The picks are in, and Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are part of the United States’ defence of the Ryder Cup next month in Rome.
Koepka, Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Thomas were named as the six captain’s picks on Tuesday when Johnson finalized the 2023 U.S. Ryder Cup team roster of 12 looking to snap a 30-year drought on foreign soil.
“A lot of time, lot of energy has gone into this process,” first-time captain Zach Johnson said Tuesday morning in Frisco, Texas. “I’m very confident in these six. That confidence comes from simply surrounding myself with great people.”
Johnson’s six picks join the six players who earned automatic bids -- based on the ranking points system -- and five vice-captains at Marco Simone Golf & Country in Rome, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. The U.S. attempts to win the Ryder Cup for the first time on European soil since 1993.
Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Max Homa, Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark and points leader Scottie Scheffler are the six players to automatically qualify for the 2023 Ryder Cup team based on ranking points. Harman, Homa and Clark are Ryder Cup rookies, as is captain’s pick Burns.
“To say I’m excited about these gents would be an understatement,” Johnson said, touting the experience and versatility available for power pairings in Rome.
Three of four major winners in 2023 are on Johnson’s roster. Harman won The Open, Clark won the U.S. Open and Koepka claimed the PGA Championship.
“What a performance at Oak Hill in May,” Johnson said. “Five-time major champion. He’s built, in my mind, for the biggest of stages. There’s no bigger stage than the Ryder Cup. I know his buddies want him on the team. Guys want to play with him. That’s evident.”
Koepka, 33, will play in his fourth Ryder Cup and has not lost in singles competition on Sundays.
“I think it’s just playing for something bigger than yourself,” Koepka said. “Not wanting to let the other guys down.”
Morikawa, 26, was 3-0-1 as a Ryder Cup rookie at Whistling Straits, where he clinched the winning half-point to beat Europe in Wisconsin.
Fowler, 34, was 12th in points entering Tuesday’s announcement and Johnson credited his win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit as a moment that sealed his return to the roster after not making the team two years ago.
Spieth, 30, and Fowler have played in five Ryder Cups.
“My boy Rick, great 2023. He makes every team room better,” Johnson said.
Fowler will play an “away” Ryder Cup for the fourth time. He said the chemistry within the group is already strong. He wasn’t part of the roster at Whistling Straits in 2021.
“Going through a little bit of a rebuilding last fall, ultimately this was my goal at the top. I knew it was going to be a tough one to achieve,” Fowler said, admitting he was emotional when he received the call from Johnson confirming he was part of the team.
Thomas, 30, is a Ryder Cup veteran but struggled in 2023, failing to qualify for the playoffs by finishing outside the top 70.
“One of the most talented players on the PGA Tour in my opinion. He has without question been the heart and soul of Team USA Ryder Cups,” Johnson said. “His passion for the Ryder Cup is very evident. He has said it himself. In my mind, he was born for this. You just don’t leave JT out.”
Team golf has been a strength of Thomas, who has a 16-5-1 record in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup play.
But Thomas missed five cuts in his last eight starts. He had a horrendous showing at the majors this season that included two rounds over 80. He missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
“It’s why we play professional golf, to be in these types of atmospheres,” Thomas said.
Koepka’s only qualifying points toward the Ryder Cup were earned at the major championships because the PGA of America did not count LIV Golf events toward their rankings.
Koepka rocketed to No. 2 in the standings when he won the PGA Championship in May, but he then tied for 17th at the U.S. Open and 64th at The Open Championship. Schauffele and Homa moved past Koepka for automatic bids at the BMW Championship when Koepka was idle.
Johnson, 47, played 22 PGA Tour events this season and gained direct insight into the chemistry he hopes to create.
Koepka was the only LIV Golf player selected for the team, which meant Dustin Johnson, Talor Gooch and Bryson DeChambeau were left off. Cam Young and Lucas Glover also were not on the roster.
Johnson said Koepka’s “experience, temperament and passion for the Ryder Cup” were the deciding factors into his inclusion on the 2023 team.
Johnson said he “called the gentlemen” who were Top 25 ranked in points but did not say if he called other LIV players.
“All of my phone calls were difficult, that goes without saying,” Johnson said of informing players who weren’t on the final roster. “Specifically Cam. Phenomenal person, better player. All of those phone calls were extremely difficult. Fortunately those receiving them were beyond classy.”
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