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Golf: Stricker says communication key to his strategy as U.S. Ryder Cup captain

(Reuters) - Steve Stricker will captain the United States at the 2020 Ryder Cup with an emphasis on keeping an open line of communication with players, the former world number two said after being appointed to the role on Wednesday.

Feb 9, 2019; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Steve Stricker chips on at the second hole during the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Stricker, who turns 52 on Saturday, was clear favourite to succeed Jim Furyk as captain for the biennial event against Europe, which will next be played at Whistling Straits in his home state of Wisconsin.

“Truly, a dream come true,” Stricker told a news conference in Milwaukee, where he was interrupted by a congratulatory text message from twice major winner and fan favourite John Daly. “Truly humbled by this opportunity because I am very passionate about this competition.”

A 12-times winner on the PGA Tour, Stricker said his captaincy style will center around communication in a bid to ensure little frustrations do not turn into problems.

After the United States were beaten by Europe last year in Paris, Masters champion Patrick Reed, who was dropped for two sessions at Le Golf National, slammed Furyk’s decision to break up the partnership he shared with Jordan Spieth and said egos were a problem for the American team.

Stricker, who admitted the difficulty in telling players they would have to sit out a session of Ryder Cup action, said if a player has the team’s best interests in mind then the squad can easily go forward from there.

“I want to make sure that all of these players that make the team know what to expect from me and what I expect from them,” said Stricker.

“Just listening to them, giving them a great environment to succeed and to be able to put their best foot forward. But I think communication and being up front with them and knowing what I expect from them is going to be the biggest thing.”

Stricker captained the victorious U.S. team at the 2017 Presidents Cup and served as one of Furyk’s vice captains at last year’s Ryder Cup in Paris where the U.S. team suffered a crushing defeat.

As a player, Stricker logged three Ryder Cup appearances. He was on the winning team in 2008 before defeats in 2010 and 2012. His Ryder Cup record is three wins, seven losses and one half.

Tiger Woods, who is competing at the opening World Golf Championship event of the year this week in Mexico, said there is nobody more deserving of the U.S. captaincy than Stricker.

“I’ve known you for a long time, we’ve played together in the Cup as partners and we’ve won our share and lost our share,” Woods, who went 0-4 at last year’s Ryder Cup, said in a video posted to the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s Twitter account.

“I’ve grown to absolutely love you and your family and I couldn’t be more proud to see you as our new Ryder Cup captain.”

In his first act as captain, Stricker named Furyk as the first of his vice captains.

The European Ryder Cup team named Padraig Harrington as their captain in January.

While Europe has captured four of the last five Ryder Cup events, Stricker expressed confidence in the U.S. team’s chances of prevailing at Whistling Straits, which in 2015 held the PGA Championship for a third time.

“This is a new year, new Ryder Cup coming up. I am looking forward to it, our guys are looking forward to it,” said Stricker.

“While we were disappointed with the result in Paris, I am confident the setback will fuel our preparations for what will take place at Whistling Straits.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar