The early look at the incredible Wisconsin venue should accomplish two goals: 1. familiarizing the players with the course, and 2. getting a feel for which pairings might work prior to the opening tee shot on Sept. 24.
Those decisions will ultimately be Stricker’s, with some help from vice captains Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples. He didn’t ask us, but we thought we’d make some suggestions, too.
Here are the five pairings we’d like to see most for the U.S. Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits.
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele
This pairing is less of a “we want to see it” and more of a “we’re going to see it,” which, by the way, is a very good thing. Cantlay and Schauffele went 2-2-0 together in their U.S. team appearance at the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, then they both won their singles matches in a tightly contested 16-14 American team win. They both do literally everything well, and they both exude a low-key, stoic demeanor that plays perfectly off each other, and plays perfectly in a match-play setting. Their similar personalities are likely why they are such good buddies, too. This week, following Cantlay’s FedEx Cup victory, he and Schauffele are headed to Napa Valley for vacation with their significant others. Can you say partner bonding?
Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa
If we were doing one of those “build your perfect golfer” things, you’d start with Bryson DeChambeau’s driving and Collin Morikawa’s approach play. Why not pair those two elite areas together, specifically in alternate shot foursomes? If Bryson finds the fairway enough on his driving holes (a rather-large if), Morikawa can feast with his irons, getting DeChambeau close enough to roll in some birdie putts. On the holes Morikawa drives, he will find the fairway (10th on tour in driving accuracy), and even at a long course like Whistling Straits, DeChambeau will have short irons into the greens. Also, the last key factor here, a big one, is that outside of Harris English, we’re not sure there’s a more perfect guy on this team to deal with the circus act that is DeChambeau right now than calm, cool, collected Collin.
Dustin Johnson and Tony Finau
There’s a more-than-legitimate argument to be made that Stricker would be pairing the two most talented golfers in the Ryder Cup together should he put together Finau and Johnson. These two are effortlessly long, extremely solid with their irons and they can each run hot with the putter from time to time. There aren’t two other players on the planet who could step on the tee and feel good about their chances against the opposing duo of Big Tone and Deej. And remember, Finau was one of the lone bright spots on the 2018 losing U.S. team, going 2-1-0 overall. Johnson, paired alongside the shorter-hitting Rickie Fowler three times and Brooks Koepka once, went 1-4-0 overall. If paired with Finau on a course he loves, Bunker-Gate aside, there is simply no way he couldn’t improve upon that record in 2021.
Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth
This may be a very square, store-brand selection, but c’mon, tell me the Texas two-step pairing doesn’t get you a little fired up. No, these two never actually played together in college, but the Longhorn connection is very much there and it’s not like they wouldn’t pair well together. Scheffler has the length and a strong big-event resume already so we know he’s adequately prepared for this event. Spieth has the experience and the ability to will putts into the hole, making this potential team a formidable one. If the Longhorns football team starts 3-0 and Spieth and Scheffler go off together in Wisconsin, we’ll be ready to fully declare Texas BACK.
Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka
First off, Brooks Koepka needs to actually play in the event. And secondly … ahh, never mind. This is never—we repeat, NEVER—going to happen. But we can certainly dream.