Zach Johnson provides update on Justin Thomas’ Ryder Cup status

As the FedEx Cup Playoffs continue, the Ryder Cup captain’s picks debate heats up — and Justin Thomas remains the most intriguing figure.

Thomas’ form and Ryder Cup chances have been a hot topic the past month, as the two-time major winner missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time in his career and will need a captain’s pick to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team that faces Europe next month in Rome.

But this debate has layers. Thomas is 16-5-3 in his career in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, but he’s struggled to find his form this summer. In his last nine starts, he’s missed five cuts and has just two finishes (a T12 and T9) in the top 50. He missed three of the four major cuts this year.

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He’s ranked 14th in the Ryder Cup standings (12 make the team), and U.S. captain Zach Johnson has been asked about Thomas often over the last month. He spoke at length about Thomas at the Open Championship — where the pair shared a rental — and again during this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar Podcast. Co-host Colt Knost asked Johnson if he’s communicated much with Thomas about the Ryder Cup.

“When you have someone that talented and obviously with that high of character, you don’t want to seem them struggle,” Johnson said. “Forget about the Cup, I just want to see him play good golf. And when JT plays good it’s good for everybody too. He is one of our, certainly, one of our assets on the PGA Tour. So yeah, we’ve been communicating. I would hope that he understands, and he does; open lines. We’re going to keep the honesty train going. We are going to leave it all out there. And I have told him I don’t know what’s in store but obviously he’s still in consideration. He’s been a part of Team USA since 2017, guys want to be around him. He’s great in the locker rom. And obviously what he’s done inside the ropes in these Cups is well documented. So his resume speaks for itself.”

We’ll interrupt Johnson here for some critical context. The top six players after this week’s BMW Championship auto qualify for the team, and Johnson will make his six captain’s picks on Aug. 29, the Tuesday after the Tour Championship.

Brian Harman’s Open Championship victory didn’t help Thomas’ chances, as that allowed Harman to leap ahead into an auto-qualifier spot. Thomas is also battling other bubble players like Cameron Young (9th in the standings), Collin Morikawa (10th), Keegan Bradley (11th), Sam Burns (12th) and Rickie Fowler (13th).

There’s also Lucas Glover, who has won his last two starts on Tour and vaulted to 16th in the standings. If he has a strong showing this week and next, how do you leave the hottest player in golf off the squad?

Plus, there’s still lots that can happen this week and next, as players — some that might not even be in the conversation right now — will try and make use of their final starts to impress Johnson and make their case for a pick. Thomas doesn’t have any more starts to do that.

Now, let’s get back to Johnson on Thomas.

“But at the same time I also have to look at all of the other factors involved, right?” he continued. “Whether you are talking about the golf course, horses for courses, that kind of thing, we are still getting into that with the stats, all that data crunching. And then you have to look at form, too. A lot of nuance. A lot of heavy-weighted topics. But he knows that he can call me any time and we can have an open line of communication. So he’s been fantastic. So has everybody else.”

The Ryder Cup is Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy.

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