- Alistair Tait
Points Matter, Not Personalities
Let’s hope Steve Stricker knows what’s he’s doing by leaving Patrick Reed out of the United States Ryder Cup team. Stricker must be fairly confident to ignore a guy with 7-3-2 won, lost, halved record, a player undefeated in singles play with a 3-0 record from his last three matches.
That record was 6-1-2 before the last Ryder Cup in France. Reed went 1-2-0, with his two losses coming in fourballs with an out-of-form Tiger Woods.
I’m no Reed fan, anything but. However, I find his omission from Stricker’s wild card picks strange. Especially when you consider six American rookies will play at Whistling Straits.
Those three Reed singles victories are over Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton. That 2016 match against McIlroy at Hazeltine is one of THE epic contests in Ryder Cup singles play. That match enhanced Reed’s reputation as “Captain America,” a moniker he picked up when he won 3 ½ points from four in 2014 at Gleneagles. He backed it up in 2016 too, when he won 3 ½ points from five, America’s top points earner, to spearhead America’s victory.
Stricker seems to have a short memory.
The six American rookies are Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay, who qualified automatically, while Stricker picked Scheffler, Harris English, Daniel Berger and Xander Schauffele.
True, Reed was recently in hospital with pneumonia. But he was well enough to play in the Tour Championship, where he finished T17. He’s also the world’s 19th best player, and American number 11, two spots higher than Scheffler.
In leaving out Reed, Stricker said:
"That was a very very difficult call. Kind of lost sleep over that one. He's a tremendous competitor. He brings a lot to match-play golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darn good.
"So it was a very difficult call. It wasn't an easy one. But I think it was really just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of the play down the stretch that led to our decision."
That’s the official reason. The unofficial one is Reed’s personality. He’s just not a likeable character, and many, especially on social media, feel he’ll be a disruptive influence in the American team room.
Guess what? Reed doesn’t have to win friends in the team room, just points on the golf course. Besides, if Stricker was finding it difficult to pair him at Whistling Straits then he could simply have played him in the fourball sessions where he’s playing his own ball.
Stricker’s picks are all good players. They’ll probably excel, but you have to think any of the Europeans would sooner take on Berger, English, Schauffele or Scheffler than Patrick Reed.
As for claims Reed will be a disruptive influence in the team room, Stricker already has that problem considering his team features Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau and the childish spat they’ve had all season. Wasn’t Koepka also involved in a tiff with Johnson at Le Golf National three years ago? And didn’t Striker play in the same teams as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson when their egos clashed?
Here’s the rub though, European Teams have won in the past with teams featuring players who didn’t always like each other. It would take more space than I’m willing to give in this blog to recount the personalities on European Teams who didn't exchange Christmas cards on an annual basis. The difference seems to be European teams can put personality clashes aside for one week to come together in a common cause to defeat America’s best.
Let’s be clear: this is a talented American team. It’s stronger on paper than Europe. Stricker also has home course advantage and home support. But, as we saw in the Solheim Cup, these factors don’t guarantee victory.
Rest assured Stricker will be asked the “why didn’t you pick Patrick Reed question" if his team lose at Whistling Straits. You can take that to the bank in an age when if you win you’re a great Ryder Cup captain but lose and you’re a duff one.
It’s all about points – 14 ½ of them – not personalities.
#JustSaying: “Neither would I had I just been given the beating you just got.” Eric Brown’s response to Tommy Bolt after Bolt refused to shake hands following a 4&3 loss in the 1957 Ryder Cup