them, Harris English, jokingly wondered Wednesday if he was the team’s graybeard because he was 32. (The oldest is Dustin Johnson, 37.)
Steve Stricker, the American Ryder Cup captain who selected the last six players on Wednesday after six other players qualified via a performance-based points system, did not apologize for skewing his roster toward the newest faces on the PGA Tour.
“Everybody seems to be getting younger in this sport,” Stricker said in a news conference. “They bring an excitement level that is unmatched. They’re eager, and I’m not saying veterans aren’t, but they have a kind of put-me-in-coach attitude. It’s refreshing.”
While six American golfers — Morikawa, Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, 27, Justin Thomas, 28, Patrick Cantlay, 29 and Brooks Koepka, 31 — had already made the team automatically in the Ryder Cup rankings, Stricker on Wednesday named an additional six players: English, Tony Finau, 31, Xander Schauffele, 28, Jordan Spieth, 28, Daniel Berger, 28, and Scottie Scheffler, 25.
The six rookies in the event — Morikawa, Cantlay, English, Schauffele, Berger and Scheffler — are the most for a U.S. squad since 2008, when the team was victorious at the Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.
The European team is the defending champion after a commanding victory in 2018 in France. Its captain, Padraig Harrington, will announce his picks on Sunday. Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm have qualified automatically for the European team. Overall, the United States has a commanding 26-14 lead in the Ryder Cup, which dates to 1927, although Europe has won nine of the last 12 competitions.
The omission of Reed, 31, from the American team was the biggest surprise. Reed has a 7-3-2 record in the matches and has won each of his three final day singles contests. But after the 2018 loss in France, Reed also criticized the American team as “a buddy system” that led to Reed not being partnered with Spieth as he had in two previous Ryder Cups. Together, Reed and Spieth had an impressive 4-1-2 record. In 2018, Spieth played with Thomas, his childhood friend, and the duo had a 3-1 record.
Stricker, however, said uncertainty about Reed’s health had been the overriding reason he was left off this year’s team. Last month, Reed was hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia. He returned to the golf course for the first time since the illness last week at the season-ending Tour Championship and ended up 25th out of 29 finishers. Stricker said he called Reed, who is ranked 19th in the men’s world rankings, first as he began notifying players of his final six selections to the team.
“I apologized many times to him,” Stricker said, “and made sure he knew it was a hard decision. He was disappointed but handled it like a champion. He said all the right things.”
Reed may yet get a chance to join the team because Koepka injured his wrist and withdrew from last week’s Tour Championship. Stricker conceded on Wednesday that he has had discussions with his vice captains, Mickelson and Fred Couples, about who might be the right substitute if Koepka is unable to compete.
“But we’ll deal with that situation if it were to happen,” Stricker said.
Scheffler’s addition to the team was perhaps the one selection that raised eyebrows in the golf community since Scheffler is still chasing his first PGA Tour victory and was ranked 14th in the American Ryder Cup standings, the lowest of any American golfer on the team. But he has finished in the top 10 in the past three major championships and Stricker mentioned that he was second in this year’s world golf championship match play event.
Schauffele, the reigning Olympic golf gold medalist, sized up this year’s American Ryder Cup roster and insisted his new teammates were seasoned beyond their years. He noted, for example, that he played high school golf against some of them and that they had routinely been part of the final round pressure at multiple recent major championships.
“The game is getting younger,” he said, crediting Woods, “and we’re doing better and better. I feel like I’m an old guy on tour now at 28.
“It’s a good time for a young influx of players.”
The American team lost for the sixth time on foreign soil in 2018, a competition that included bickering over player pairings and poor showings by three of the four optional selections made by Jim Furyk, that year’s U.S. captain. Of Furyk’s picks, only Finau (2-1) had a winning record, while Woods, Mickelson and DeChambeau failed to win any of their matches.