Whistling Straits | Ryder Cup | First tee view

The first tee at Whistling Straits is ready to welcome the 2021 Ryder Cup.

When it came to taking a deep dive into the analytics that ultimately provided him with the information he needed to select the final six golfers to his Ryder Cup team, U.S. captain Steve Stricker admitted Wednesday he remains "old school" at crunching numbers and digesting data.

His approach, personally, is more comfortable built around conversation than it is statistical compilations.  

"I'm trying to feel like stats have a place and part, an important place in our Ryder Cup and pairings and all that," Madison's Stricker said at Whistling Straits at a news conference to announce his six captain's picks for this month's matches. "But I struggle with that personally. There's other assistant captains that help me along with that, that feel like (stats are) more important, less important. We've got a good mix of guys that way."

In the days and weeks leading up to Wednesday's announcement, Stricker left no stone unturned in making sure Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler were as good as the data made them look before adding them to the team.

He leaned on vice captains Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson for input. He sought out opinions from Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay, the six golfers who qualified for this Ryder Cup via a points-based metric reflecting their performance since the last Ryder Cup in 2018. He spoke with the likes of Tiger Woods and others whose rooting interest in Team USA made their insight and perspective another piece of the puzzle.

"You heard a lot of the players talk about it (Wednesday)," PGA of America president Jim Richerson, the former director of golf for Kohler Golf, said Wednesday on Golf Channel following the mid-morning announcement. "(Stricker's) got no ego and makes it all about the team and all about the players. He really brings and draws input from the rest of the vice captains, from all of the players, from those who have played in Ryder Cups previously.

"He’s going to take all of that knowledge and all of that information and have that as part of the plan moving forward."

To that point, Stricker wasn't ready to rest on his announcement and let his 12 golfers go their separate ways until Ryder Cup week, which begins Sept. 20 with a late-afternoon news conference featuring Stricker and European captain Pádraig Harrington and culminate with three days of matches Sept. 24-26.

Stricker confirmed that all 12 members of Team USA and their caddies will be in the Sheboygan area this weekend for practice rounds at Whistling Straits. He believes it will be a critical first step in not only getting to know the course but each other as they seek to come together against a European juggernaut that has won seven of the last nine meetings in biennial matches last played in 2018 at Le Golf National in France where the Americans lost seven of eight matches between Friday afternoon foursomes and Saturday morning four-ball sessions and were dealt a 17½-10½ thrashing.

"I don't know if that's ever happened in any other ... Ryder Cup, where we've all been able to assemble at the venue before it actually takes place," Stricker said. "My message from Day 1 has been to try to out-prepare the other team, the European team. ... Let's get in as much practice as we can here. Maybe take a little bit of the stress of Ryder Cup week off our plates by getting our work done now earlier than Ryder Cup week and get some rest that week. ... We'll go out, have a good time, get to learn the course a little bit, work on some pairings during that time. From what I understand, they are all looking forward to it."

Likewise, Stricker is looking forward to getting to know his team better than a captain who took the time to survey each of them in the selection process already does.

"I want these guys to be invested in this team and I kind of learned that from (then-U.S. Ryder Cup captain) Paul Azinger back in 2008," Stricker, a Ryder Cup rookie on that squad, said of the personality and self-assessment questionnaire he sent to golfers in the top 25 on the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. "He kind of did a similar thing. He wanted to know our feeling about other players. Ultimately it's my decision; that lays with me, but I want all the information I can possibly get to make those decisions and I did. We used it all from the top six players and these guys with us today to make the final couple of picks.

"We looked at their stats. We looked at how pairings going forward could be made with these six guys that we picked (Wednesday). Yeah, we look at it all. We have long conversations with my assistant captains trying to make sure that we're going to do the right thing and pick the right guys so we use all of it, to tell you the truth.

"And a lot of it is gut feeling, as well. I know a lot of these guys. I know what they bring to the table. I know what they stand for and how they want to be a part of this team — and in a big way — and I know how they are going to act. I think that's a big deal and a big part of it as well."

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