By Christopher Powers
On Wednesday morning, Steve Stricker announced his six captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The most noticeable omission was Patrick Reed, whose success in the biennial team match-play event has left him with the nickname “Captain America” but whose recent health issues put his 2021 candidacy in jeopardy.
Reed, 11th in the final U.S. team standings, was passed over in favour of Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, Daniel Berger and Harris English. A formidable group, no doubt, but one that includes four Ryder Cup rookies.
Yet Stricker acknowledged that the uncertainty over Reed’s health—he continues to recover from a bout with bilateral pneumonia that hospitalized for almost a week last month—and the resulting lack of tournament reps became too much of a liability to take him for the team.
Reed missed the first two FedEx Cup Playoff events due to the illness, returning for the Tour Championship but only managing a two-under 278 to finish in 25th place. Reed himself admitted he wouldn’t have played at East Lake if it wasn’t to try to make one last impression on the U.S. Ryder Cup captain.
Stricker did acknowledge how hard it was to tell Reed he wouldn’t be playing for Team USA at Whistling Straits at the end of the month.
“That was a very, very difficult call,” Stricker said. “Kind of lost sleep over that one. He’s a tremendous competitor. He brings a lot to match-play golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darn good.”
Reed’s first Ryder Cup appearance came in 2014 in Scotland at Gleneagles, where he was the U.S. team’s leading point-getter as a rookie, collecting 3½ points and posting a 3-0-1 overall record. The U.S. lost that year, but Reed returned to Hazeltine National in Minnesota in 2016 for an American victory, its first since 2008. Once again, he led the team in points, collecting another 3½ and posting an overall record of 3-1-1. At the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France, Reed, along with the rest of the U.S. team, struggled. His only point came in Sunday singles, which did make him a perfect 3-0-0 in singles play in his Ryder Cup career.
Upon returning to play at last week’s Tour Championship, Reed shed some light on the severity of his illness, noting that he was “battling for my life.”
“He was my first call, I knew it was going to be hard,” Stricker said. “But he took it like a true champion, and I apologized many times to him. Just wanted to make sure he knew that it was a very difficult decision.”
In addition to his three Ryder Cup appearances, Reed has also played on each of the last three Presidents Cup teams.