Stricker, don’t lose that number
If Brooks Koepka’s injured wrist/forearm isn’t sufficiently healed in time for him to play in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits next week, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker may have to call on Billy Horschel, after all.
On Sunday, Horschel birdied the final hole to become only the second American to win the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. In post-round interviews, he said he was “gutted” that Stricker hadn’t called him to tell him he was not going to be an at-large pick for the U.S. team.
Horschel, who finished 17th in Ryder Cup points, made it clear that he didn’t expect to BE a captain’s pick. He was just disappointed that he didn’t receive a courtesy call from Stricker, and used it as motivation to win at the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England.
“I was a little gutted I didn’t get a call this week,” Horschel said on Golf Channel. “I didn’t think the call was going to say I made the team, but I was a little gutted I didn’t get a call to say, hey, you know, you didn’t make the team. In my mind, I thought I’d at least get that.
“So, there was a little more added motivation this week for that.”
It was a bit of déjà vu for Horschel, who also was not picked for the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2014, then went on to win the Tour Championship.
On Wednesday, Stricker named Daniel Berger, Harris English, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth as his six captain’s picks for the biennial matches. Stricker also said he called “a lot of guys” to let them know they hadn’t been selected. Horschel, who won the WGC-Match Play in March, apparently was not among them.
“It sucks not making the team,” Horschel said. “As I said all week, I didn’t play consistent enough and well enough after I won the Match Play to warrant a pick or get enough points to be an automatic selection.”
The Sweet Spot guesses that Stricker already has reached out to Horschel – both to apologize for not calling him last week and to congratulate him for becoming the first American to win the BMW PGA Championship since Arnold Palmer.
One would think that Horschel went straight to the top of Stricker’s list of substitutes, should Koepka have to bow out, or should a U.S. player be forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID test.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Horschel said. “I know Brooks had to withdraw last week at the Tour Championship. He’s an unbelievable player, and it would be a big blow to the United States team if he’s not able to play. If somehow a phone call comes my way that says Brooks had to withdraw and I got picked, I’d be over the moon. I mean, I’d be up there faster than, you know, the speed of sound to get there.
“But we’ll see what happens. Like I said, I haven’t … there’s rumors and sometimes you can’t always believe the rumors, but as far as I know they have got 12 guys that are healthy and ready to play golf and I’m ready to sit on the couch and wear my red, white and blue and support the team.”
Nice move, Captain America. Not.
For those who wondered why Stricker passed on Patrick Reed with his captain’s picks, the player known as “Captain America” finished a lowly 149th on the PGA Tour in driving distance and has had recent health issues. But, of course, there’s more to it than that.
Stricker already has a couple of – how to put this? – interesting personalities on his team. Reed, who has played loose with the Rules of Golf and was critical of 2018 Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk after the U.S. was thrashed in Paris, would not win any popularity contests on Tour. There’s a reason Spieth asked out of their successful partnership.
Now comes news that @PReedGolf – Reed, or someone on his team – “liked” tweets that were critical of Stricker for not picking him, including one calling the Ryder Cup captain a “coward.” And that’s after Stricker praised Reed for handling the disappointment like a “true champion.”
If Reed wants to make future Ryder Cup teams, he’s going to have to qualify on points. It’s unlikely that a future captain would pick him, regardless of his winning record.
1 hole, 2 days, 2 aces
He was on a roll, so Howard “Howie” Ochs of Portage headed straight to Ho-Chunk Casino after playing golf at Portage Country Club last Monday.
“We didn’t win, though,” he said.
Maybe he’d used up all his luck. Hours earlier, the 77-year-old Ochs had achieved one of the rarest feats in golf by making a hole-in-one for a second consecutive day – and on the same hole, no less.
“It was the 16th at Portage,” said Ochs, a longtime member at the course and known around town as the coach of Portage's 1982 WIAA Class B state championship boys basketball team. “Sunday and Monday (Sept. 5 and 6). The white tees are 126 (yards) but I played from the gold tees because I’m old, so it was less than that, probably. I used a 6-iron both times. I don’t hit it far, obviously.
“The first one, I did not see it go in but then on Monday, I did, and I thought, ‘Unbelievable. How could that happen two days in a row?’ Somebody looked it up and they said it was something like one in 5.7 million.”
Ochs had previously made two aces, one on them on the same hole some 20 years ago.
Stricker optimistic that Tiger will play again
Stricker would love to have Tiger Woods at his side as an assistant captain for the matches, but the 15-time major winner continues to rehab injuries sustained in a Feb. 23 car accident and won’t be at Whistling Straits.
After announcing his captain’s picks, though, Stricker gave an optimistic prognosis for Woods’ return to golf in an interview on SiriusXM Radio.
“I’ve talked to Tiger a lot,” Stricker said in the interview with former Tour players Carl Paulson and Dennis Paulson. “He’s a part of this Ryder Cup family. He won’t be able to be a captain’s assistant this time around just because of his ongoing rehabilitation to try to get better and play golf again, and that is going well. He’s progressing, he’s doing well, things are moving in the right direction.”
Woods suffered broken bones in his right leg and multiple injuries to his right ankle and foot in the crash. His last official tournament was the 2020 Masters.
Schwab Cup race a dead heat
Jerry Kelly of Madison made a huge birdie on the 18th hole Sunday to finish solo fifth in the PGA Tour Champion’s Ascension Charity Classic at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis.
Why was the birdie so important? Because it enabled Kelly to climb out of a four-way tie for fifth and, with a $95,000 paycheck, close the gap on Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer.
Langer, who tied for ninth and earned $44,847, now has won $2,521,752 this season. Kelly is in a virtual dead heat, just $2,591 behind with $2,519,161. The Schwab Cup is awarded annually to the top player on the Champions tour.
Leef advances in U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur
Maggie Leef of Pewaukee beat Sandra Turbide of Canada, 3 and 2, on Sunday to advance to the Round of 32 in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at The Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Ala.
Leef, a member of the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame, next faces Gigi Higgins of Cape Coral, Fla. Higgins beat Jennifer Hoyt of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, 4 and 3, in the Round of 64.
Lou Warobick scholarship winners announced
Jack Ludwikoski of Whitefish Bay High School, Ellie Behring of Oak Creek High School and Ty Kretz of Marinette High School are recipients of 2021 Sportsmanship Scholarships awarded by the Lou Warobick Junior Golf Foundation.
The scholarships are awarded annually to college-bound high school senior boys and girls from Wisconsin who best exemplify good sportsmanship and contribute to their schools and communities. The scholarships are named in memory of Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame member Lou Warobick.
Ludwikoski is attending the University of Wisconsin, Behring is attending Winona (Minn.) State University and playing golf for the Warriors and Kretz is attending South Dakota State University and playing golf for the Jackrabbits.
Tap-ins, lip-outs and double-breakers
With five birdies in the final round of the Tour Championship, Sungjae Im of South Korea set a PGA Tour record for most birdies in a season, finishing with 498. The previous record was 493 by Steve Flesch in 2000. The Tour has kept the stat since 1980. … Three Wisconsin golfers finished in the top 20 over the weekend at the Wells Fargo Nebraska Open. River Falls' Neil Johnson (65-65-70) finished T-4, Appleton's Zach Burry (69-66-68) finished T-11 and Mount Pleasant's Kaylor Steger (68-68-71) finished T-20 at Elks CC in Columbus, Neb. ... Sydney Brandt of Brookfield tied a program record Sunday for St. Catherine's (Minn.) with her final-round 70 and broke another with her 36-hole total of 151 that gave her medalist honors at the Wartburg Fall Invitational in Waverly, Iowa. Her Wildcats won the team title by 11 strokes over Illinois Wesleyan with a program-record 586 total. ... Rachel Kauflin of Wauwatosa finished second overall last week to lead Central Michigan’s women’s team to a season-opening victory in the A-Ga-Ming Invitational. Kauflin, a sophomore, shot 12-over 228 as the Chippewas beat runner-up Oakland by three shots. … True Spec Golf will host club fittings Sept. 17-19 at The Club at Lac La Belle. Sign up here.