The US captain has played a master stroke so far at Whistling Straits...
We look at how the US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker has made a fantastic start to his leadership at Whistling Straits
1 The pairings have been pretty much perfect
In the space of just one day Steve Stricker put together a collection of American pairings that immediately made sense.
Coming into the matches there were two expected partnerships – Spieth/Thomas and Cantlay/Schauffele – and a lot of guesswork.
By day two we knew what was coming and it was as expected as it was frightening.
Everybody had contributed something by the time we arrived at the Saturday fourballs, everybody appeared to know what they were doing and it all just made sense.
That’s the beauty of things going well early on, there’s no chasing points and players can plan their day accordingly.
Looking from the outside in you would imagine that eight pairings were listed at the start of the past two days and nothing’s changed.
Going into the Saturday fourballs their lead was six points – the largest lead for either side after three sessions since 1975.
At the start of the week half the American team were rookies, which is almost unfathomable.
2 How to solve a problem like DJ?
Dustin Johnson is the World No. 2 and has more of a back story with Whistling Straits than most but there wasn’t a lot of chat about him coming into the week.
Johnson actually went a perfect 3-0-0 at Medianh but otherwise he hasn’t really lit up the Ryder Cup and, in Paris, he was a very poor 1-4-0.
He’s generally good for a singles win but he’s never been a go-to player on the side.
This week he’s been the only American to play in every match, he and Collin Morikawa have proved to be sensational – the Open champion’s iron play its usual heights of being incredible while Johnson wedged them towards a variety of birdies – and he and Xander Schauffele led the hosts off on Friday afternoon and maintained the momentum with an early lead and another point.
And he’s been holing putts again and he’s been smiling and he genuinely seems like he wants to be there.
3 Being Steve Stricker
Everybody likes Steve Stricker and it’s quite a skill to just be yourself in the heat of battle.
Padraig Harrington also manages it but we maybe expected that from him, with Stricker it was harder to tell.
He’s a back-of-the-room type of guy and yet he’s been quietly and very effectively leading his team.
There are bundles of big characters on Team America and he’s just put them into position and let them get on with it.
His backroom team consists of Phil Mickelson and, from a distance, Tiger Woods and they’re all right behind him – Mickelson has declined any interviews this week so not to make any unnecessary headlines.
Opposing players have only good things to say about him and his players want to play for him. With all the posturing over gimmes and whooping and hollering Stricker will keep his head in the game and not deviate from what he’s been planning.