Justin Thomas is a shock Ryder Cup selection for Team USA, while LIV Golf rebel Brooks Koepka clinches a spot as Zach Johnson unveils his six captain picks to face Europe in Rome

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Team USA’s Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson unveiled his six picks to battle Europe in Rome on Tuesday. 

Justin Thomas was a surprise selection from Johnson, while Brooks Koepka was the sole LIV Golf player to make the team.

Thomas and Koepka were joined by Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth.  

The six qualifiers for Team USA had already been locked in following the BMW Championship last week with Xander Schauffele squeezing into the final spot, joining Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay and Max Homa.

Team USA's Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson unveiled his six picks for Rome on Tuesday

Team USA’s Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson unveiled his six picks for Rome on Tuesday 

Justin Thomas was a surprise selection from Johnson after his recent run of poor form

Justin Thomas was a surprise selection from Johnson after his recent run of poor form 

PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka is the only LIV Golf player to make the US team

PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka is the only LIV Golf player to make the US team 

Thomas comes as the most controversial pick with Johnson choosing to overlook the two-time major winner’s poor form, which saw him muss out on the PGA Tour’s end-of season playoffs. 

However, Johnson could be looking to bank on Thomas’s experience with the 30-year-old having a 6-2-1 record in Ryder Cup action. He took two and a half points from four matches at Whistling Straits in 2021. 

Johnson will likely also look to rekindle the ready-made, successful partnership between childhood pals Thomas and Spieth.

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Spieth will be making his fifth appearance at the Ryder Cup with the wildcard pick, and will be looking to carry over the momentum from last year’s Presidents Cup where he came away undefeated with a 5-0 record.   

Koepka left the PGA Tour for Saudi-backed LIV Golf last June and only had access to Ryder Cup points in the majors. He was a runner-up at the Masters and won the PGA Championship, with points counting double for winners of a major.

However, Koepka agonizingly fell from No. 5 to No. 7 in the automatic standings after the final qualifying event, finishing 29 points behind Schauffele.

But, despite being missing from PGA Tour action this season and only playing 11 events in addition to the majors on the LIV Golf circuit, Koepka’s victory at Oak Hill was enough to convince Johnson he deserved a place on the plane to Italy. 

Koepka will be able to have a tune-up event with LIV Golf at Rich Harvest Farms the week preceding Ryder Cup action and the breakaway’s schedule won’t prevent him from participating in the scouting trip to Marco Simone two weeks ahead of the matches. 

Johnson will likely also look to rekindle the ready-made partnership of Thomas and Spieth

Johnson will likely also look to rekindle the ready-made partnership of Thomas and Spieth

Despite defecting to LIV Golf, Koepka did enough to convince Johnson he deserved a pick

Despite defecting to LIV Golf, Koepka did enough to convince Johnson he deserved a pick 

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‘The last few years have been a lot, but at the same time, that’s what I’ve been grinding for, trying to get back in shape and to feel good for this moment,’ Koepka said. ‘Super excited. It’s gonna be a fun week.’ 

Fowler enjoyed a resurgence this season, winning for the first time in four years this summer after reuniting with swing coach Butch Harmon in 2022. 

He finished the Tour season ranked 11 in strokes gained: total – a 122-spot improvement from last year. 

Like Spieth, the Californian will be making a fifth appearance at the Ryder Cup with a 3-7-5 record across his previous four. 

Morikawa is also a Ryder Cup returnee, having made a resounding debut at Whistling Straits, winning three of his team matches alongside Dustin Johnson before his halved singles match against fellow rookie Viktor Hovland sealed the victory for the USA. 

Meanwhile, Sam Burns, along with Harman and Clark, will be a USA rookie, having just missed out in 2021. 

The 27-year-old won the WGC-Match Play this year and tied for ninth in the FedExCup.

The Louisianan also shares a close friendship with Scheffler, which could spark a Spieth-Thomas-esque partnership. 

‘I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my No. 1 goal,’ Burns said. ‘I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. For me personally, there’s no higher honor than representing your country, and to tee it up with these world-class players, I’m extremely excited.’

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2021 team members Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau missed out, as did Keegan Bradley, Cam Young and Russell Henley after each made their case to make it to Rome throughout the 2023 season. 

Bradley had said the 24 hours following the Tour Championship would be ‘hell’ before he left East Lake Sunday. 

‘Hopefully I get a chance to play on this team,’ Bradley said. ‘If I don’t, I’m going to be rooting hard. In years’ past it’s been really hard for me to watch the Ryder Cup, because I just haven’t been in the conversation to be on the team. But this year, if I don’t make the team, it will be different. I’ll watch, and I’ll be pulling for the guys just as if I was playing.’ 

The USA secured a dominant victory over Europe at Whistling Straits in 2021 but heads to Marco Simone Golf and Country Club seeking its first victory on European soil in 30 years. 

European captain Luke Donald’s team is yet to be finalized but heavyweights Rory McIlroy, Masters champion Jon Rahm and FedEx Cup champion Hovland are already locked in.   

More to follow.  

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