Kevin Na dishes on his Ryder Cup ‘You didn’t make the team’ call from Steve Stricker

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NAPA, Calif. – After Kevin Na finished third at the Tour Championship, he was so bullish about his chances of being selected to the U.S. Ryder Cup team that he said he was going to text U.S. Captain Steve Stricker and state his case.

“I did. I texted and called him,” Na said following the opening round of the Fortinet Championship. “We had a good talk on Sunday.”

Stricker’s call on Monday was not so good. “He called me Monday and said, ‘I don’t have good news,” Na recalled. “You didn’t get picked.’ ”

“It sucks. It’s disappointing. He has a tough job. I don’t take it personal. No one deserves anything. It’s a captain’s call. I respect his decision. Do I disagree? Yeah, I disagree,” he said. “I just have to play better.”

But Na, who ranked No. 19 in the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings, also pointed out, “How much better could I have played?” noting that if Stricker wanted the hot hand on his roster he finished T-2 at the John Deere Classic, lost in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship, notched a T-8 at the Northern Trust, and finished third at the Tour Championship, where he played the final 57 holes bogey-free and tied Jon Rahm for the low 72-hole aggregate.

“It didn’t matter what happened at the Tour Championship. (Stricker) already had his mind set. That’s my personal opinion,” Na said. “I think it would have been great if I played for the team. I think I could have really brought some good energy and I could’ve really contributed and disappointing that I won’t get the chance to do that.”

The knock against Na is that he’s a short knocker, who ranked No. 172 in driving distance last season and that Whistling Straits, the site of the 43rd Ryder Cup next week, is a big ballpark that favors the bombers. Na said what matters most is how you’re playing and he also argued that he could’ve been paired with a long driver in alternate shot (foursomes).

“If I had Bryson DeChambeau as my partner hitting driver, I’d be stuffing wedge in there or short irons. I’m a good putter, a good chipper. I mean, so all these years you’re telling me that the U.S. team has been struggling because they had lack of length? No, if anything it has been putting, guys able to make putts under the gun. But it’s over.”

When Na was reminded that Stricker may have to make a call to the bullpen for a fill-in player for a variety of possible reasons, he said, “They ain’t calling me. I don’t think he told anybody to stand by. I hope everyone’s healthy and I hope everyone plays. We don’t want any issues.”

But…

“There you go. Of course, you’re going to say, but,” he said with a smile. “Of course, I’d love to play. I’d be honored to play. I’ll have my bags packed and be on a plane in an hour.”

Na said he planned to watch the Ryder Cup on TV, and already is pointing ahead to the Presidents Cup and his next chance to represent the stars and stripes in international competition.

“I’m motivated. I’m going to take this fire and try to win in Napa,” said Na, who shot 3-under 69 in the first round of the Fortinet Championship despite a cold putter. “I just got to finish in the top 8 to qualify for Presidents Cup. I don’t know if these fall events count, but that’s my new goal.”