If the team scouting trip to Whistling Straits this week is any indication, there are at least two themes that will define the Ryder Cup – U.S. captain Steve Stricker’s message of team unity and a golf course that will be set up for plenty of low scoring.
The majority of the U.S. team spent Sunday and Monday at Whistling Straits playing two practice rounds and attending a relaxed team dinner hosted by Stricker.
“We understand how much it means to [Stricker], how much it means having it in his home state. I think you are going to see a very cohesive team that’s playing for each other and understands the bigger picture,” Harris English told GolfChannel.com. “We are all a team.”
The idea that the American team struggles to play as a unit has been a regular refrain throughout the U.S. side’s slide over the last two decades (Europe has won seven of the last nine matches), so it’s no surprise the captain wants to send a clear message to his 12.
“Steve hasn’t talked to us like we’re rookies. He speaks to his team as one, there is a lot of team unity and playing for each other,” Xander Schauffele said on this week’s Golf Central Podcast. “He expects us to be ready to compete. He expects everyone to show up on game day ready to go.”
The team played in two groups on Sunday (a foursome and a fivesome) and three foursomes on Monday at Whistling Straits, which has hosted multiple major championships. It’s no surprise based on the makeup of Stricker’s team, the course is going to favor aggressive play.
“I would agree that it will be a fast track. We went through some stats of what percentage of holes are won in fourball with par versus birdie, in best-ball if you make a lot of pars and just a couple birdies you’re going to lose a lot of holes,” English said. “Depending on the weather, it lends itself to more birdies. It lends itself to an aggressive style.”
English said the group discussed potential pairings but added that he doesn’t expect any final decision on Stricker’s lineup until next Wednesday. Instead, the scouting trip was more of a chance to enjoy the parts of playing for Team USA that are sometimes lost during the hectic week of the matches.
“We would never all get together, it’s really cool to have all those guys in the room just watching football,” English said of the team dinner. “That’s what Stricker wants to make it about.”
Brooks Koepka was the only player to miss the scouting trip as he continues to recover from a wrist injury that forced him to withdraw from last week’s Tour Championship.