Ryder Cup 2021: Steve Stricker just had to 'let talented team go' at Whistling Straits

It was like having 12 Supermen at his disposal. That was effectively the verdict delivered by Steve Stricker on sending out the strongest-ever side in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

US captain Steve Stricker and his players celebrate winning the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.
US captain Steve Stricker and his players celebrate winning the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

The American team for the 43rd edition in Stricker’s home state of Wisconsin contained nine players in the world’s top 11 while Scottie Scheffler was the lowest of the 12 at 21st.

The average world ranking of the US side was a mind-boggling 8.92 - the best since the Official World Golf Rankings were introduced in 1987 and the first time that number has ever been below 10.

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Similar star-studded American line ups have flopped in the past against their lower-ranked European opponents, but not this one.

Producing sensational golf from start to finish, a new-look side containing six rookies lived up to its tag in style by chalking up a record 19-9 victory.

“It was just putting them out there in a position,” said Stricker of how simple his job and that of his assistants had been in getting the best out of this team where it mattered most.

“They're just so talented. Their average world ranking is 8.9. That's unheard of. Out of 12 guys. So it was really just getting out of their way.

“Let them go. Provide an atmosphere and camaraderie that they enjoyed and wanted to be a part of. And they all want to win, and it showed and they prepared for it. It was a great bunch of guys, and I really had a great time and they deserve it.”

Concerns had been expressed about possible unrest in the US team room due to a public spat between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, but, helped by the way the contest unfolded, it was all tickety-boo in the home camp.

“When they showed up for the practice round two weeks ago, I could see the camaraderie then,” insisted Stricker. “I could see the willingness to prepare and get ready for this event prior to us even arriving. It's a special group of guys and, yeah, it was fun to be part of it all this week, especially here in Wisconsin.”

Dustin Johnson, who won five matches out of five, becoming only the third player to achieve that feat under the current format, said the success hadn’t just been down to those hitting the shots.

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“Let's be honest, Captain Strick did an unbelievable job of putting us all in the best position we could be in to win our matches,” said Johnson, who was the oldest player in the team at 37.

According to Stricker, he won’t be at the helm again for the trophy defence at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome in 2023.

“I don't think it's going to happen,” he said of that possibility. “It's mapped out and there's guys in positions to be the next captains. It was an unbelievable experience, don't get me wrong. I'm glad it's over.”

Zach Johnson, the 2015 Open champion, could be the man handed that task, having been one of Stricker's vice-captains in Wisconsin, and Jordan Spieth, for one, is hoping to be part of a first US side to win on European soil since 1993.

The Texan was on losing sides at Gleneagles in 2014 the Le Golf National four years later and said of seeking an away win: “I think that this is unfinished business.

“We needed to win this one and I think it was a massive stepping stone for this team and the group that we have here that have really known each other since almost back to grade school to continue to try to work hard to be on these teams to go over there.

“It's one thing to win it over here and it is a lot easier to do so and it is harder to win over there. If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there in a couple years, and that's what we're here for.”

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