Stricker plans to mend fences in Green Bay

It’s hard to find fault with a single thing Steve Stricker did or didn’t do as captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He has been widely praised for his low-key leadership style, and justifiably so in the wake of the Americans’ record-setting 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits.

If he had one do-over, though, he’d certainly take back four words: “I’m a Bears fan.”

Say it ain’t so, Steve!

Steve Stricker | Ryder Cup opening ceremony

U.S. captain Steve Stricker speaks at the Ryder Cup opening ceremony Thursday.

That casual slip of the tongue during an otherwise stick-to-the-script speech at the opening ceremony resulted in the decidedly pro-Packers crowd turning momentarily on the likable, gentle-soul captain, who was born and raised in Wisconsin and still lives in Madison.

Boos were heard – scattered, and mostly in fun (we hope) – but it probably was the first time a Ryder Cup captain was booed during an opening ceremony on home soil.

Stricker immediately regretted the slip, and sputtered that he cheered for the Packers, too. But that horse was out of the barn. When you admit in the heart of Packers country that you’re a Bears fan, you have committed the most unpardonable of sins.

The fact that Stricker grew up in Edgerton, about 30 miles from the Illinois border, and was a teen when the Mike Ditka-led Bears were pillaging and plundering the NFL in the mid-1980s probably explains his allegiance.

Still, Stricker knows he has some fence-mending to do.

“The Packers, you know, I think I feel like I need to make a trip to the Packers and kind of mend that relationship,” he said last week at the Constellation Furyk & Friends (he wound up finishing T-7). “You know, it’s in the works.”

Green Bay plays at Chicago this coming Sunday and hosts the Bears in a Sunday night game on Dec. 12. The latter would provide Stricker with an opportunity to swallow his pride, stride to midfield at Lambeau Field during halftime and hoist the Ryder Cup. Call it his mea culpa.

As long as he doesn’t stand on the Bears’ sideline, all will be forgiven.

Brooks-Bryson pairing was in Stricker’s back pocket

We’ll never know how a Brooks Koepka-Bryson DeChambeau partnership would have worked out at the Ryder Cup, but Stricker said he had the pairing in his “back pocket” and might have unleashed the beasts had the Americans struggled in Saturday morning foursomes.

Stricker brokered a truce between the once-feuding superstars in the weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup, which ended with the two hugging it out at the end of the post-match news conference while their teammates sang “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”

Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka hug

Bryson DeChambeau, front right, and Brooks Koepka, at odds most of the 2021 season, share a hug after helping Team USA win the 2021 Ryder Cup.

In the days that followed, it was announced that Koepka and DeChambeau have agreed to meet in Capital One’s The Match, Part V, Nov. 26 at Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas.

“It got to the point of during the Ryder Cup week that they both came to me and said that they would play with each other, that they were fine,” Stricker said. “They realized they would make a good team and if it came down to that, they would be fine going out together. They were even talking about playing alternate-shot format together.

“We had it in our back pocket for Saturday afternoon if we needed it, if we were down and wanted to provide some sort of lift or spice to the team.”

Stricker said he and his assistants ultimately decided that a Koepka-DeChambeau pairing would become such a big story that it would overshadow the team-above-everything theme they had worked so hard to craft.

“We felt like … if we did put them together, that that story would have been bigger than the story itself, you know, the team and trying to win the Cup,” he said. “So, we kind of shelved it, I guess. But that’s how close this team became.

“To have these two guys that, you know, seemed not very close … giving each other a hug in the press conference at the end, yeah, it was really kind of a magical week and a magical thing that happened with those two guys.”

Harrington: Europe gets credit for U.S. Ryder Cup success

Padraig Harrington of Ireland, captain of Europe’s losing Ryder Cup team, said the Americans owed their success at Whistling Straits in part to their adoption of some of Europe’s strategies.

“The biggest problem we have in Europe is we’ve really innovated over the last 20 years,” Harrington said. “The U.S. have just copied us. They do everything we do. Until somebody finds the next unknown, at the moment we don’t know what that is, but it’s hard to get an edge.

“The U.S. was very strong on home ground, but they had everything. They had everything Europe has done over the years, they’ve learned from it, and Europe should be proud of the fact that … we pushed the U.S. team to really work hard and explore every avenue to make themselves the best team. No longer can they just throw the balls up in the air and go out and play.”

Sentry Insurance throws support behind First Tee

As title sponsor of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, corporate partner of the United States Golf Association, owner of the acclaimed SentryWorld golf course and host of the 2023 U.S. Senior Open, Stevens Point-based Sentry Insurance has gone all-in on golf.

The company now has made a major commitment to junior golf by becoming a trustee of First Tee, which has 150 chapters nationwide. Sentry’s investment will support network-wide initiatives to expand programs, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities.

“I’m inspired by the work of First Tee,” said Pete McPartland, Sentry chairman of the board, president and CEO. “First Tee does much more than teach kids to golf. They learn integrity, honesty and determination and build confidence – qualities that help them succeed in life. At Sentry, we look forward to becoming engaged in First Tee’s work and helping to develop these impressive young people.”

Don’t drink and drive (a golf cart)

Terrence McManus, the CEO of a company that runs a municipal course in Daytona Beach, Fla., was sentenced to four years in prison recently after being convicted of DUI in a golf cart, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

McManus, 56, who has a criminal record dating back to a 1993 conviction for robbery and dealing in stolen property, was found in July 2019 slumped over the wheel of the cart, which was stuck in sand in a construction zone. His company, Flagler Golf Management, runs the nine-hole Ocean Palm Golf Course.

Tap-ins, lip-outs and double-breakers

Fall discounted rates at all Milwaukee County Parks courses went into effect Oct. 4. … Fred Couples, one of Stricker’s assistant Ryder Cup captains, revealed last week at the Constellation Furyk & Friends that his practice-round “pod” consisted of Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa. Those four went a combined 14-1-2 in their matches. “I had a good group to watch,” Couples said. … Though Couples has been the winning captain of three U.S. Presidents Cup teams, he has never captained a Ryder Cup team. With Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods waiting in the wings, Couples admitted he’ll probably never get the chance. “I’m a little old for the system,” he said. “I mean, would I like to be Ryder Cup captain? Of course, but that’s probably not going to happen.” … Marquette University’s men’s team concludes its fall season Monday and Tuesday in the Purdue Fall Invitational at Kampen Golf Course in West Lafayette, Ind.

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