Tour Confidential: Who will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team?

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia.

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia.

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Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us at @golf_com. This week, we discuss the Ryder Cup captaincy, Rory McIlroy’s return to tournament golf, the fourth LPGA major of the year and more.

With the Fourth of July and the red, white and blue on our mind, let’s look ahead to the 2025 Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black. The Americans are still without a captain. Who do you think it will be? [Update: The PGA of America said on Monday it will announce the U.S. Ryder Cup captain at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday in New York.]

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor (@jess_marksbury): It has to be Tiger, right? That is the only reason I can think of for such a lengthy delay. Unless it was supposed to be Tiger and he doesn’t want the job for some reason, and now they’re scrambling.

Josh Berhow, managing editor (@Josh_Berhow): Tiger said at Valhalla they were still working through that conversation and he was deciding if he had the time to fully commit to it… but that was almost two months ago now. As our Sean Zak wrote back in April, they were way behind schedule in naming a captain then (and now even more behind). If the PGA of America is waiting on Tiger to decide, at some point he has to stop holding everyone hostage. I still think Tiger might do it, but if Tiger isn’t the guy, someone like Steve Stricker might be a good fit. He led the U.S. to a big win the last time they were on home soil. Plus, after last year’s disaster, he might be the man to get the Americans back on track.

Ryan Barath, senior editor (@rdsbarath): Logic and history shows us that it should have been Phil, but after the last few years that ship completely sailed and I think Tiger is the obvious choice. Now if Mr. Woods continues to cause delays in the process as reported, I think it could default to Stricker as suggested by Josh, which in my opinion would be a real letdown for the event.

Berhow: I don’t know if I’d call it a letdown. Bethpage will already be an awesome home venue, and even if Tiger isn’t a captain he might be an assistant or even a captain’s pick. But if Tiger doesn’t captain this one it’s not like it will never happen — his time just gets pushed back another two (or four?) years.

Rory McIlroy returns this week to defend his title at the Genesis Scottish Open, which will be his first start since his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open and decision to take some time away from the game. How do you think Rory will play at the Scottish and, more importantly, a week later at the final major of the year?

Marksbury: I expect Rory to show up and perform as well as he has been — maybe even win! He’s the defending champ at the Scottish, after all. And his track record at the Open is encouraging, with five top-six finishes since 2016, coupled with his win in 2014. Mentally, though, I suppose it’s hard to tell how long he may need to recover from the U.S. Open. Three weeks of rest went by in a flash. I hope he was able to get the decompression and processing time that he needed.

Berhow: I think he’ll play really well this week and wouldn’t be surprised to see him motivated enough to win. It’s not like he’s been playing poorly — he just missed a pair of crucial short putts late and lost a major. I’m not worried about this week. But the week after? Royal Troon is the last major of the year. If he has any lasting nerves or ends up putting too much pressure on himself, I think it happens then more than it would this week, which seems like a good low-stress spot to return. But I still expect him to play well at The Open. He’s struggled to win majors this last decade, not contend.

Barath: I’ll be blunt — I fully expect Rory to show up in full ass-kicker mode. Do I want him to win? Maybe, but I also would rather see him win The Open, so if he plays well but doesn’t win, I still consider that a very good omen going into the final major of the year.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Phil Mickelson said he doesn’t believe a PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger is “necessary” for the future of pro golf, arguing that what’s happened thus far — PGA Tour Signature Events, player equity and pros (like Bryson DeChambeau) expanding their brands — has already benefited both leagues. “The competition that both tours are providing is elevating both tours,” he said. “So is it necessary that there’s a merger? Probably not. But it would be a good thing if there wasn’t any hostility.” Do you agree with him?

Marksbury: Is it necessary? I guess not. Both the Tour and LIV will continue to exist. But I think it’s fair to say that LIV players like Jon Rahm would probably appreciate a meeting of the minds — at the very least to forge a path toward creating more World-Ranking point opportunities for LIV players. And from a fan’s perspective, we certainly want to see more tournaments where all the world’s best players are in one place.

Berhow: He’s right that it helped the PGA Tour add Signature Events and the player equity program (making the rich richer), but it certainly didn’t help the overall product by taking away some key players. Two diluted tours is not the path forward. If they played together something like eight times a year (instead of just the majors) you could argue that’s enough. But seeing the best players in the world play the same tournaments just four times in a calendar year is not what’s best for the sport and its fans.

Barath: To Josh’s point, the best players need to play the best players more often than four times a year, and right now the separation is only harming the PGA Tour and elevating the majors even more. It’s a great thing for the majors but not great for general fan interest, and if the “rich want to get richer” they better get some more eyeballs on regular events.

Davis Thompson hits a shot at the John Deere Classic.
‘Calm down Davis’: Thompson sets John Deere scoring record for first PGA Tour win
By: Jack Hirsh

After six wins in seven starts, World No. 1 Nelly Korda has missed the cut in her last three events. She should be back in action this week at the Evian Championship, the fourth of five majors, assuming she’s able to play following her recovery from a dog bite that forced her to withdraw from an Aramco Team Series event. Do you see Korda getting back on track in France?

Marksbury: Given the form Nelly displayed earlier this year, I can only believe that the MCs were a total aberration. She has a good run going at Evian, with two top-nine finishes in her last two appearances. I like her chances to contend for major No. 3.

Berhow: I do. I don’t know if I’ll predict that she wins, since winning is hard, but Nelly missing a fourth straight cut seems so unlikely. She had never even missed three in a row until now! I think she’ll contend. Hopefully she’s healthy and can play.

Barath: Making the assumption that any injury was just minor and withdrawing was simply out of precaution, I expect Nelly to contend at the Evian. Every player usually has a few weeks a year where the game decides to leave for what feels like no reason, but at her level I don’t see it lasting the rest of the year.

Let’s end on an easy one. We are biased, but few things are better than a holiday weekend round on the links. What’s your favorite value golf course you’ve ever played?

Marksbury: Pretty much any Phoenix-area course fits the bill in the summer. If you can take the 115-degree daytime temps, you can get some smokin’ deals on top-tier courses. My favorite muni lately, though, is a nine-hole executive course owned by the City of Phoenix called Palo Verde that I can walk with my kids. Green fees top out at 25 bucks, and kids are $5. A new fave!

Berhow: Keller Golf Course ($53 walking) just outside of St. Paul, Minn., a muni I love that I haven’t played in over two years. I’m changing that soon.

Barath: I’ve touted this place many times before, and I’ll say it again — my local Norfolk Golf Club is a fun nine-hole test that tops out under 3,000 yards and has a history with classic Canadian architect Stanley Thompson. The fact that it can be looped in under 90 minutes most afternoons makes it one of my favorite spots to play.

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