Captain's Picks: A look at Zach Johnson's six U.S. Team picks
After much anticipation, the U.S. Ryder Cup Team is set.
U.S. Captain Zach Johnson revealed his six Captain’s picks on Tuesday – Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. They’ll join automatic qualifiers Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele on the 12-man squad that will compete Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.
With the team finalized, Johnson will take four rookies with him to Italy, though he’ll also have two players (Fowler and Spieth) with four Ryder Cups under their belts.
Here is a closer look at the six U.S. Captain’s picks:
World Ranking: 21
Ryder Cup appearances: Making debut
U.S. Ryder Cup record: Making debut
Buzz: Since winning the WGC-Dell Match Play in March, Burns has just two top-10s, one being a T-9 at East Lake. He struggled on approach this season, ranking outside the top 100, but he was No. 11 in putting and No. 30 in strokes gained total. He’s a future staple on these squads, and an ideal foursomes partner for Scheffler.
World Ranking: 25
Ryder Cup appearances: 4 (2010, 2014, 2016, 2018)
U.S. Ryder Cup record: 3-7-5 (1-3-2 in foursomes, 1-2-2 in four-ball, 1-2-1 in singles)
Buzz: Fowler’s resurgent summer (win at Rocket Mortgage Classic; 54-hole lead at U.S. Open, where he tied for fifth; first Tour Championship berth since 2019) has him back on the U.S. Team for the first time since 2018. Fowler ranked ninth in strokes gained approach this season and was No. 64 or better in all four individual strokes-gained categories. While Fowler’s individual record in four career Ryder Cups isn’t head turning, there is no doubt that having Fowler in the team room is a benefit.
World Ranking: 14
Ryder Cup appearances: 3 (2016, 2018, 2021)
U.S. Ryder Cup record: 6-5-1 (2-2 in foursomes, 2-3 in four-ball, 2-0-1 in singles)
Buzz: After being bumped out of the sixth and final automatic qualifying spot by Xander Schauffele after the BMW Championship, there were questions of whether Koepka, winner of this year’s PGA Championship and T-2 at the Masters, would be tabbed for a pick or not. It’s clear that Johnson sees Koepka’s value, especially at an away Ryder Cup, where his swagger and fearlessness is just as valuable as his 6-5-1 record.
World Ranking: 19
Ryder Cup appearances: 1 (2021)
U.S. Ryder Cup record: 3-0-1 (2-0 in foursomes, 1-0 in four-ball, 0-0-1 in singles)
Buzz: By Morikawa’s lofty standard, he didn’t have his best stuff this season, though he still closed strong with a playoff spot in Detroit and top-25s in all three playoff events, including a T-6 at East Lake. He continues to be one of the best iron players on Tour, ranking second in strokes gained approach this season. The short game and putting may be exposed in Rome, but when you stripe it like Morikawa, there’s a reason he went 3-0-1 in his Ryder Cup debut at Whistling Straits.
World Ranking: 12
Ryder Cup appearances: 4 (2014, 2016, 2018, 2021)
U.S. Ryder Cup record: 8-7-3 (3-2-2 in foursomes, 5-2 in four-ball, 0-3-1 in singles)
Buzz: As if there was any doubt that Spieth, who has just two top-10s since a playoff loss at the RBC Heritage, would warrant a pick. This U.S. Team needs experience, and Spieth has a lot of it with four Ryder Cups under his belt. Sure, he hasn’t won a singles match yet (0-3-1), but you can count on him in team player, where he’ll likely again partner with this next pick…
World Ranking: 26
Ryder Cup appearances: 2 (2018, 2021)
U.S. Ryder Cup record: 6-2-1 (2-2 in foursomes, 2-0-1 in four-ball, 2-0 in singles)
Buzz: Yes, Justin Thomas. Despite Thomas failing to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, Captain Johnson clearly loved Thomas’ fight at Wyndham to almost get into the postseason – and he surely thought that Thomas’ experience and ability to form a ferocious pairing with Spieth was too good to pass on. With a 6-2-1 record in two Ryder Cups, Thomas should be leaned on heavily in Rome, whether he’s in elite form coming in or not. These team matches just bring out the best in him.