Stricker’s Ryder Cup wildcards: Rookie error or Captain sensible?

US skipper Steve Stricker will have six newcomers on his 12-man team for the showdown against Europe at Whistling Straits.

When Steve Stricker announced his six American wildcards for this month's Ryder Cup, the number crunching began immediately.

The American captain already had half of his team in place after Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks KoepkaJustin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay had qualified automatically.

He completed his line-up by taking a fairly straightforward approach.

Four of his six picks were the next four players on the qualifying list i.e. those who had just missed out on playing their way onto the team.

They were Tony Finau (7th), Xander Schauffele (8th), Jordan Spieth (9th) and Harris English (10th). All four are winners on the PGA TOUR this season, English a two-time champ.

If there was controversy, it was that Stricker decided to overlook No.11 - Patrick Reed.

The feisty Texas has been a standout star for Team America in recent Ryder Cups, compiling a 7-3-2 record in the previous three and being a bullish presence out on course.

His determination to go to war, give every last drop of effort, and get the job done - he famously beat Rory McIlroy in a classic singles match in 2016 - earned him the nickname 'Captain America'.

But Reed had a poor summer, failing to post a single top 15 in his final eight events of the campaign, and was hospitalized with pneumonia before making his return at the TOUR Championship.

Stricker decided there were too many good options elsewhere: with form a worry, Reed should sit this one out.

He filled his other two slots by selecting Pebble Beach winner Daniel Berger and big-hitting Scottie Scheffler, a player who finished in the top 10 of the last three Majors.

Record-breaking Team USA

Stricker's 12, according to the figures, are the youngest and most talented US team in Ryder Cup history.

But while Stricker's squad of mainly big hitters look ideally equipped to cash in on home advantage at a Whistling Straits course that will be set up for bombers, many pointed out another fact.

Six of the Stricker's 12-man team are rookies.

Yep, Morikawa, Cantlay, Schauffele, English, Berger and Scheffler will be tasting Ryder Cup action for the first time.

While they can't be accused of lacking experience, the atmosphere at a Ryder Cup is like no other. Is it risky trying to accommodate 50% first-timers? If the match is tight, will Europe's greater know-how see them through?

The American captain addressed that issue in his press conference and came up with some pretty compelling evidence.

Stricker on rookies

"We are looking to the best players to perform here at Whistling Straits, and these six guys that we picked, we feel like fit Whistling Straits to a T.

"We have done some analysis of those rookies since 2008, and US rookies are 40-29-17 record in Ryder Cup. So rookies fare very well in this type of format, and we're excited to have these rookies.

"Some of them aren't really rookies. They have played in past Presidents Cup teams. Some of these guys have match play competition under their belt as well and other events that they played, The World Match Play. So we are excited.

"So we don't really feel like they are rookies, we are just happy to have these guys and they fit the course to a T.

Stricker on leaving out Patrick Reed

"It was a very hard conversation. I called him first thing. He was my first call. I just -- I knew, you know, that it was going to be hard. But he took it like a true champion, and I apologized many times to him and just wanted to make sure that he knew that it was a very difficult decision.

"He handled it like I said a champion and really took it well. Very disappointed as you can imagine but he said all the right things and handled it very well."

Valhalla validation

The last time America went into bat with six rookies was the 2008 edition at Valhalla.

That half-dozen were Anthony Kim, Ben Curtis, Boo Weekley, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes and a certain Steve Stricker!

Between them they racked up 13 points and Mahan emerged as top US points scorer with 3.5.

As Stricker says, rookies can often fare well.

His biggest problem won't be trying to blood so many first-timers; it will be trying to pair them up successfully in a squad where team unity has been put under threat by the DeChambeau-Koepka spat.

READ MORE: 2020/21 PGA TOUR season: Spieth makes huge jump as McIlroy falls

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