Steve Stricker has been named captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the 2020 matches and will be formally introduced by the PGA of America at a press conference at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
It’s been speculated for months that Stricker, a Madison resident and a three-time Ryder Cup assistant captain, would be chosen to lead the 12-man U.S. team against Europe’s best at Whistling Straits. It will be the first time the biennial matches are contested in Wisconsin.
Stricker will become the first U.S. captain without a major championship victory on his resume. Once a prerequisite to serve as captain, winning a major was deemphasized by the 11-person task force assembled in the wake of America’s disastrous loss in 2014 under Tom Watson, after which Phil Mickelson was critical of Watson’s leadership.
Stricker was a member of the task force.
“We’ve kind of gotten away from that qualification,” he said in 2017. “Just because you won a major doesn’t mean you’re qualified to lead a team. I think what we’re seeing here is that anything is possible now.”
The European Tour in January named 47-year-old Irishman Padraig Harrington captain of Team Europe for the 2020 matches.
Europe has dominated the Ryder Cup in recent years, winning four of the last five meetings and seven of the last nine. The Europeans will be the defending champions at Whistling Straits, having crushed the Americans, 17½ - 10½, at Le Golf National in France in 2018.
Stricker, who turns 52 on Saturday, has been an assistant captain for each of the last three Ryder Cup matches. He was one of Watson’s assistants in 2014 and saw first-hand how dysfunctional the team had become. He also was an assistant under Dave Love III in 2016 and under Jim Furyk in 2018.
“It’d be a huge honor and being right there in my home state would be super cool,” Stricker said during the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago. “To try to bring the cup back right there would be a great opportunity if they give it to me.”
Stricker has experience as a captain, having led the U.S. to a resounding 19-11 victory over the International team in the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey. He’ll also serve as an assistant to captain Tiger Woods at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Melbourne, Australia.
Widely respected and admired throughout golf, Stricker is a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour and has won three times on the PGA Tour Champions. He hosts the American Family Insurance Championship, a Champions tour event, at University Ridge in Madison. The dates this year are June 21 through 23.
Stricker, a two-time PGA Tour comeback player of the year, continues to split his time between the tours and on Sunday tied for 11th in the Champions tour’s Chubb Classic in Naples, Florida.
“If all golfers in the world were like Steve Stricker, if all people were, this world would be a much better place,” Tom Lehman said. “It’s really nice to see a great guy who’s also a great player. It’s easy to cheer for guys like that.”
In 2012, Stricker was named the Payne Stewart Award winner by the PGA Tour. The award is presented annually to a player “sharing Stewart’s respect for the traditions of the game, his commitment to uphold the game’s heritage of charitable support and his professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.”
As for his leadership style, Stricker has compared himself to 2015 Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas.
“Well, you know me, I’m not very vocal,” he said. “I think my style will be a lead-by-example kind of thing and trust the assistant captains that I’m going to have and we all get on the same page. I’m not going to be the one vocalizing a lot of things. That’s kind of the way Jay Haas did it. It seems like my personality and his resemble one another.”
There will be considerable pressure on Stricker and his players to win back the Ryder Cup. Not only will the Americans be on home soil, but Whistling Straits is just a couple hours from Stricker’s hometown of Edgerton and his home in Madison.
“If you don’t play well and you don’t win, you’ve let a lot of people down, whereas on a normal basis you move on to the next day,” Curtis Strange said before the 2012 matches, which resulted in a stinging U.S. defeat at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago.
“Every other week, if I fail, I’ll move on and do my best,” said Strange, a losing U.S. captain in 2002. “I think at the Ryder Cup, doing your best sometimes isn’t good enough. You have to win.”
As a player, Stricker appeared in three Ryder Cups and compiled a 3-7-1 record.
Harrington compiled a 9-13-3 Ryder Cup record, playing on six consecutive European teams between 1999 and 2010.