By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOUISVILLE Kentucky (Reuters) - United States captain Tom Watson has appointed PGA Tour veteran Steve Stricker as a vice-captain for this year's Ryder Cup against holders Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland.
Stricker, 47, will join Andy North and Raymond Floyd as an assistant, though Watson pointed out that he could qualify for the team as a player if he wins this week's PGA Championship at Valhalla.
With just this week's event remaining before the top nine on the U.S. Cup standings earn automatic selection for Gleneagles, Stricker languishes in 38th spot after playing the PGA Tour on a part-time basis over the last two years.
"Steve has been on the Ryder Cup team three times, he's been on five Presidents Cup teams," Watson told reporters at Valhalla on Wednesday on the eve of the PGA Championship.
"Steve, when I called you, it was a pretty simple response from you: 'I'd love to be the vice-captain'. I appreciate that very quick and simple response that you made.
"What Steve brings here is a great familiarity with the players who are on the Tour right now. He brings a great deal of understanding of who these players are and their capabilities."
Stricker, a 12-times winner on the PGA Tour who has represented his country at the last three Ryder Cups, described his appointment as "pretty special" and "a sign of the times".
"I feel old," the American smiled. "It's a sign of the times, I guess, that you're moving on in your career.
"But it's rewarding, too, to get a call from Tom, and to be a part of Andy and Raymond; to be a part of the whole team is pretty special.
"It makes you feel like you've been out here for a while, but also the respect of Tom and these other guys to even think about having me on the team."
Watson and his new vice-captain then engaged in a light-hearted exchange over whether Stricker would play his way on to the U.S. Ryder Cup team this week.
"If he wins the PGA (Championship), he's on the team," said Watson.
Stricker replied: "I told him I wanted to be a vice-captain," before Watson responded: "I told him, BS, you're playing, man."
Watson will seek out the advice of his three assistants before he rounds out his 12-man team by announcing three captain's picks on Sept. 2.
"Steve's been out there; he's played against these guys," said Watson. "Andy has been out there watching the guys. Raymond has his thoughts.
"I'm going to use every bit of information available to me to make those picks. Now, ultimately it's my decision to who is going to be there."
The Americans will be bidding to end a run of seven losses against Europe in the last nine editions of the biennial competition.
Their most recent defeat came in Chicago two years ago when the U.S. threw away a commanding four-point lead heading into the final day in what became known as the 'Meltdown at Medinah.'
The 40th Ryder Cup will be played at Gleneagles from Sept 26-28.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)