DUBLIN, Ohio — There could be a lot of new red, white and blue blood on the U.S. team when it lands at Liberty National Golf Club in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline for the Presidents Cup in September.
Which would be just fine with U.S. captain Steve Stricker.
“It would be great. The more young guys we can get into the mix of playing these team competitions, the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, will be great going forward because they are going to be around for a long time,” Stricker said at Muirfield Village Golf Club, where he’s playing in the Memorial.
The top 10 players in the standings at the end of the Dell Technologies Championship Sept. 4 will automatically make the squad that will face the Internationals on Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
Stricker will name his two captain’s selections on Sept. 6.
Currently, 10 of the top 20 players in the standings for the U.S. have never played in a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup. Two of the players — Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner — are third and fourth in the standings and have pretty much locked up a spot. Kevin Chappell at No. 6 is in a strong position.
Daniel Berger is ninth, while Brian Harman is 10th. Others in the mix to play for the Stars & Stripes are Brendan Steele (13th), Gary Woodland (15th), Pat Perez (17th), Billy Horschel (18th) and Kevin Na (20th).
A major changing of the guard is unfolding. By way of Father Time and expanded depth, the old guard of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Davis Love III and Stricker himself — the five combining for 73 appearances in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup — is giving way to the younger set, though Mickelson is 16th in the standings.
“There have been guys who have had locked spots on the team for years that are going to have a hard time making the team because of the young American players,” Chappell said. “There are other guys who have raised their level of play to make it harder and harder to make these type of teams.
“It goes to show you the strength of American golf right now. It’s deep.”
Kisner likely has made the team, but he won’t celebrate just yet.
“I’m going to keep grinding, playing hard, and working on things I need to work on,” he said. “Just because I’m playing well now, doesn’t mean I’m going to be playing well then. So I need to keep working hard. …
“Obviously it’s a dream to be representing my country in any form or fashion. I think playing in New York City is going to be pretty kick ass, to tell you the truth. Having all those people on our side, and hopefully they’re as rowdy as always and I can make a lot of birdies.”
Thomas was in the running to make the Ryder Cup team last year but fell short. He was devastated but motivated.
“It hurt not to make the team, but you just have to work harder,” he said. “Kiz, Chappy and I are ready to play on these teams. A lot of guys are.”
Stricker said another layer of coaching will be involved if a lot of first-timers make the team. But he’s ready. Stricker was paired with Jordan Spieth when the young Texan made his team debut in the 2013 Presidents Cup.
“He was uncomfortable. He was out of sorts. He was playing with me and I was like the dad. I kept telling him we’re going to be all right young man,” Stricker said. “If we do have a lot of first-timers, we’re going to have to be cognizant of putting them with guys who have been around the block many times. You have to make them as comfortable as you can because it is nerve wracking. You get excited and you start swinging differently, you get more amped up.
“But these young kids are fearless. Kisner doesn’t look like a first-timer. He just rammed it down our throats at Colonial. These guys are bulldogs. Chappell has been there a lot and finally got his first win this year. And Justin played great early on this year. These guys are ready.”