ROCHESTER, NY — US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson still has more than three months to decide which players will make up his six captain choices for games outside of Rome in September, but he has a pretty good idea of what’s next he seeks.
The six best players in the Ryder Cup points classification after the BMW Championship from August 17th to 20th automatically qualify for the US squad. The team will be announced the following week after the season-ending Tour Championship.
Americans will try to end a 30-year drought on European soil at the Ryder Cup, which runs from September 29 to October 29. 1 at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club outside of Rome.
“I want camaraderie and chemistry in the team room,” Johnson said during a press conference at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on Wednesday. “I want the team to take responsibility for themselves. I think that’s probably more true there than here. I want horses for the courses. I want people who can handle Marco Simone in September and caddies because it’s a hilly gem. There are numerous factors.”
Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Young, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay are currently in the top six on points.
Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Will Zalatoris round out the top 10 on points but Zalatoris will miss the rest of the season due to back surgery and will not compete in the Ryder Cup. Tony Finau, who sits 13th on points, is likely to play his way into the team after winning four times on the PGA Tour since July.
Wyndham Clark, Kurt Kitayama, Chris Kirk, Harris English, Sahith Theegala, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler and others could also be considered.
Johnson was specifically asked about Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, who left the PGA Tour to play in the LIV Golf League. Zach Johnson said it’s difficult to gauge their form as he hasn’t seen them play often in person.
“I don’t travel anywhere but the PGA Tour and the majors,” said Zach Johnson. “I don’t know it. I haven’t really delved into the stats and processing of data and such, so it’s not really fair to me to say that’s the only measurement. But I move in golf circles. I know what’s going on. I am not aware of things. The way I see it, anyone who wants to make the US Ryder Cup team should aim to finish in the top six. Whatever it is, you have to play well and earn your way onto this team.
Dustin Johnson, ranked 37th in US team points standings, prevailed 5-0 in America’s historic 19-9 win over Europe at the 2021 Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits, Wisconsin.
A two-time major champion with 24 career wins on the PGA Tour, Johnson was the singles champion of LIV Golf in its inaugural 2022 season. Last week he also got his first win of 2023 at the LIV Golf tournament in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. At the Masters he finished 48th.
“It’s really difficult for me to judge that,” Zach Johnson said of Dustin Johnson’s chances. “Again, I don’t know the golf courses they play on. I have never seen her before. I am not personally walking there. You are talking about a person whose resume is extremely deep and broad. He’s certainly in my generation.” One of the best players I’ve ever faced, but it’s not fair if I guess his true form, or the true form of anyone I can’t witness.”
Dustin Johnson said he wanted to compete in the Ryder Cup despite the ongoing feud between the LIV Golf League and the PGA Tour.
“I have no idea if I would be selected,” he said. “Of course there’s a chance if I keep playing really well for the rest of the year. Yes, I would definitely like to play in the Ryder Cup. It’s one of my favorite events, especially after the last one.” Ryder Cup. Obviously I’ve had a pretty good week. And yes, it’s just a great event; and yes, I would love to be a part of it.
Koepka, who has been plagued by a knee injury for most of the past two seasons, tied for second place in the Masters, four shots behind winner Jon Rahm. Koepka has a 6-5-1 record on three US Ryder Cup teams.
“I haven’t really seen where he’s at since Augusta,” Zach Johnson said. “He’s played really well that one week, but it’s a week. I don’t want to sit here and say it’s specific, it’s the only thing we’re going to look at. It’s a week, in a big venue, at the Masters tournament. He played great. But until then there is still a lot of golf ahead of us.”
Zach Johnson spoke to Koepka for a few minutes on the putting green at Oak Hill on Wednesday.
“It would be great to represent the United States,” Koepka said. “Every time we do it, it’s always fun. But I don’t focus on that. It’s not my first thought going into a good game this week. If I do my business out here, everything will take care of itself.” If you win you go second, first, first, first, it would be pretty hard not to choose, wouldn’t it? If you take care of the business, I think I should be fine.”
The US team captain said Wednesday that the PGA of America had given him permission to take his team on a reconnaissance trip to Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in mid-August. Johnson said he has told potential team members that the trip will be a priority.
“I’m taking the 12 guys that make up my team to Rome two and a half weeks before the event so they can get a foothold on the site and see Marco Simone firsthand,” said Johnson. “Then when we leave and come back home for two weeks, I think they’ll at least have a pretty realistic expectation of what’s required. I think it helps. I think the journey there will be crucial.”