Steve Stricker 'still waiting' on Ryder Cup captain decision ahead of Phoenix Open

HONOLULU, HI - JANUARY 11: Steve Stricker of the United States stands on the third hole during the second round of the Sony Open In Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 11, 2019 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Steve Stricker 'still waiting' on Ryder Cup captain decision ahead of Phoenix Open

PGA Tour

Steve Stricker 'still waiting' on Ryder Cup captain decision ahead of Phoenix Open

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Just when you think Steve Stricker has to be done for the afternoon, someone arrives with a fresh bag of range balls.

Stricker is 51 years old and had made nearly $44 million playing golf on the PGA Tour. What inspires him to keep going, wedge after wedge, each shot seemingly assessed and registered, on a Tuesday afternoon at TPC Scottsdale?

“I want to play and contend and try to win again out here,” Stricker said. “That keeps me focused. I’m trying to work hard and still do good things out here on this Tour.”

It also keeps Stricker focused on his results instead of, say, a likely spot as U.S. Ryder Cup captain for the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits in his home state of Wisconsin. Stricker insisted he hasn’t been given the green light yet, despite widespread belief that he’s the man who will lead the Americans on the heels of last fall’s loss in Paris.

“I would love to be a part of it,” Stricker said Tuesday ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “It’d be a huge honor and being right there in my home state would be super cool. To try to bring the cup back right there would be a great opportunity if they give it to me, and that’s the part I’m still waiting on. It’s not up to me and hopefully I get the opportunity. It’d be fun.”

Stricker is undoubtedly popular with fellow players and would fit well in that regard. Recent U.S. Captain Jim Furyk checked all those boxes too. It wasn’t enough for the Americans to overcome a stellar European showing, particularly from Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. The fact that Patrick Reed criticized his decision to split up the usual pairing with Jordan Spieth didn’t make things easier in the aftermath.

“I talked to him right after the Ryder Cup and kind of felt bad for him how it all played out at the end,” Stricker said. “I thought he did a wonderful job. He had everything covered and it just was unfortunate how it all came about at the end. He did a great job.”

A three-time Ryder Cup player, Stricker led the 2017 U.S. Presidents Cup team in a blowout victory over the Internationals. He also served as vice-captain under Furyk at the 2018 Ryder Cup after winning three times in his first season playing the PGA Tour Champions.

He’s still playing semi-regularly on Tour with 12 starts last season, and he’s in Scottsdale this week at an event seemingly at odds with an image that’s wholesome even by golf standards.

“I’ve heard stories from other guys, some things that they’ve seen, people nearly having sex under the bleachers,” Stricker said. “I’ve not seen anything like that. I’ve just heard stories of some of those things. Just really the whole rowdiness of it is all something we’re not too used to or too accustomed to.”

The Ryder Cup stops short of Phoenix Open insanity levels, but a lively bunch of Midwesterners will show up in droves as the Americans look for a second straight home win. Stricker said he hasn’t been involved in the decision-making process with the PGA of America, which gathers input from likely team members and ultimately has the final say on captaincy.

Europe has already named Padraig Harrington captain and an announcement from the U.S. side is expected before long.  If Stricker does get the nod, he already has a blueprint in place thanks to past experience. And he’ll be tasked with trying to turn the tides yet again as the Americans look to maintain home course advantage.

“Just like I did at the Presidents Cup,” Stricker said. “I tried giving them a good, fun environment to be a part of and to listen to the players, to surround myself with some good assistant captains like I did at the Presidents Cup and just kind of take that atmosphere we had there and hopefully bring it over to the Ryder Cup.”

It’s a full-time job, one that should be assigned soon. Until then, you can find Stricker on the range looking for that competitive edge he hopes the Americans can find as a team come 2020.

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