Equipped with the most captain’s picks in Ryder Cup history, Steve Stricker added four more rookies to his American team that included a mixture of obvious choices and perhaps a surprise, but no Patrick Reed.
Stricker filled out his 12-man team with Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Harris English, who grew up in Thomasville. They were the next four in the Ryder Cup standings. The other two picks went to Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler.
Reed has a history of thriving in team events with his personality and short game. He has a 7-3-2 record in the previous three Ryder Cups and is undefeated in singles. But he has had a poor summer, and Reed couldn’t play the final two qualifying events while hospitalized with pneumonia that made him fear for his life.
He returned to play the Tour Championship and tied for 17th in the actual score from the 30-man field.
Europe’s qualifying ends after this week’s BMW PGA Championship in England, and then Padraig Harrington announces three captain’s picks. The Ryder Cup is Sept. 24-26 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Europe not only is defending champion, it has won nine of the last 12 times dating to 1995.
The six automatic qualifiers were Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Cantlay.
Scheffler becomes the first American to be picked for his first Ryder Cup without having won on the PGA Tour since Rickie Fowler in 2010 at Wales. Scheffler has been a steady presence, was runner-up at the Dell Match Play in March and is No. 21 in the world.
He finished 14th in the Ryder Cup standings.
Most striking is the experience. Among the six who qualified, two-time major champion Morikawa and FedEx Cup champion Cantlay have never played in the Ryder Cup. The four picks who will make the Ryder Cup debuts are Schauffele, English, Berger and Scheffler.
The six rookies is the most for the Americans since there were six on the 2008 team that won at Valhalla.
Cantlay and Schauffele were a tough team at the Presidents Cup in 2019. Berger played in the Presidents Cup in 2017. Morikawa, English and Scheffler will be playing in this format for the first time as professionals.
The U.S. team typically has eight automatic qualifiers and four captain's picks. That was increased to six for this Ryder Cup because of uncertainty of how the COVID-19 pandemic — which postponed the matches for one year — would affect the tour schedule.