09/26 18:37 CDT Column: Stricker shows US players how to win as a team
Column: Stricker shows US players how to win as a team
By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Columnist
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) --- Of course he cried. The odds of Steve Stricker not
having tears running down his face after leading the U.S. to a dominating Ryder
Cup win were about as long as the chances of Europe roaring back on Sunday to
beat the Americans.
He cried before a shot had been hit and cried again when there were no more
left to be hit. Later on, he cried some more, and a lot of people at Whistling
Straits cried tears of happiness alongside him.
This wasn't just a win but a rout. The Ryder Cup was safely back in American
hands and the way this U.S. team performed, it looks like it may stay for a
It may not have happened if not for a hometown captain who showed a supremely
talented group of players how to win the way the Europeans always won --- as a
"Without him, who knows how this week would have went," Collin Morikawa said.
Just how much did players want to win it for their captain? Bryson DeChambeau
and Brooks Koepka offered to put aside their feud and play with each other if
it would help get a few points.
"That's how much it came together," Stricker said. "That shows a lot about this
It shows even more about their captain, a popular and self-effacing 12-time
winner on the PGA Tour who didn't need a Ryder Cup captaincy to validate his
career. He got one anyway and delivered the biggest blowout ever in biennial
matches against Europe in the 19-9 win.
Sure, the U.S. came in favored because it had the best players, though in past
Ryder Cups that never seemed to matter. The Europeans were usually better as a
team because previous U.S. coaches and players never seemed able to figure out
what it meant to be a team.
Not this time. Not when they were led by a captain who had a couple of beers
before the opening ceremony so he wouldn't start crying when he introduced his
wife and two daughters to the assembled crowd.
Stricker cried anyway, but that just made them want to win for him even more.
"He's so passionate. He's a softie, he cares so much," Koepka said before play
began. "It'd be nice to see him cry on Sunday."
Stricker spent three years getting ready for three long days, believing more
than anything that the Americans' chances would be even better if they were
better prepared than the Europeans. That meant adding a half-dozen assistant
captains to look after every detail, and making sure that even Tiger Woods,
recuperating in Florida, had a voice on this team.
But there were no rah-rah speeches in the team room like at past Ryder Cups.
The 54-year-old didn't create pods of players based on psychological
evaluations or bring in celebrities to have their say.
Instead, Stricker and his assistants had a simple plan: Put your best in the
best position you can and let them do the rest.
"This is the greatest team of all time right here," he said. "These guys are
That showed almost from the opening tee shot on Friday, when the U.S. jumped
out to a quick 3-1 lead in alternate-shot play. Two more 3-1 sessions followed
and by the time play ended Saturday evening, the Americans had a commanding
It was as good as over, though the short message Stricker delivered to the team
was that it wasn't quite over yet. He sent them out to dominate one last day
and they did just that, winning the points 8-4 and sending a message that there
was a new world order in team golf.
"They obviously got it right this week, a very strong team," European captain
Padraig Harrington said. "But you know, I'm happy for Steve Stricker. You know,
he's one of the good guys in golf. If you're going to get beat by a captain,
that's a good captain for sure."
The blowout win was actually the second for a team under Stricker, who led the
U.S. Presidents Cup team to a 19-11 win in 2017 that paved the way for his
selection as the Ryder Cup captain. He played in three Ryder Cups himself,
though his 3-7-1 record now probably won't be discussed much when there is talk
about his legacy in the team competition.
After a week that went nearly perfectly, Stricker could have taken credit for
orchestrating the rout. But that's not his style, and he went out of his way to
thank almost everyone from the players to Woods to the Kohler family that
developed the rugged course on the shore of Lake Michigan.
While he wasn't ready to take a bow, he was more than eager to join in the
"I never won a major," he said, tearing up yet again. "This is my major right
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to
him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg