The only experience that matters to Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker is how the youngest U.S. team in history prepares for Whistling Straits in a bid to win back that shiny gold chalice.
Equipped with the most captain's picks in Ryder Cup history, Stricker added four more rookies to his team Wednesday to join the six players who earned automatic spots for the Sept. 24-26 event on the bluffs of Lake Michigan near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. His six selections included obvious choices and, as always, a few that could have gone either way.
Among those left out was Patrick Reed.
Stricker chose the next four players in the Ryder Cup standings — Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Harris English — along with Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler. English, a 32-year-old former Baylor School and University of Georgia standout, won twice on the PGA Tour this year to help secure his first Ryder Cup trip.
"We are looking to the best players to perform here at Whistling Straits, and these six guys that we picked we feel like fit Whistling Straits to a 'T,'" Stricker said.
Missing was Reed, who thrives in team events with his bullish personality and great short game. He has a 7-3-2 record in three previous Ryder Cups and is undefeated in singles.
Reed, however, hasn't seriously contended in the 18 tournaments he has played since winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January for his ninth career win on the PGA Tour. Of greater concern to Stricker was his health.
Reed was hospitalized for five days with pneumonia in his lower lungs that made him fear for his life, missing the final two qualifying events. He returned at the season-ending Tour Championship and tied for 17th in actual score against a 30-man field at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club.
"That was a very, very difficult call — kind of lost sleep over that one," Stricker said. "He's a tremendous competitor. He brings a lot to match-play golf. His record here at the Ryder Cup is pretty darned good. ... It was just the uncertainty of his health and really the lack of play that led to our decision down the stretch."
Stricker made it clear he wanted players whose games suited Whistling Straits, which tends to favor power, and said he wanted his players to know it well ahead of the event. All 12 players and their caddies are expected for a two-day practice session this weekend.
"My message from day one has been to try to outprepare the other team," he said.
The six picks join six who earned automatic spots: Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.
All are among the top 21 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Six have never played in a Ryder Cup. Eight are still in their 20s, and the average age (29) is the youngest ever for the Americans.
"I think it's a good time for a younger influx of players," said Schauffele, a 27-year-old Californian who won a gold medal this summer at the Tokyo Olympics.
Stricker said American rookies have compiled a 40-29-17 record in the Ryder Cup dating to 2008.
Europe, which has won nine of the past 12 Ryder Cup titles dating to 1995 and is coming off a sound victory in Paris, will not finalize its team until after the BMW PGA Championship, which starts Thursday. Nine players earn spots for the biennial event, and Padraig Harrington has three captain's picks.
The six rookies are the most for an American team since 2008, when Paul Azinger introduced his pod system and the United States secured a rare victory at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
Scheffler, 25, is the first American to be picked without Ryder Cup experience or having won on the PGA Tour since Rickie Fowler in 2010. Scheffler has been a steady presence who ranked seventh in birdies on tour this season.
What first got Stricker's attention was the Dell Match Play tourney in March, when Scheffler mowed down Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm and Matt Kuchar — all renowned for their prowess in the format — before losing in the championship final to Billy Horschel.
Scheffler has finished in the top 20 in his past six major tournaments, going into the final round in contention in three of them.
"His stats across the board are very solid from top to bottom, and the guy makes a lot of birdies, which should do us very well going around Whistling Straits," Stricker said.
English, two-time major winner Morikawa and Scheffle are the only true rookies. Their notable experience representing the United States was in the Walker Cup, the Ryder Cup-style event for men's amateurs.
Cantlay and Schauffele were a strong team at the Presidents Cup in 2019, while Berger played in that event — in which Americans face an international roster that does not include Europe — in 2017.
Stricker said he and his assistants did not concentrate too heavily on the last month of the PGA Tour season but rather on a consistent body of work over the past two years and styles of play that would be a good fit for this Ryder Cup course.
"That's what made the choices in my eyes pretty easy, and after consulting with the six guys that made the team and my assistant captains, we landed on these six guys pretty easily just because of their form, the way they fit Whistling Straits, their demeanors on and off the golf course and in the team room," he said.
Stricker was captain of the Presidents Cup team in 2017, and he was an assistant Ryder Cup captain the past three times.
The U.S. team typically has eight automatic qualifiers and four captain's picks. That was increased to six for this Ryder Cup because of uncertainty over how the COVID-19 pandemic — which postponed the matches for one year — would affect the tour schedule.