HAVEN — Steve Stricker was nearing the end of his remarks to the assembled masses at Wednesday's opening ceremony for the 43rd Ryder Cup when the Edgerton native, University of Illinois graduate and U.S. captain let it slip to thousands of his biggest supporters — mostly Green Bay Packers fans — that his NFL allegiances fall with the Chicago Bears.
Needless to say, that didn't sit well with most in the audience and audible grumbling made its way to the stage and prompted Stricker to ask for forgiveness. "Hey, hey ... don't turn on us now!" he pleaded to the crowd.
Later, in his news conference elaborating on his picks, Stricker was asked a question by a reporter wearing a Chicago Cubs cap. Stricker joked that he thought it might have been a Bears cap only to have the reporter stop him mid-sentence to keep Stricker from going down that rabbit hole ... again.
"You almost got filleted," the reporter reminded him.
Stricker responded: "That didn't turn out so good. I tried to explain myself as we kept going there. I still root for the Packers. Let me get that straight."
Even actor Rob Riggle, who emceed the opening ceremony, couldn't believe Stricker chose that venue to profess his love for the Bears. "It takes a lot of courage to admit to being a Bears fan in this neighborhood," Riggle said.
The envelope please? NO, not the envelope!
With the uncertainty over player status in the ongoing era of COVID-19 protocol and with a couple of Americans battling injury in recent weeks, the importance of "the envelope" has grown. Traditionally, one name is placed in the envelope, the golfer who would be the one to sit out Sunday's singles competition if someone from the other side was forced to the sideline.
This year, there are two envelopes. The second one contains two more names in case a COVID-19 outbreak were to force multiple players from one team to the sideline.
Stricker said, in his three Ryder Cup appearances, he never volunteered his name to be the one to go in "the envelope" as the one to sit out.
"I did not, no, and I never knew who was in the envelope in all the times that I've played on the Ryder Cup," Stricker said.
Stricker said he would confer with his five vice-captains before sealing his envelopes. But he did not plan to tell anyone which names were in them.
"It's not a great thing to do," Stricker admitted. "You don't want to have anybody know that they went in the envelope. At least, I wouldn't want to know if I was in there, and I probably was in there at some point. I probably should have been in there in 2012, or Tiger and I both should have been in there the way we played."
Harrington goes against practice-round grain
While Stricker's Friday foursomes pairings mirrored Team USA's practice pairings, European captain Padraig Harrington was asked why his did not.
"We knew our partnerships well in advance," Harrington explained. "We knew our partnerships and picks and all that was considered. You don't want to get bored playing with a guy. Honestly, I've had it in tournaments, you play three days with somebody, and then you're playing with them the next five, four rounds of golf. That can be really tough.
"I wanted everybody on my team to play with everybody in the team and not turn up on a week like this and by the end of the week go, I never saw a player; I never experienced that player and I never got to see what they were like in this situation."
Harrington thanked members of the Wisconsin PGA section and the staff at Whistling Straits for their help in staging this Ryder Cup, naming several of them, including director of golf Michael O'Reilly, with the captain adding: "He will surely be on our side with a name like that."
Crossing the tees
Actor Tom Felton, known for playing Harry Potter's rival Draco Malfoy in the film adaptations of the popular "Harry Potter" book series, had to be taken from the 18th green at Whistling Straits in a medical cart after taking ill during a celebrity exhibition match in which representing Europe. In a statement, the PGA of America said: "Felton experienced a medical incident on the course while participating for Europe. He was transported to a local hospital for treatment." ... Two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North of Madison made an appearance on stage during the pre-show warm-up along with former Ryder Cup captains from both sides. ... Scotland's Catriona Matthew, captain of the victorious European team at the recent Solheim Cup Matches in Toldeo, Ohio, was in the audience for the Ryder Cup opening ceremony.