Team USA Captain Zach Johnson and Team Europe Captain
Henrik Stenson Luke Donald have made their respective selections for their six, non-qualifying spots on their Ryder Cup teams for the 2023 event kicking off later this month at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Guidonia Montecelio near Rome.
If there was ever a “talking season” for professional golf, the next few weeks are it. This is the real team golf we wait patiently for every two years. The Captains’ selections (six each) certainly gave the match some serious momentum (and media attention) with a few notable snubs which helped build the hype for professional golf with no big-time men’s tournaments taking place between the Tour Championship and Friday, Sept. 29, Day 1 of this year’s event.
Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele were the qualifying players for the American squad, while Europe are led by points qualifiers Rory McIlroy, John Rahm, Victor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Robert McIntrye. Now that’s a list of heavyweights (and McIntrye).
Those names playing head-to-head is enough to really get the fire started. In total, 14 out of the top 15 players in the world help make up either side. And while we prepare for the festivities, the debate rages on about who
got the shaft had the biggest case to make the team for this illustrious event but didn’t get the call from their captain.
The golf world let their voices be heard when Captain Johnson made his announcement. Keegan Bradly, Lucas Glover, Cameron Young, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau were left on the outside looking in. Bradley in particular has reason to feel slighted. He’s ranked higher in the World Golf Rankings than four others who were picked ahead of him. His season included two wins, including lifting the Big-A at the Travelers, a designated event that took place in late June. He had a helluva year, one that is going to be tough to replicate as he moves into his 40’s. Like us, you got to feel for him.
Clearly, it was all about chemistry and comfort for Captain Johnson. And the team is far more marketable with the SB2K trio of JT, Jordan and Rickie. Honestly, as a fan, I would have picked the same squad as the Captain, but seeing Bradley and a journeyman on a heater like Lucas Glover would have been golden too. Tough decisions all-around.
Across the Atlantic, Captain Donald had far less difficult decisions to make. Really, it was the last two spots between Nicolai Hogjaard, Ludvig Aberg and Adrian Meronk that were up in the air. Some thought Shane Lowry should have been sweating it too for a final spot, but his experience and all-around good guy personality perfectly fits into the team comradery approach that Team Europe embraces every two years when the greatest team golf event in the world comes around. That has been their winning formula winning nine out of the last 13 editions.
Here are the Captains’ picks and how we grade each selection:
- Brooks Koepka (A+):
- Despite all the PGA Tour / LIV Golf drama, Koepka seemed to keep his personal relationships with his peers on both tours, well, personal. He’s a gamer and turns up his play for any big stage. Though, he doesn’t have his fellow bash brother (Dustin Johnson) by his side, his swagger is welcomed and he can pull off the red, white and blue as good as anyone.
- Rickie Fowler (A+):
- Fowler is popular amongst his peers and fans for a reason. He’s a stud. An all-American, all-around great guy with an Olympics rings tattoo on his bicep. He lives for team golf. And he probably received an early call from Captain Johnson after he won the Rocket Mortgage Classic. No doubt he’ll bring a team-first approach to the week. Big question is who will his partner be in the early matches if JT and Jordan play together? You can’t just sit the crowd favorite on the bench, can you?
- Jordan Spieth (A):
- No wins since the 2022 RBC Heritage but Spieth was not about to get left off this team. Consistent play has him 12th in the OWGR and this might come as a shock but he is now the MOST experienced player on Team USA with an overall record of 8-7-3. Crazy.
- Collin Morikawa (B+):
- His resume, at least for this year, is similar to Sam Burns. With the glaring exception of zero wins this year. Actually, his last professional win came at The Open in 2021. So, more than two full calendar years ago. But I guess in the Captain’s eye, it just didn’t feel too long ago. We know Morikawa has the talent though. He went 3-0-1 as a Ryder Cup rookie at Whistling Straits. And he’s got moxie.
- Justin Thomas (B):
- Captain Johnson basically said he doesn’t give a shi* what anyone else thinks. This is his team and his responsibility to build it out into a winner. Did JT deserve to make the team? That’s debatable. What’s not is that JT has a 6-2-1 record in two previous Ryder Cup appearances and a 10-3-2 mark in three Presidents Cups. He will be a leader in the locker room in Rome, and making the rest of the team members believe they can win is key to victory.
- Sam Burns (C):
- The 27-year-old may have cemented his spot earlier this year by winning the WGC Dell Match Play event back in March. He won 6 and 5 over Cam Young, a notable snub from this year’s team; so maybe that helped push him through. Not really a remarkable year with as many missed cuts as top 10s. Burns went 0-3-2 at the 2022 Presidents Cup, his debut in a team event as a pro.
NOTABLE SNUBS (Points Position):
- Cam Young (9)
- Keegan Bradley (11)
- Lucas Glover (16)
- Tony Finau (21)
- Tommy Fleetwood (A):
- The Englishman is playing in his third Ryder Cup. A good season overall but he couldn’t breakthrough in a major despite being in position during the weekend on a couple of occasions. But he made the cut in all four majors this year including a T5 in the U.S. Open and T10 at The Open. On the PGA Tour he lost the RBC Canadian Open in a playoff and was T6 last month at the Tour Championship.
- Justin Rose (A-):
- Rose will be the oldest player in the field at 43 and is playing in his sixth Ryder Cup. Proving age is just a number, he gutted out a win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this year for his first victory on the PGA Tour in four years. But it’s his experience Captain Donald was after. He has played in 23 Ryder Cup matches, winning 13, tying two and losing eight, with a total points tally of 14.
- Ludvig Aberg (B+):
- Aberg is the third rookie on the team and you probably don’t know him either. He’s fresh off a win Sunday at the European Masters which probably allowed Donald to feel confident in his final selection. The 23-year-old Swede was the best college player in the U.S. in his last two years at Texas Tech and enjoyed a fine rookie season on the PGA Tour, too. Superstar in the making.
- Sepp Straka (B)
- Straka will make his Ryder Cup debut and become the second Austrian to compete in the famed event. A sneaky good player that doesn’t have the appeal of being an American on the PGA Tour or he’d get more respect. He finished T2 at The Open and won for the second time on the PGA Tour in July at the John Deere Classic. He’s higher in the OWGR than a couple of the players on Team USA.
- Shane Lowry (B-)
- The Irishman will make his second Ryder Cup start. His career cooled off just a bit after he won the 2019 Open, but does have a (kinda) recent win – the 2022 BMW PGA Championship on the DP World Tour. If the two teams get into a drinking contest after the matches, Lowry provides a nice anchor.
- Nicolai Hojgaard (C-)
- Who? Unless you follow the DP World Tour closely, this name probably doesn’t ring a bell. But it looks like Captain Donald went with the hot hand here as Hojgaard carded top-6 finishes in his last four DP World Tour starts. He’s a Ryder Cup rookie, and the 22-year-old Danish player will look to make his mark early for Team European. Maybe his identical twin brother will caddie for him.
- Yannik Paul
- Adrian Meronk
- Padraig Harrington
- Rasmus Hojgaard
Sergio Garcia Ian Poulter Lee Westwood