Zach Johnson filled out his USA Ryder Cup team with familiar faces as he named his six captain’s picks on Tuesday. Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler made the team, along with LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka, as the Americans try to end three decades of losing on European soil.
Johnson also went with Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa and Sam Burns, who will make his Ryder Cup debut despite failing to win a match at the Presidents Cup last year.
Among those Johnson left out for the trip to Rome were Cameron Young, who finished at No 9 in the Ryder Cup standings, and Keegan Bradley, who won twice this season and finished 11th in the standings.
Koepka makes the team after leaving the PGA Tour for LIV last year. He won the PGA Championship, the fifth major title of his career and his first in four years, in May. Koepka, along with his fellow LIV players, are suspended from the PGA Tour after defecting to the Saudi-backed competition. However, they are still members of the PGA of America for a grace period that ends next June, meaning they can compete at the Ryder Cup. Koepka, however, is the only LIV player to make the team.
“The way I see it, [Koepka] basically earned his way onto the team,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy pick. Brooks is great in the team room, great inside the ropes. These guys wanted him. I wanted him. A very natural fit.”
Thomas was only No 15 in the Ryder Cup standings, has gone 15 months without winning and failed to finish among the top 70 who reached the FedEx Cup playoffs this month.
Thomas, however, is considered the emotional spark for the US team. He has a 6-2-1 record in two Ryder Cups and pairs well with Spieth, the three-time major champion who has played in every Ryder Cup since 2014.
“[Thomas] has, without question, been the heart and soul of Team USA,” Johnson said. “Our emotional leader – he leads by example. His passion for the Ryder Cup is very evident. In my mind, he was born for this, and you just don’t leave JT at home.”
The Ryder Cup start on 29 September at Marco Simone outside Rome. The Americans have not won away from home since 1993 at The Belfry in England – some Americans on this team were not even born at the time.
Europe’s team does not get finalized until after the European Masters this week in Switzerland. Luke Donald also has six captain’s picks.