Russo, who has a Ph.D. in organizational leadership, has a deep familiarity with the personality tests that Azinger used 13 years ago. Stricker, who was on the 2008 team, last week conceded that he would employ a variety of tactics to devise his pairings, although he declined to be specific on whether he would use the pod system. Russo said the assessments could be valuable tools, but cautioned, “You need somebody who knows what they’re doing with it because these things can be dangerous.” Azinger, for example, consulted at length with a clinical psychologist.
Moreover, Russo, who worked for pharmaceutical and biotech companies and assembled teams for large-scale initiatives, insisted that there was a “special sauce” for winning teams.
“There’s a magic to it, too,” she said. “You’ve got a team of rivals and you want to bring them together to face something that’s greater than all of them. And that’s not easy to do.”
It may be even more difficult if Brooks Koepka, who qualified for the team but injured his wrist last month, is healthy enough to play. Koepka and his American teammate Bryson DeChambeau have spent most of this year feuding on social media. Stricker has asked the two men to put aside their differences during the Ryder Cup, and each player has been discreet of late, but do not expect Koepka and DeChambeau to be paired for a match, or even assigned to the same pod — if there is a pod system.
Justin Leonard, who was a member of several American Ryder Cup teams including the 2008 squad, said that keeping Koepka and DeChambeau apart should be “real easy,” especially if the players are in pods.
“We ate breakfast together, we ate dinner together, we played our practice rounds together, and when we were in the same room with the whole team, we sat at a table together,” Leonard said of 2008, adding that the arrangement provided a level of comfort because there were no surprises when the pairings were announced.
Additionally, Leonard, who is now an NBC golf analyst, said he expected the pod system to return for the Americans this week because Phil Mickelson, who was on the 2008 team, is a nonplaying vice captain to Stricker.