The top 25 players in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings are eligible for uniform fittings at this week’s Memorial Tournament. (Now, this year, that list reads a little strange compared to previous ones.) You could feel the buzz for the biennial matches against Europe starting to heat up — just through the conversations I eavesdropped on the driving range Tuesday afternoon.
American Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, along with one of his assistants, Andy North, were on-site at Muirfield Village, walking down the range and chatting with potential team members.
Watson greeted Steve Stricker. As the two shook hands, Stricker said to Watson, “Nice playing last week.”
Watson, who finished second to Colin Montgomerie at the Senior PGA Championship, replied, “Thanks, every time I looked, the ball was going toward the hole…It was a good feeling.”
They chit-chatted about Watson’s play for a few more minutes and then Stricker remarked on Watson’s scouting mission.
“Yeah, we’re just here to shoot the shit with the guys,” said Watson.
In between the chatter, Stricker was hitting cut shots against the right-to-left wind. Watson offered to give Stricker a lesson.
“How do you hit a cut shot?” Watson asked Stricker.
Stricker explained the motion he changed in his back swing to create a left-to-right ball movement. Watson told him to try and “loop” the club more in the downswing. So, that’s what Stricker did.
At this point, Watson’s assistant Andy North had joined the scrum formed behind Stricker. Billy Horschel, who is currently ranked 38th in Ryder Cup points, also became part of the group.
North pulled Horschel to the side and told him, laughing, to “get your head out of your ass and shoot some scores.”
Around that time, Watson decided to try and hit Stricker’s 5-wood (I think). He kept saying, “Just one more…”
Watson continued his rounds on the range, understandably spending a fair amount of time watching Jordan Spieth, who is ranked fourth in points and likely to make the American squad.
Meanwhile, Matt Kuchar, who is third in RC points, finished his practice round and swung by the media center for his press conference. Asked when he started thinking about the Ryder Cup, Kuchar supposed most of the guys began counting down the days after Sunday night at Medinah, where the Americans lost to Europeans in dramatic fashion.
“You probably start going, man, I hope we can have another chance in two years. You want another chance,” said Kuchar on Tuesday evening. “So I know for myself I was ready for two years to get here and try to have another crack at the Ryder Cup.
“That first year, where the points aren’t as important, you focus more on Presidents Cup for sure last year. This year this focus is more on the Ryder Cup. I think guys start thinking about it earlier. I know when Tom Watson got named captain, people got pretty excited wanting to make the team.”
With the uniform fittings happening this week, it certainly becomes more on the forefront of the players’ minds.
“It becomes a little more real now,” he said. “It becomes a little more real once you go in and do the fitting and start seeing some of the clothes and seeing some of the guys that will be around for the tournament. It’s pretty exciting.
Kuchar hadn’t been by the team fitting room yet. However, his caddie Lance Bennett had.
“(Lance) was all psyched about the clothes that were there to be worn,” said Kuchar. “He certainly was awfully pumped up telling me how cool the hats were and how cool some of the other gear was.
“It’s still cool. This will be my third Ryder Cup if I make the team. And I still feel like a kid. I still feel like one of the coolest things about going to those team events is the moment you walk in your hotel room you see all the clothes lined up on a clothing rack like you’d see in like in a store. I think it’s a neat moment just to you’re supposed to try everything on right away, make sure it fits so if any adjustment needs to happen, you get that taken care of.
“I can’t wait. I’m like a kid trying everything on. I can’t wait to see how it all looks and which outfits I think are best and seeing the U.S.A. flag patch on the uniform somewhere. It’s still a very cool thing for me.”
The American team will be outfitted by Polo Ralph Lauren in the RLX brand this year.
After the presser, Kuchar joked that it didn’t matter what the uniforms looked like since “we’ll be wearing rain gear the entire time.”