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Steve Stricker gets another Cup shot

DUBLIN, Ohio -- A year has passed, almost to the day, and Steve Stricker admits it still stings. Perhaps not as much as it did then, or maybe not like it was in the sleepless nights afterward or even in the ensuing weeks, when the defeat was difficult to shake from his thoughts.

The 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup loss for the Americans at Medinah was particularly brutal, especially for Stricker, an at-large pick of captain Davis Love III. Stricker went 0-4, including a singles loss to Germany's Martin Kaymer -- a defeat that clinched the Cup for Europe.

Weeks later, Stricker acknowledged the difficulty he still endured, and was asked if it motivated him to want to be a part of the next U.S. team competition.

"Not right now," Stricker said. "I've had a good run with it. It's been a lot of fun. I don't know. It still stings. It's not a fair question at this time."

And yet here is Stricker, 46, the oldest player on the U.S. team that will take on the International squad in the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club beginning Thursday.

Not only is Stricker here, but he made the team on his own merit, and is viewed by U.S. captain Fred Couples as one of his leading players. Considering where Stricker was mentally following the Ryder Cup, and that he announced he would be playing a limited schedule this year, making the team is an impressive accomplishment.

"The Ryder Cup last year left a sour taste in all our mouths," Stricker said Tuesday after a practice round at Muirfield Village, where nine members of the 2012 Ryder Cup team make up the Presidents Cup team. "Just the way that played out, the way it ended, none of us were very happy about it, or in a good spot.

"And I think because of my reduced schedule, playing less, I didn't really think I was going to have enough tournaments under my belt to qualify for the team. So I'm a little surprised being here, but I'm happy I'm here. It was a big goal for me all of a sudden at the end of the year to try to make the team on points alone. So it was fun to do it and fun to be here."

Stricker made sure of that by finishing second at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the last qualifying event, and was seventh in the final points standings, with the top-10 players earning automatic selections.

Couples hinted that Stricker might see some time again with Tiger Woods -- they went 0-3 at the Ryder Cup last year but were 4-0 together at the 2009 Presidents Cup -- and perhaps with rookie Jordan Spieth.

Either way, just being here is a victory in itself for Stricker.

At the Ryder Cup, where he was one of four captain's picks, his partnership with Woods stalled. They lost two matches that went to the 18th hole and another that went to the 17th. During the Sunday singles, Stricker was all square on the 17th tee, but lost the hole to a par.

And when Kaymer rolled in a 6-footer for par at the 18th after Stricker had made a longer par putt, it meant a 1-up victory for the German and a huge point for Europe that clinched at least a tie. Had Stricker managed even a half, the Woods-Francesco Molinari match behind would have decided the outcome.

Instead, the U.S lost 14 ½-13 ½ after holding what seemed to be a commanding 10-6 lead through two days.

"I feel a lot of responsibility there for not winning a point," Stricker said. "It wasn't much fun the way it ended."

Stricker figured to be a long shot to make this year's Presidents Cup team. He made it clear he would reduce his schedule. He didn't play in the Open Championship. There was a possibility he'd miss some key events, including some of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Instead, he posted eight top-10 finishes, with four runner-ups in just 13 tournaments. He will play in the Presidents Cup for the fifth time.

"We spoke Sunday night at the Ryder Cup," said Couples, who was an assistant for the U.S. team last year. "I've texted him 20 times a month. He's one of my all-time favorites. To be honest with you, when he set his schedule, he had a long road to hoe to get here, but he's played such phenomenal golf that he made the team, deserves to be on the team and is actually maybe more excited than anyone other than Jordan (Spieth). And that's a good thing.

"I've been with Steve so many times (and) you can't win every match. You feel bad when you lose. But Steve Stricker is a true pro."

Stricker plans to pursue a limited schedule again in 2014, but he admits to having thoughts of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will try to win for just the third time since 1993, with Tom Watson as the captain in Scotland.

"I'm always going to look back at Medinah and think about what happened there that last day and that we didn't get it done," Stricker said. "In particular, me, not earning a point that whole week. It's a sour note, but in this game, you have a lot of sour notes and you've got to move forward, otherwise you bog yourself down and you never improve.

"I would still like to think I've got a shot at making the Ryder Cup team next year, especially the way I'm playing and if I can continue to play the way I've been playing. And I would like to be a part of that again."