With the Solheim Cup and the Tour Championship in the rearview mirror, it has been a calm week in the golf world. Nothing in particular to celebrate—unless, that is, your tweet just got liked by Patrick Reed.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker announced his captain’s picks: Daniel Berger, Harris English, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, and Jordan Spieth. Those six will join automatic qualifiers Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, and Justin Thomas at Whistling Straits two weeks from today.
These are steady picks from a captain who has done a decent job of projecting steadiness. For the past few weeks, four players—English, Finau, Schauffele, and Spieth—have been considered near-locks for Team USA, leaving two spots up in the air. The contenders included Sam Burns, Jason Kokrak, Billy Horschel, Kevin Na, Patrick Reed, and Webb Simpson. Kevin Kisner’s candidacy became a cause célèbre on social media but always seemed like a longshot. Ultimately, Stricker’s choices, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler, are tough to fault.
Berger is a premium ball-striker and has quietly been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour for the past two seasons. He’s also a bit of a red-ass, which we like. Scheffler hits it long, giving him a leg up at 7,790-yard Whistling Straits, and he thrives on big stages: in this year’s majors, the 25-year-old didn’t finish outside the top 20 once. Both Berger and Scheffler are Ryder Cup rookies, which suits Stricker just fine. “Rookies fare very well in this type of format,” he said. “They’re eager, they’re willing to learn, they just want to have that opportunity and they’ll do anything for that opportunity.”
In all, there are six rookies on the U.S. team. Phil Mickelson, who has played in every Ryder Cup since 1995, will be driving a cart. So Stricker is banking on fresh blood, and considering how lethargic the veteran-heavy 2018 squad looked, who can blame him?
Well, someone can…
A bone to pick
Patrick Reed has not had a top 10 since June, and he was recently hospitalized with double pneumonia. At both the 2018 Ryder Cup and the 2019 Presidents Cup, he was a lightning rod for drama. But the man can roll the rock, and he was firmly in contention for one of Steve Stricker’s captain’s picks—until he wasn’t.
“That was a very, very difficult call,” Stricker said. “Kind of lost sleep over that one…. But I think just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play led to our decision down the stretch.”
While Stricker claimed that the man formerly known as “Captain America” took the news “like a true champion,” Reed’s official Twitter account told a different story. As No Laying Up noticed, @PReedGolf spent the hours after the announcement “liking” tweets that were critical of Stricker’s decision, including ones that disparaged the U.S. captain.
It’s worth noting that automatic qualifier Brooks Koepka is nursing a wrist injury and, who knows, may not be ready in two weeks. If he needs to be replaced, Sam Burns and Webb Simpson are starting to look really good.
The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America
Bethpage Black (Farmingdale, New York)
$$ (residents), $$$ (non-residents)
Perhaps the most storied American muni, Bethpage Black occupies a wonderful piece of land, and its routing is pure magic. Architects A.W. Tillinghast and Joseph H. Burbeck maximized the site’s interest by placing greens on ridges and letting the fairways swoop through the valleys in a variety of ways. If Tillinghast and Burbeck’s 1936 design has a weakness, it’s that the greens, with their modest contours, don’t match the pizzaz of the rest of the course. Then again, just getting to the greens is plenty adventurous (and difficult)! Today’s major-championship-grade version of Bethpage Black has horrendous mowing lines and poorly constructed Rees Jones bunkers, but it’s still one of the finest courses in America, public or private.
Insider tip: While playing the Black Course is exciting, it’s also mentally and physically taxing. Fortunately, the ideal palate cleanser is just a 25-minute drive away: Nickerson Dunes, a charming short course that Shaun Smith wrote about for us. -Andy Johnson
Photo credit: PGA of America
After one round of the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour, Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for the lead with Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Folks, Aphibarnrat appears to be on the comeback trail! Formerly a top-40 player in the world, he dropped as low as No. 557 this year and lost his PGA Tour membership last month. But with a strong showing at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Aphibarnrat re-earned his card, and now he’s going low at one of the Euro Tour’s premier events. Leaderboard
There’s a tournament within the tournament at the BMW PGA: after the final round, the automatic qualifiers for the European Ryder Cup team will be locked in, and Padraig Harrington will make his three captain’s picks. Bernd Wiesberger, Victor Perez, Robert MacIntyre, and Guido Migliozzi have a shot at snatching Shane Lowry’s provisional qualifying spot, but all of them would need to light up Wentworth. Full Story from Brentley Romine
The R&A announced on Wednesday that the Open Championship will return to Royal Portrush in 2025. After a 68-year hiatus from the rota, the Northern Irish links hosted the 2019 Open, and Irishman Shane Lowry won in memorable fashion. It’s a phenomenal venue, and we’re excited to see it again. Full Story
This shouldn’t come as a surprise: Jon Rahm won the PGA of America Player of the Year Award as well as the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average. He’s also a finalist for the PGA Tour Player of the Year… and yeah, he should win that, too.
The Latest from The Fried Egg
The Fried Egg Podcast: Affordable Golf as a Family Business
If you’re in Northern Lower Michigan to play Arcadia Bluffs or Crystal Downs, you shouldn’t skip Champion Hill Golf Course and Pinecroft Golf Course. Public, affordable, and well designed, Champion Hill and Pinecroft are owned and operated by one family. Is this the ideal business model for affordable golf? Andy Johnson and Garrett Morrison tackle that question in this episode, but first they spend some time chatting about the Solheim Cup, which took place at Inverness Club this past weekend. After Andy and Garrett finish up, they throw it to a conversation Andy recently had with Lee Stone, the owner of Champion Hill and Pinecroft, and Jim Cole, the longtime superintendent of both courses. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
The Shotgun Start: It’s coming home… to Ernie’s masterpiece
This punchy Wednesday episode begins with a celebration of a golf achievement the likes of which we will not see again, the “Chase for 83” ending on the Minor League Golf Tour. Andy and Brendan celebrate Sunny Abacoa’s SEVENTH straight win down in the swamp to achieve even what Tiger could not. Then it’s on to the schedule of the week, which is expertly crafted for this time of year. There’s one main event, and it’s primo coffee golf that will end before football in the states. It’s also the event of the week, the BMW PGA Championship, at Ernie Els’ best design, the former Harry Colt design, historic Wentworth. Three things to watch hits on the Ryder Cup race across the pond, a galaxy brain take on how the Race to Dubai has outmaneuvered the FedEx Cup, and the Baton Boy in a foreign land. There is a history lesson on the course architect of the venue on the Champions Tour. Notables for a few other lower tour events lead to uncontrollable laughter approximating the Andy North ringtone episode. There’s a segment on Ryder Cup picks for the U.S. side—who they want/expect/would make them most mad. They close with news of Will Zalatoris being eligible for Rookie of the Year and PGA Tour University getting a new title sponsor. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Just because photos of Whistling Straits look great doesn’t mean you need to lose your lid. But if you do misplace your hat, grab a Fried Egg one to replace it!