The Ryder Cup will take place minus “Captain America” after Patrick Reed was surprisingly omitted from Steve Stricker’s wildcard selections for the US team at Whistling Straits.
With six picks available, the US captain turned to Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, Scottie Scheffler, Harris English and Tony Finau. Four of that sextet will make their Ryder Cup debuts in Wisconsin from 24 September.
Stricker admitted being troubled by his decision not to pick Reed. The former Masters champion recently spent six days in hospital with bilateral pneumonia, with Reed’s own description of that period stark enough to suggest he feared for his life. Reed returned to play in last weekend’s Tour Championship – with the sole intention of proving Ryder Cup capability – but finished 25th in a 29-man field.
“That was a very, very difficult call,” Stricker said. “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 darned good. It was a very difficult call. It wasn’t an easy one. It was just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch. I apologised many times to him and just wanted to make sure that he knew that it was a very difficult decision.”
It is not yet a given that Reed will definitely miss out. Brooks Koepka has a wrist problem and Stricker suggested issues around Covid-19 mean he will keep reserves in mind. “There’s going to be some extra names in the envelope, but the 12 guys are the 12 guys at this point,” Stricker said. “We’re going to try to remain and be as safe as possible leading up to the Ryder Cup and throughout that week so we don’t have to replace anybody. That’s our goal.”
In contrast to Stricker, Padraig Harrington is likely to lean on experience for his wildcard picks which will be revealed on Sunday evening. Before then comes the PGA Championship at Wentworth, the final Ryder Cup qualifying event for Europe that could alter the automatic standings.
For now, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia seem virtually certain to be picked by Harrington. The final spot appears between Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
Yet the situation is far from straightforward: should Bernd Wiesberger make the Wentworth cut, he has a strong chance of dislodging Shane Lowry from the European team. In that scenario, Lowry would become an obvious candidate for a wildcard.
Rose has his sights on winning the European Tour’s marquee event in England but admits he needs a plan B for convincing Harrington. “To show enough form that I’m playing well and can be relied upon,” Rose said. “At that point you hope that your record speaks for yourself and your experience in the tournament and the fact that you’ve been a valuable team member in the past.
“I think that it’s very hard to expect a player to pull his game out of the ashes just because it’s the Ryder Cup. You want to have a player that’s had a level of form but both those guys [Garcia and Poulter] are prolific points winners in the past and great for the team. As long as they have their A- to B+ game, absolutely they are going to be relied upon.”
The R&A, meanwhile, has confirmed the Open will make its return to Royal Portrush in 2025. This marks a swift return to the Dunluce links for the world’s oldest major, which was successfully staged in Northern Ireland in 2019 after a 68-year gap and won by Lowry.