US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has paid little attention to LIV Golf after Brooks Koepka – but Cameron Young will be upset to miss out after Fred Couples said he’d play in Rome
- Justin Thomas was a surprise inclusion in Johnson’s Ryder Cup team on Tuesday
- LIV Golf rebel Koepka also clinched a spot in America’s six-man squad
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The American picks are in and Zach Johnson has rolled the dice.
In a selection of six wild cards that was largely consistent with expectations, save for one broken promise, the US captain has taken a punt on Justin Thomas in his efforts to win the Ryder Cup on foreign soil for the first time in 30 years.
It is a move that places enormous trust in the two-time major winner’s ability to prove that class is permanent, because on the basis of form his deployment in Rome next month is a considerable risk.
The 30-year-old has a superb record for the United States, but it also must be set against a dire 2023, which includes five missed cuts in his past eight starts and a tie for 60th.
Weighing all of that evidence, Johnson, who also announced Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler and Sam Burns on Tuesday, has gone with his gut, declaring: ‘JT is the heart and soul of Team USA, our emotional leader. His passion is evident. In my mind he was born for this. You just don’t leave JT at home.’
Justin Thomas was a surprise selection in the US Ryder Cup squad after a run of poor form
US team captain Zach Johnson has announced his six players for the upcoming tournament
PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka is the only LIV Golf player to make the US team
While Thomas is hugely popular within the team room, which holds vast importance in this particular arena, Johnson will be pinning his hopes on a rapid transformation in the world No 26’s game. At least he has some history on his side, because at his best Thomas has been a force of nature in matchplay, with 6.5 points from a possible nine in his two Ryder Cups to date and a brilliant partnership with Spieth, his close friend.
Thomas said: ‘I did put a lot on pressure on myself to make this team because it means so much to me. But it was a valuable learning experience for me. I’ll use it going forward. You can want something too badly, and there’s times this season I did. I’m very, very fortunate to be here.’
Of the omitted contenders, including Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover, it is perhaps Cameron Young who has the most right to feel aggrieved. Just last month, US vice-captain Fred Couples said the big hitter would be in Rome, which Johnson attempted to dismiss as ‘jest’ on Tuesday.
Young might struggle with the joke for the next few weeks. There were further snubs for LIV rebels such as Bryson Dechambeau, Dustin Johnson and Talor Gooch, with the feeling persisting that Zach Johnson paid little attention to the breakaway circuit beyond Koepka.
Rickie Fowler (left) and Collin Morikawa (right) also made it in to the team as wildcard picks
Indeed, Johnson made several references to the ‘top 25’ of the points list, with no elaboration on how he might have assessed the merits of LIV golfers, whose access to points has been limited to the majors.
Koepka’s inclusion was a formality after his win at the US PGA Championship and there were also predictable selections for ball-striking maestro Morikawa, Cup veteran Spieth, WGC-Dell Match Play champion Burns and Fowler, who in July won for the first time since 2019. They add to the six who had qualified by right – Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele.
Ahead of Luke Donald’s European picks next Monday, the status of the United States as runaway favourites has diminished in recent months, though much will depend on how Donald supplements the strength of his top order via his wildcards. Certainly, the American tail seems stronger on paper.