Steve Stricker's US side is final now, and it doesn't include any of these seven players...
7 Big Names Missing From The US Ryder Cup Team
The 2021 US Ryder Cup team reads as follows – Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Daniel Berger, Harris English, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth.
All of which means half the team are rookies and, as it transpired, Steve Stricker went with five of the next six on the list that didn’t qualify. But there were still some big and very familiar names to miss out.
We take a look at seven of them..
7 Big Names Missing From The US Ryder Cup Team
Ryder Cup qualifying: 11th
World ranking: 19th
2021 highlight: Won the Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines
Reed is the only player of the top 12 on the qualifying list not to be making the trip to Whistling Straits.
His record is 7-3-2 in the competition despite only contributing one point in 2018.
As good as his debut was at Gleneagles, when he and Jordan Spieth were the American lighthouse in the Scottish gloom, Paris was as forgettable as that was memorable.
He and Tiger Woods were particularly listless but that was nothing compared to the post-match press conference and subsequent interview with the New York Times the same night when he was critical of Jordan Spieth and Jim Furyk.
Fast forward to 2019 and the Presidents Cup in Australia where his caddie/brother-in-law Kessler Karain was banned from the singles after a clash with a fan.
He’s not a popular figure, we know all this, and maybe Stricker thinks he’s got enough personality clashes within the team room already but he brings points – to date he’s won all three of his Sunday singles.
His last top 10 came in June, in the past few weeks he withdrew from Liberty National before being hospitalised with double pneumonia and he only played at Tour Championship with the Ryder Cup in mind.
“That was a very, very difficult call, kind of lost sleep over that one. I called him first thing, he was my first call,” Stricker said.
“He took it like a true champion and I apologised many times. He’s a tremendous competitor, he brings a lot to matchplay golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darn good. But I think just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch.”
It’s worth remembering that Brooks Koepka withdrew from East Lake with a wrist injury so maybe we haven’t heard the last of Captain America and the 2021 Ryder Cup?
Ryder Cup qualifying: 18th
World ranking: 35th
2021 highlight: Won the Wyndham as recently as the middle of August
If Stricker wanted to lighten the environment in the team room then picking Kisner would have been a very good start; he’s amusing, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and there wouldn’t have been any of the usual talk of leaving your ego at the door with this 37-year-old.
We only have the 2017 Presidents Cup to go on in terms of team appearances and, at Liberty National, he and Phil Mickelson were unbeaten and Kisner would finish the week with a great record of 2-0-2.
And he has some matchplay pedigree having captured the WGC-Match Play with a win over Matt Kuchar, which will have pleased most of those watching given Kuchar’s antics against Sergio Garcia.
He holes putts for fun, something that he demonstrated at the Wyndham a few weeks ago, but even that wasn’t enough and, again, a lack of distance will have counted against him – he would finish the 2021 season in 167th for distance off the tee.
Kisner is a weird one, had a few picks gone his way we might be talking about a Ryder Cup superstar and the easy-going heartbeat of the American effort, as it stands he is yet to even play in it.
Ryder Cup qualifying: 19th
World ranking: 24th
2021 highlight: Won in Hawaii in his second start and finished strongly to finish 3rd in the FedEx Cup
A bit like Kisner, had things gone slightly differently then he might have been a Ryder Cup mainstay over the past few years.
Na wasn’t really on the radar until the past few weeks when he started churning out the top 3s and, again like Kisner, this would have been a victory for the shorter hitters had he got the nod.
Na is generally regarded as a strong putter, maybe something that is helped by the coverage of him walking in the putts, when streaky would probably be a better description. In 2021 he was ranked 87th on the greens.
But he’s different and he’s ballsy and maybe he’s just what the Americans need to shake things up a bit.
This would likely have been a one-and-done deal had it come off so now we can safely assume that Na won’t ever feature in the Ryder Cup.
“This was another tough call as I know how passionate he is about wanting to be on this team.
The underlying thing is that he is a gutsy guy, he’s a great competitor but he finished 19th on our qualifying list,” explained Stricker.
“Even though he played well down the stretch, there were some things, length off the tee was a big deal for us but who is to say?
He could have been a really good part of this team and a positive team member but those other guys have played better than him for a long time and we kind of looked at it more as a body of work rather than instead of the last tournament or two and have leaned on guys who really fit the course.”
Ryder Cup qualifying: 13th
World ranking: 20th
2021 highlight: His best finish (4th) came in just his second start in Hawaii
Simpson had a big 2020 but this year has been pretty low key, which was reflected in him not even making it to East Lake.
Stricker spoke in his press conference about wanting distance and players who are going to get on and, while Simpson is your go-to easy-to-partner character, his game is not about distance.
That said, even in a disappointing year, his short game and putting stats have still been right up there.
The 2012 US Open champion has a slightly bizarre team record in that he has lost all three of his Ryder Cup appearances, missing out on the 2016 victory at Hazeltine after he struggled to come to terms with the anchoring ban, while he has won all three of his Presidents Cups.
In 2014 Simpson texted captain Tom Watson late on, apparently at the expense of Bill Haas, to remind the skipper how much he wanted to make the team.
This year he has been in touch with Stricker, though nothing on that level, and he is now part of the oldish guard who will have to make way for the younger charges.
Ryder Cup qualifying: 16th
World ranking: 25th
2021 highlight: Won the Valspar in May and was 2nd in the WGC in Memphis
Great all-round game, ranking 10th in SG: Total, and was on plenty of people’s lists for a pick.
The 25-year-old ended 2020 in 154th on the world rankings and is now 25th thanks to that win at Innisbrook and two second places.
Maybe a big week at East Lake was needed to give Captain Stricker one final big nudge ahead of naming his picks but, as Stricker repeatedly pointed out, his selection process was based over a period of time and not over more recent form.
We hear plenty about the need to hole putts in team competitions and Burns sits inside the top 10 for SG: Putting and he ranked third in birdie average this year but, as well as he has played in 2021, it would have taken quite a leap of faith to throw him in.
Burns’ team appearances have been fairly limited though he was in Scotland in 2014, albeit as part of the Junior Ryder Cup side.
Shortly after he tweeted: “Thanks to everyone for support this year! Couldn’t do it without a great team around me and looking forward to next year on PGA Tour. Never been more motivated!!”
Ryder Cup qualifying: 20th
World ranking: 34th
2021 highlight: Winning the PGA at 50, the oldest major winner ever
He might have provided one of, if not the highlight of an already spectacular year but we’ve known for a while that Lefty won’t be bringing his clubs to Whistling Straits.
We’ve also known for a short while that Mickelson was going to be one of Stricker’s vice-captains, effectively bringing an end to a spectacular run of appearances.
The 51-year-old has not missed a match since 1995 and played in 47 matches, both American highs.
Since Kiawah Island he has only finished inside the top 60 once and he has been quick to dismiss his own chances of a pick.
The next chapter will now begin as he swaps his lob wedge for a walkie-talkie – who knows, before the end of the year he might have been named as the US captain for 2023.
Ryder Cup qualifying: 42nd
World ranking: 117th
2021 highlight: 8th at the PGA to spark hopes of a major return to form
I know, I know, Fowler wasn’t even on Stricker’s radar. But it’s worth reflecting on where he was when the last US team competition came around. Fowler, less than two years ago, was the American anchor man as he went unbeaten at Royal Melbourne.
He would end the year just outside the world’s top 20, now he’s down in 117th.
In the Walker Cup Fowler looked to be something really special in the team arena, then he pulled off that incredible half with Edoardo Molinari at Celtic Manor.
He’s part of the fabric of American golf, he was part of the US Task Force that appeared to have transformed their approach but now he’s part of the also rans.
The joke is that he has more endorsements than tournament wins.
It would be ridiculous to suggest anything more at the age of 32 but, for the time being, it’s a rapid descent to not even consider a player of Fowler’s skills.
Other notables to miss out on the US side: Billy Horschel, Will Zalatoris, Jason Kokrak