Steve Stricker spent the hours following Wednesday's official announcement that he would be the U.S. Ryder Cup captain for a third year playing a practice round with Davis Love at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, where they were part of the victorious U.S. squad during the 2013 Presidents Cup.
It was the last of five Presidents Cup teams on which the Madison golfer played before he captained the 2019 team to victory at Liberty National GC in New Jersey. Love was an assistant captain on the 2013 team under Fred Couples.
"A lot of great memories," Stricker said during a news conference on the eve of the Workday Charity Open, an event added to the PGA Tour following the cancellation of the John Deere Classic — an event he has won three times —due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We talked about the little pet squirrel that (Love) had during the Presidents Cup back in '13. So a lot of good stuff."
Stricker did not participate in a joint video news conference featuring leaders of the PGA of America, the European Tour and the PGA Tour, announcing the much-anticipated Ryder Cup in his home state had been delayed a year. It will now be played Sept. 24-26, 2021 at Whistling Straits in Haven.
Stricker admitted he didn't mind the distraction as he came to grips with the fact his evaluation of U.S. talent for the Ryder Cup team will now stretch well into the 2021 season on top of his other captain's duties. He is the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain to spend three years in the role since Curtis Strange, who captained the American squad in 2001 when the Ryder Cup was postponed to 2002 in wake of the September 11 attacks against the United States.
"I guess I'm the lucky one, huh?" Stricker asked rhetorically. "Yeah, I've been thinking about it and I just told Davis, you get to the point where you want to play it. You've put so much time and energy and focus in on it that you want to play it and you want to get there. I couldn't wait for September to come, you know? Well, now it's going to have to wait another year."
What that means for Stricker in 2020 remains to be seen.
At age 53, he is eligible to compete on the PGA Tour and the PGA Tour Champions. His two-week stay in Dublin for the Workday Charity Open and The Memorial will mark his eighth and ninth starts on the regular tour in 2020, even with the three-month suspension of play due to the coronavirus. He's played one tournament on the senior circuit, at the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, Ariz., where he tied for fifth in the event hosted by fellow Madison golfer Jerry Kelly.
Stricker acknowledged he will spend some of his time working with PGA of America and PGA Tour officials on tweaks to the qualifying process for Team USA in wake of the postponement. The European Tour announced Wednesday that its qualification process for the 2021 matches has been frozen through the end of the calendar year.
Recently, the PGA of America had announced changes to the U.S. distribution of qualifying berths and captain's picks, taking two spots from the eight that were originally going to be determined via points and giving them to Stricker. He was open to keeping his total of captain's picks at six, but said there has been little discussion on that topic as officials debated the status of the event.
"We changed the (process) a month ago ... and now it looks like we'll have to come up with a new plan, probably starting for this fall and (continuing into) next year," Stricker said. "Whatever that is, I don't know. We haven't even talked about it because we've been putting our focus on being able to try to play this event, and we haven't even looked into anything else going forward.
"We'll take a look at all the scenarios. We just want to put our best team forward, and whatever that looks like, we're going to do. I'll talk to all of my (assistant captains) and see what the best thing to do is and we'll go from there."
In the meantime, Stricker is glad a lot of his heavy lifting as captain has already been finished.
"We've done a lot of the work now as far as team rooms, hotels, the course," Stricker said. "We've done a lot of that work. We shouldn't have much more work to do next year. I should be able to just watch these guys play a little bit, come out on (the PGA) Tour and be around them and play with them.
"We got to work on the points structure and the qualification process, all that kind of stuff now. But, you know, it should go on the back burner for a little while."