Steve Stricker has made his captain’s picks. And Stricker is going with youth.
The United States Ryder Cup captain named Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler as his six captain’s picks Wednesday morning.
The six join automatic qualifiers in Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka to round out America’s club for the biennial event.
There was no drama surrounding the picks of Spieth, Finau and Schauffele, as the trio had long been expected to make the team. Spieth, making his fourth Ryder Cup appearance, enjoyed a career revival in 2021, highlighted by a win at the Texas Open and contending for the Masters and Open Championship. A win at the Northern Trust broke a five-year victory drought for Finau (making his second straight Ryder Cup), but his breakthrough was hardly a one-week triumph, finishing 14th in scoring and 16th in SG/tee-to-gree. Though he doesn’t have an official win, Schauffele captured the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and finished fifth on tour in strokes gained. Schauffele will be making his Ryder Cup debut.
English was also considered a sure-thing coming off a career-best campaign, winning twice (Tournament of Champions, Travelers Championship) to go along with high finishes at both the fall and summer U.S. Opens. While he represented the United States at the 2011 Walker Cup, this is English’s first professional Team USA appearance. English is the oldest captain’s pick at 32 years old.
The picks of Berger and Scheffler, however, provided Wednesday’s theater.
Berger was statistically one of the best ball-strikers on tour this season, finishing fifth in approach and 11th in strokes gained, while winning at Pebble Beach and racking up eight top 10s across the superseason. The analytics favored him as well, as he finished fourth in DataGolf’s Ryder Cup rankings over the past three and six months. His lack of Ryder Cup experience was the only knock, but clearly it was not enough of a restriction in Stricker’s mind.
Scheffler, also a Ryder Cup rookie, did not grab a win this year. However, he finished in the top 10 in the past three majors, along with coming in second at the WGC-Match Play. Scheffler, 25, ranked seventh in birdie average and was sixth in DataGolf’s Ryder Cup rankings over the last three months.
Team Europe will finalize its picks following this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in Surrey, England.
The 2021 Ryder Cup begins Sept. 24. The Europeans are the defending champs.