Memo to the PGA of America: Bring Steve Stricker back as US Ryder Cup captain in 2023.
Why mess with success?
Did the Buccaneers replace Bruce Arians after he led them to the Super Bowl title last year?
So what if this breaks precedent and interrupts the succession plan in place where captains don’t serve consecutive terms? The PGA of America should be more concerned with sustaining success than with a succession plan for captains. This is a new era for the US Ryder Cup generation, so don’t be afraid to get unconventional.
You won’t find any players on the American team who don’t want their captain back after smoking the Europeans like a fast-burning cigar in the 43rd Ryder Cup.
After the competition was complete Sunday evening and Stricker and his players were in the post-match interview, the captain was asked: “We know there’s a succession, but if you were asked to do this again, would you do it and what do the guys think?’’
The question had barely exited the reporter’s lips when Dustin Johnson said, “One hundred percent.’’
“That’s a ‘yes’ from us,’’ Jordan Spieth chimed in. “To be fair, in 2017 it was a very similar position as far as the dominance goes. Strick has a pretty good record.’’
Spieth was referring to Stricker’s captaincy at the 2017 Presidents Cup when the US team ripped the International team 19-11 at Liberty National. Combine that Presidents Cup result and 19-9 in the Ryder Cup, and Stricker’s teams have won by a combined 38-20. If that doesn’t warrant one more go, what does?
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,’’ Stricker said. “It’s mapped out and there’s guys in position to be the next captains. It was an unbelievable experience, don’t get me wrong (but) I’m glad it’s over.’’
Stricker downplayed his importance and suggested that he’s ready to focus on playing tournaments again, but it’s difficult to imagine him turning down the opportunity if asked.
The seeds for Stricker’s captaincy and this resounding US victory were sown seven years ago in Scotland. That’s when the Americans — spearheaded by Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods and including Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler and others — formed what was called a “task force’’ in an effort to put an end to the European dominance.
The forming of that “task force,’’ which was first reported by The Post, was a “we’re as mad as hell and we’re not going take it anymore’’ moment for the Americans, who were fed up with the constant losing.
The premise behind it was to create continuity and more player input, a copy of the Europeans’ blueprint. The idea was to get players more invested. The come-to-Jesus moment took place on the post-match dais after the Americans, captained by Tom Watson, were drummed by Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland.
That’s where Mickelson, with his 11 teammates and Watson sitting side-by-side in the interview room, tore into the dictatorship-like captaining by Watson, who had a nonexistent relationship with the players, having been away from the PGA Tour for so long.
Mickelson’s calculated rant that night in Scotland was harsh and it was one he’s since said he regrets because he didn’t want to embarrass Watson in public.
Mickelson, however, doesn’t regret the result of the rant, because it ignited necessary change — change that has energized the US team, winners of two of the past three Ryder Cups since the “task force’’ was formed.
One of the initial byproducts of the “task force’’ was bringing Love back to captain the (winning) 2016 team despite the fact that he’d already captained the 2012 team, which lost in the “Miracle at Medinah’’ European comeback.
Stricker was a part of the vice-captain pipeline at the time, being groomed for 2020 (which was postponed because of COVID-19 to ’21).
Sure, Stricker had the better, deeper team this year, but he pushed all the right buttons, beginning with the way he allowed the players to have a strong voice in who the captain’s picks would be and with whom they’d be paired.
“It was really just getting out of their way, let them go, provide an atmosphere and camaraderie that they enjoyed and wanted to be a part of,’’ Stricker said.
His touch was what this team needed. It’s what the next team needs.
“I don’t know if anybody has had as much experience being a captain as I have, just watching and trying to figure out how to deal with the players, how to formulate a team room, all that kind of stuff,’’ Stricker said.
“I’ve been a part of so many teams, captain of the Presidents Cup team, been multiple assistant captains. I’ve learned a ton. I’ve learned what things have worked and what things haven’t worked.’’
Common sense says that when something works you stick with it. So, do the right thing PGA of America: Stick with Stricks in ‘23.