US Ryder Cup team breakdown: The only LIV Golf rebel, three of 2023’s four major champions, and a Captain’s Pick looking to redeem himself

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History has stacked the deck against the United States of America going into the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome.

An away team hasn’t won the Ryder Cup since the 2012 ‘Miracle at Medinah’. The Americans haven’t won in Europe since their two-point win at The Belfry in 1993.

If there was any time for the US to change their luck – it would be right now, after a year where three Americans claimed major championship victories.

The team assembled by captain Zach Johnson is capable of turning the tide – as none of the American group sits outside the OWGR top-25 and the team boasts a combined ten PGA Tour wins. 

With some of the best players golf has to offer, Mail Sport takes a closer look at the team the Americans have put together to defend their Ryder Cup title.

Mail Sport takes a look through the 12 members of Zach Johnson's Team USA for Rome

Mail Sport takes a look through the 12 members of Zach Johnson’s Team USA for Rome 

Scottie Scheffler

  • Age: 27
  • World Ranking: No. 1 
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Second
  • Ryder Cup record: 2-0-1

A runner-up finish at the PGA Championship and a third-place finish at the US Open meant Scheffler came up just short of adding to his list of major championships.

But that doesn’t mean he had a disappointing season – rather the opposite.

Scheffler won the Phoenix Open and the unofficial ‘fifth major’ at the Players Championship. He finished with the most top-ten finishes on Tour, including top-fives at Mayakoba, the Hero World Challenge, the Arnold Palmer, the Byron Nelson, the Charles Schwab, the Memorial, the Travelers, the Scottish Open, and the BMW Championship.

It’s not a debate: Scheffler is the top golfer in the world going into this year’s Ryder Cup. But how he’ll perform in team formats truly remains to be seen.

He went 2-1-0 in his three Ryder Cup matches from 2021; but at the 2022 President’s Cup, he went 0-1-3. 

Scheffler will look to right his international record with a return to the same form that saw him reach the semifinals of the Dell Match Play earlier this year.

After playing as an up-and-comer in 2021, Scheffler is now a leader for Team USA this year

After playing as an up-and-comer in 2021, Scheffler is now a leader for Team USA this year

But after a highly successful solo season, can Scheffler dominate in the team game?

But after a highly successful solo season, can Scheffler dominate in the team game?

Patrick Cantlay

  • Age: 31
  • World Ranking: No. 5
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Second
  • Ryder Cup record: 3-0-1

Patrick Cantlay’s reputation as one of the most no-nonsense golfers on tour seems to fall away when he’s taken part in international play – where more emotion than normal seeps out of the California native.

Since first experiencing success at the 2019 Presidents Cup, Cantlay has been a reliable performer for the Americans in team play.

His 2023 was successful – with excellent putting powering him to eight top-five finishes through the year.

Zach Johnson will hope that Cantlay will help provide some stability to this American team. After all, the man they lovingly and jokingly call ‘Patty Ice’ has yet to lose a match at the Ryder Cup.

Patrick Cantlay should be one of the more stable members of this American team

Patrick Cantlay should be one of the more stable members of this American team

A typically stoic figure on the tour, Cantlay has let more emotions out during past Ryder Cups

A typically stoic figure on the tour, Cantlay has let more emotions out during past Ryder Cups

Xander Schauffele

  • Age: 29
  • World Ranking: No. 6
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Second
  • Ryder Cup record: 3-1-0

Even though these golfers are all ranked in World Golf Ranking order, it may not be that much of a surprise that Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are placed together.

In the 2021 Ryder Cup, Schauffele went 2-0-1, with his only blemish being his solo match loss against Rory McIlroy by a 3&2 score. But it was his win in a partnership with Cantlay in the early Saturday match against Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick that saw the Americans take a 9-3 lead for the tournament.

That partnership continued at the 2022 Presidents Cup – where Schauffele and Cantlay won 6&5, then 3&2 in their first two team matches. They eventually fell to Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim in their Saturday afternoon four-ball.

This pair will be incredibly important to the Americans’ Ryder Cup defense and Schauffele has had a successful enough 2023 season to support his inclusion in this team.

While Schauffele may not have won, he never missed the cut and had 11 top-ten finishes this past season. That includes six top-five finishes, with runners-up spots at the Wells Fargo and the Tour Championship.

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Maybe Schauffele’s hot streak will continue in Rome, where he’ll hope to light up yet another cigar in victory.  

Xander Schauffele had a cut-free 2023 with six top-five finishes on the PGA Tour this year

Xander Schauffele had a cut-free 2023 with six top-five finishes on the PGA Tour this year

If Schauffele and Cantlay can work their magic, Xander could be lighting up a cigar again

If Schauffele and Cantlay can work their magic, Xander could be lighting up a cigar again

Max Homa

  • Age: 32
  • World Ranking: No. 7
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Rookie

The first of many golfers who are playing in their first Ryder Cup, Max Homa has been something of a late bloomer in his golf career. 

After turning pro in 2013, Homa didn’t get his first win on the PGA Tour until the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship. This season, he turned up the heat – winning twice early in the calendar at the Fortinet and the Farmers.

He struggled in majors though – with his best finish being a T-10 at Hoylake, but missing the cut in Los Angeles and falling out of the top-40 at The Masters and the PGA Championship.

The California native’s sole international experience came at last year’s Presidents Cup. He went undefeated despite having his pairings swapped twice from Tony Finau, to Billy Horschel, then back to Finau before silencing the resurgent Tom Kim in his singles match.

Homa will head to Rome after being one of the top putters on the PGA Tour last year, finishing fourth on the tour in putts-per-hole average. It’ll be that short game that could truly make the difference between victory and defeat.

Max Homa's finely aging career will see him make his first ever Ryder Cup appearance

Max Homa’s finely aging career will see him make his first ever Ryder Cup appearance

Homa had multiple teammates at the Presidents Cup, but still finished a perfect 4-0-0

Homa had multiple teammates at the Presidents Cup, but still finished a perfect 4-0-0

Brian Harman

  • Age: 36
  • World Ranking: No. 9
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Rookie
  • 2023 Open Champion

The oldest member of the Ryder Cup team – and the only lefty – Brian ‘The Butcher’ Harman is hoping to use his patient skills picked up from hunting to stalk his prey on the fairways in Italy.

Zach Johnson even appeared to play into that pastiche – suggesting that Harman’s driving accuracy can make him ‘pretty lethal’ in team play.

Not only is this Harman’s first Ryder Cup appearance, this is his first ever Team USA appearance as a pro – having been called up to Palmer Cup and Walker Cup teams in the past.

But these are the rewards the 36-year-old is reaping after his success at Hoylake in capturing the Open Championship and his first major title.

At Royal Liverpool this past July, Brian Harman became golfing royalty by winning The Open

At Royal Liverpool this past July, Brian Harman became golfing royalty by winning The Open

Now, the 36-year-old will test his skills as he plays for his country for the very first time

Now, the 36-year-old will test his skills as he plays for his country for the very first time

Wyndham Clark

  • Age: 29
  • World Ranking: No. 10
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Rookie
  • 2023 US Open champion 

Another golfer making his first ever appearance for his country is Wyndham Clark – the winner of this year’s US Open.

Prior to 2023, Clark had never won an event – with a playoff loss at the 2020 Bermuda Championship the closest he had ever come to tasting victory. 

But this year, Clark won his first ever event at the Wells Fargo – then snagged his first major title just over a month later before finishing third at the Tour Championship. It capped off a year where he had eight top-ten finishes in total and only missed three cuts.

Clark is the longest driver of the ball on this American team, clocking in an average of 313.5 yards. While his accuracy may need improvement, his putting has come up clutch for him in the past. He could be the most productive of the Ryder Cup rookies on this US team.

2023 was a year to remember for Wyndham Clark's - capped off with success at the US Open

2023 was a year to remember for Wyndham Clark’s – capped off with success at the US Open

Now, Clark will join the Americans in Rome after being one of the PGA Tour's longest drivers

Now, Clark will join the Americans in Rome after being one of the PGA Tour’s longest drivers

Jordan Spieth (Captain’s Pick)

  • Age: 30
  • World Ranking: No. 12
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Fifth
  • Ryder Cup record: 8-7-3
  • Three-time major champion 
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It’s a fifth-straight Ryder Cup for Spieth, making him one of the two most experienced golfers on this list.

Despite a lack of wins, Spieth had a strong 2023 – with the most dominant run including finishing in the top-five in three consecutive tournaments: the Valspar, The Masters, and the RBC Heritage – where he lost in a playoff.

All told, Spieth racked up seven top-tens and five top-fives as he finished 14th on the PGA’s money list.

With an 8-7-3 Ryder Cup record, Spieth deserves to be here on his own merit but it’s also his strong play as well as his ability to get along with many of the people on this team that lands him here, in particular pal, Justin Thomas. 

Johnson seemed to agree with that assessment, when he said Spieth possessed, ‘All the intangibles you want as a teammate and as a player, a lot of heart, a lot of spirit, a lot of experience and one of our – I would say one of our stalwarts on Team USA.’

Jordan Spieth's experience for Team USA is unquestioned - having played in five Ryder Cups

Jordan Spieth’s experience for Team USA is unquestioned – having played in five Ryder Cups

With a strong 2023 season in his back pocket, will Spieth be able to continue his success?

With a strong 2023 season in his back pocket, will Spieth be able to continue his success?

Brooks Koepka (Captain’s Pick) 

  • Age: 33
  • World Ranking: No. 15
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Fourth (Captain’s Pick)
  • Ryder Cup record: 6-5-1
  • 2023 PGA Championship winner 
  • Five-time major champion 

Perhaps not the most controversial choice on this list, but Koepka is the only LIV Golf athlete on either team at this year’s Ryder Cup.

That’s not to say Koepka doesn’t deserve to be here. He’s still one of the most reliable drivers of the ball in golf and his short game doesn’t have many holes to be poked in. That being said, it’s hard to compare statistics between the PGA Tour and LIV – mostly due to the latter tour only playing three rounds at each event.

But Koepka followed up his T-2 finish at The Masters with victory in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. His success on the LIV tour included a win in Orlando as well as top-five finishes in Singapore, Tulsa, and Andalucia.

As for his record in international play, Koepka is 6-5-1 across three Ryder Cups and his 2-2-0 record at the 2017 Presidents Cup doesn’t swing him much further into the win column.

Johnson appeared to shove aside any rumors of tension between the eleven PGA players and his sole LIV draftee – saying that Koepka ‘earned’ his spot on the team. ‘He’s built, in my mind, for the biggest of stages,’ Johnson said, ‘And there’s no bigger stage than the Ryder Cup.’

The captain added, ‘When it came to BK, his experience, his temperament, the way he goes about his work, his passion for the Ryder Cup all spoke volumes… Brooks is great in the team room and great inside the ropes… These guys wanted him, I wanted him, [he’s] a very natural fit.’

Brooks Koepka is the only player on the LIV Golf tour to be on a Ryder Cup team this year

Brooks Koepka is the only player on the LIV Golf tour to be on a Ryder Cup team this year

His win at the PGA Championship proved that he hadn't lost a step amongst the world's best

His win at the PGA Championship proved that he hadn’t lost a step amongst the world’s best

Collin Morikawa (Captain’s Pick)

  • Age: 26
  • World Ranking: No. 19
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Second
  • Ryder Cup record: 3-0-1
  • Two-time major champion 

Morikawa is the youngest member of this team but is already one of the more accomplished.

Morikawa went undefeated at his debut Ryder Cup performance in 2021, going 3-0-1 as the US romped to an emphatic victory.

This season, the two-time major winner put on a statistical show – finishing second in driving accuracy, third in GIR, and 13th in average score. 

He put in six top-ten finishes as well – finishing runner-up at Kapalua and losing in a playoff in Detroit.

Morikawa has only one loss in international team play, coming from last year’s Presidents Cup. He’ll put his almost-perfect record on the line once again at Marco Simone.

At 26, Collin Morikawa is the youngest member of the American Ryder Cup team

At 26, Collin Morikawa is the youngest member of the American Ryder Cup team

But that youth doesn't mean inexperience - with two major titles and a Ryder Cup in his pocket

But that youth doesn’t mean inexperience – with two major titles and a Ryder Cup in his pocket

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Sam Burns (Captain’s Pick)

  • Age: 27
  • World Ranking: No. 20
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Rookie

The last of the Ryder Cup rookies, Sam Burns didn’t collect a stroke-play victory in 2023 – but he was constantly poking his nose around the top-ten.

He collected five top-ten finishes this season, including at the Phoenix Open and the Tour Championship.

But what lands Burns on this list was his success at the only match-play event on the calendar: the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, where he beat Cameron Young 6&5.

When asked about his choice, Zach Johnson pointed to Burns’ ‘tremendous’ putting and called him a ‘stud athlete.’ 

Johnson added, ‘To say that he meshes well with the other guys on the team, again, would be a massive understatement. And a versatile teammate. Guys want to be around him, guys want to play with him.’

Sam Burns was victorious in the only match play event on the PGA Tour in Austin this March

Sam Burns was victorious in the only match play event on the PGA Tour in Austin this March

Burns did well at the Presidents Cup in 2022 and hopes to continue his strong play in Rome

Burns did well at the Presidents Cup in 2022 and hopes to continue his strong play in Rome

Justin Thomas (Captain’s Pick)

  • Age: 30
  • World Ranking: No. 24
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Third
  • Ryder Cup record: 6-2-1 
  • Two-time major champion 

The most controversial pick on the American side, Justin Thomas’s inclusion came after a year where the golfer admitted he didn’t perform up to standards.

Thomas missed six cuts during the PGA Tour season – with three of those coming at major tournaments. The only time he didn’t miss a cut at a major – the PGA Championship – he finished tied for 65th and never shot below 72.

So what’s the reason for him being here? Simply put, Thomas and his best friend, Jordan Spieth, have been absolutely dominant in past Ryder Cup play.

When paired together in four-ball action, Spieth and Thomas are 4-0-2 in their two Ryder Cups they’ve played as teammates. At the 2022 Presidents Cup, they were a perfect 4-0-0 in team play.

Zach Johnson must have picked Thomas in the hopes that he and Spieth can re-unite and continue that success for the US.

It seems Thomas knows that’s being asked of him – with his strong showing at the Fortinet Championship just two weeks ago proving that he still is a top golfer. If he can put his rough 2023 in the past and show out in Italy, Johnson’s shock decision will look like a stroke of genius.

Justin Thomas's 2023 started as a season full of promise, but ended as a season to forget

Justin Thomas’s 2023 started as a season full of promise, but ended as a season to forget

Despite his poor form, Thomas's previous success in team play competitions team-play with  his best friend Jordan Spieth was impossible for Zach Johnson to avoid

Despite his poor form, Thomas’s previous success in team play competitions team-play with  his best friend Jordan Spieth was impossible for Zach Johnson to avoid

Rickie Fowler (Captain’s Pick)

  • Age: 34
  • World Ranking: No. 25
  • Ryder Cup appearance: Fifth
  • Ryder Cup record: 3-7-5

If there was such thing as golf’s version of a ‘Comeback Player of the Year’, 2023’s title would surely go to Rickie Fowler.

After falling out of form in the last few years, Fowler just barely made it into the 2022 FedEx Cup playoffs after he moved on from the only caddie he’s ever worked with.

The move seemed to pay off in 2023, where Fowler recorded his first top-five at a major since the 2018 Masters and won his first PGA Tour event since the 2019 Phoenix Open.

In addition to that T-5 finish at the US Open and his win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Fowler logged six top-ten finishes on the tour calendar this year.

Despite being the joint-most seasoned player in this US team at Ryder Cups, Fowler hasn’t been chosen for international play since the 2019 Presidents Cup.

At Ryder Cups, Fowler has a record of 3-7-5 as he’s largely struggled in four-ball play over his five appearances. He’ll look to improve that in Rome.

Rickie Fowler has been on five Ryder Cup teams, with his first international win coming in 2016

Rickie Fowler has been on five Ryder Cup teams, with his first international win coming in 2016

Things have changed drastically since that photo, with Fowler putting on a tremendous comeback season in 2023 - capped off by his first win in four years at the Rocket Mortgage

Things have changed drastically since that photo, with Fowler putting on a tremendous comeback season in 2023 – capped off by his first win in four years at the Rocket Mortgage

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