Stricker should let players sort out hard feelings, says Azinger

Steve Stricker walks off the green after finishing on the 18th hole during the 2nd round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. (Reuters pic)

MEXICO CITY: US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker should take a hands-off approach to any lingering issues between Patrick Reed and potential 2020 team mates, former winning captain Paul Azinger said on Wednesday.

Speaking hours after Stricker had been named to take charge of the next US team, Azinger said it would be premature of Stricker to address any hard feelings before the composition of his team became clearer.

Masters champion Reed publicly threw team mate Jordan Spieth and captain Jim Furyk under the bus after the Americans were thrashed by Europe in Paris last year, questioning why his previously successful partnership with Spieth had been broken up.

Many have wondered how the comments by Reed will effect the team dynamic in future team events, starting with this year’s Presidents Cup against an International team in Melbourne, where Tiger Woods will lead the Americans.

“I think Steve would be real wise not to say anything and let the players sort that out themselves,” Azinger said in a conference call from Mexico City on the eve of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

“If you’re talking about something about happened in 2018, you may be talking to somebody who’s not going to make the team.”

Azinger will watch next year’s Ryder Cup from the television tower at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, in his new role replacing Johnny Miller as lead analyst on NBC.

One of only two winning American captains this decade, Azinger led the US to victory at Valhalla in Kentucky in 2008.

“His responsibility I feel is (to) create an environment where those guys can be successful,” Azinger said of Stricker.

“I hope they’ve really got a nice big chip on their shoulder after what happened to them (last year). America have to do something not to get throttled.”

Azinger also thinks that if the Americans win next year then Stricker should remain as captain for the 2022 Ryder Cup in Italy, should he want to.

Otherwise, Phil Mickelson, who by then will be 52, is a no-brainer.

“I think Phil would like the challenge of carrying the flag to Europe (where the US have not win since 1993),” Azinger said.

“I can’t see past Phil, unless the US win (next year) and Stricker wants to carry on.”