Scott Verplank, one of the most successful competitors for the U.S. in his two Ryder Cup appearances with a combined 4-1 record, said there is no magical solution for the U.S. team’s travails on European soil which goes back to 1993 at The Belfry.
Verplank along with fellow Oak Tree National members and former Oklahoma State All-Americans Willie Wood and Austin Eckroat put on a clinic at The Golf Club of Oklahoma Monday morning as part of a charity event benifitting the Ronald McDonald House of Tulsa.
“The biggest difference over there is their team attitude is just a lot better than ours,” Verplank said. “We’re the coyote and they are the rabbit. It’s preparation. A year before that is the most important thing to prepare for for a lot of those guys. Our team wants to get on the tee and play well but that’s it. Tommy Fleetwood is a Ryder Cup hero for the rest of his life. Do we have any?”
Verplank and Wood are the two members of the famed Oak Tree Gang likely to be still competing when the 2027 U.S. Senior Open comes to Edmond. During Monday’s clinic Verplank predicted future greatness for the 24-year-old Eckroat, who is wrapping up his rookie season on the PGA Tour and currently ranks 77th in FedEx Cup standings.
“I played with Austin when he was 17 and called (OSU coach) Alan Bratton and said are we recruiting this kid?” Verplank said. “He said yes, I think we’re in pretty good shape with him. I said no, we NEED to sign him. Austin is going to be a great player and a future Ryder Cup player.”
Wood showed the audience how to control wedge distances by choking up on the club, Verplank gave tips on trajectory control for mid irons and Eckroat, who averages 308 yards on the PGA Tour in driving distance, boomed a few drives toward the back of the range. Modering the event was Ronald McDonald House board member Michael Boyd, himself a former PGA Tour golfer.
– Ken MacLeod