After 24-year old Scottie Scheffler took down European Ryder Cup heavyweights Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, someone on Twitter wanted to be sure United States captain Steve Stricker was paying attention.
“Oh, I was watching,” Stricker tweeted back, adding the big eyeballs emoji.
If the Match Play event demonstrated anything – aside from how its unnecessarily slow pace Sunday sapped the energy as the day wore on – it’s the pleasant problem facing Stricker as he looks toward the late-September Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits where his team will try to win back the little gold trophy.
Winner Billy Horschel and Scheffler, whose star is in full ascent, are not close to being among the top six spots in the Ryder Cup points race. But their weeklong performance at the Country Club of Austin as well as their overall body of work only adds to the challenge Stricker is likely to face later this summer.
Stricker will have six captain’s picks after the first six automatic qualifiers are determined. At this point, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger, Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Kisner, Gary Woodland and Jordan Spieth are among the players who would need a pick to make the team.
Horschel, who has now won and finished T2 in the two WGC events played this year, won his first individual title Sunday in four years, though he did share the Zurich Classic team event trophy with Scott Piercy in 2018. It had been 100 events since Horschel had won a solo event but he answered all the questions in Texas.
At age 34, Horschel has won the FedEx Cup but he has not played on a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. He helped his chances with his victory in Austin while managing to win the final match, 2 and 1, against Scheffler in a match in which neither made a birdie in the final three hours.
“There is so much emotion, so many turns of the tides, it was one of those days I didn’t hit it very good, I was just grinding it out,” said Horschel.
Scheffler is still chasing his first PGA Tour victory but with his athletic swing and pedigree, he is just a trophy away from being included in the “best young players” group with Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland.
Though Scheffler didn’t win, he offered a not-so-subtle endorsement of his candidacy when asked on Saturday what taking down Poulter and Rahm on the same day meant.
“I’ve watched Ian way too many times on TV just beat the crap out of us in the Ryder Cup,” Scheffler said. “So I just have memories of me and my dad sitting on the couch and watching this guy make putt after putt. So it was nice to get one on him, at least for me.”
Ron Green Jr.