Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth headline Zach Johnson’s U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s picks
The debate is over. We now know each of the 12 U.S. golfers who will head to Rome next month for the Ryder Cup. U.S. team captain Zach Johnson made his six captain’s picks Tuesday morning live on Golf Channel.
Half of the U.S. team was already locked with Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele all qualifying based on finishing in the top six of the U.S. Ryder Cup standings after the BMW Championship less than two weeks ago. This past week’s Tour Championship was the last audition for several hopefuls.
With his picks, Johnson added Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Sam Burns to the squad on Tuesday.
“A lot of time, a lot of energy has gone into this process,” Johnson said Tuesday at the announcement. “That’s probably no secret. I am very confident in these six, and my confidence comes from the mere fact that I am surrounding myself with great people.
“We came up with what we felt was six guys that made these other six [auto-qualifiers] whole.”
Of the selections, Thomas’ name is probably the most controversial. The 30-year-old had his worst season as a PGA Tour member in 2023, recording just three top-10s and missing the FedEx Cup Playoffs altogether for the first time in his career. Thomas missed the cut in three of four majors this year following a year in 2022 when he picked up his second major title at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
“He has without question been the heart and soul of Team USA, Ryder Cups, our emotional leader I would say, and I don’t think he would argue with that,” Johnson said. “He just leads by example.”
In two appearances at the Ryder Cup, the No. 26 player in the world has a 6-2-1 record, including going 2-1-1 in 2021 at Whistling Straits, and also went 4-1-0 at last year’s Presidents Cup.
Rumors of Thomas’ potential inclusion on the team based on a report from The Guardian started swirling Monday night.
“I did put a lot of pressure on myself to make this team because it does mean so much to me,” Thomas said. “You can want something too bad, and I’m sure all of us have tried to win golf tournaments too much or tried to force the issue, and there was potentially times this season I did. But yeah, I’m very, very fortunate to be here, and Zach has been very vocal and made it sound great that we are all equal on this team.”
Perhaps also polarizing is the inclusion of Koepka. This year’s PGA champion looked set to make the team through one of the six automatic qualifying spots after his victory at Oak Hill, but he slid out of the standings after the BMW and had to rely on Johnson’s pick to make the team. Koepka held onto a roster spot despite playing in only six events this season that earned Ryder Cup points — the four majors plus two Asian Tour events. He played most of his golf on the LIV Golf circuit.
Koepka, the 14th-ranked player in the world, has a 6-5-1 record in three previous Ryder Cup appearances.
Koepka is the only member of LIV Golf on either Ryder Cup team so far and he’s the first member of the Saudi-backed league to make an international team since its launch last summer.
“When it came to BK, his experience, his temperament, the way he goes about his work, his passion for the Ryder Cup all spoke volumes,” Johnson said. “He would say, and I’m confident in saying, he and I have been communicating a lot, I would say, over the last couple, maybe few months. We’ve had great discussions, very candid discussions.”
Spieth, Fowler and Morikawa were the least surprising of the selections. Despite not winning this season, Spieth put together a solid campaign, notching seven top-10s, including a runner-up at the RBC Heritage. This will mark Spieth’s fifth Ryder Cup and he went a perfect 5-0-0 at Quail Hollow last year in the Presidents Cup. Morikawa also did not win this season but went undefeated in his lone Ryder Cup appearance, going 3-0-1 during the American beat down at Whistling Straits in ’21.
Fowler saw a massive resurgence in 2023, leading the U.S. Open after 54 holes and picking up his first win since 2019 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. In four previous appearances, Fowler’s Ryder Cup record is a less-than-stellar 3-7-5.
Rounding out the picks was World No. 22 Sam Burns. After winning three times in 2021-22, Burns won once this past season, defeating Cameron Young in the finals of the WGC-Match Play. Burns has never played in the Ryder Cup, but did pair several times with close friend Scottie Scheffler at the Presidents Cup, going 0-3-2.
“To say that he meshes well with the other guys on the team, again, would be a massive understatement,” Johnson said of Burns. “Guys want to be around him. Guys want to play with him. It’s nice locking hands with somebody, locking shoulders with somebody that you want to be around, and Sam fits that to a tee.”
Lucus Glover was not among the selections, despite winning back-to-back starts earlier this month at the Wyndham Championship and the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. However, the late-season heroics only lifted him to 16th in the final standings, which was evidently not enough to earn a captain’s nod.
“Lucas and I are very good friends. We’ve basically worked our way up through the PGA Tour together, played on cup teams together. We’ve been teammates,” Johnson said of the 43-year-old. “Lucas was a part of our discussions but so were a number of other guys, and when it came down to the filtering, with all the elements that I’ve talked about, these are the six guys that are the best fit for the golf course.”
European captain Luke Donald will finalize his team with captain’s selections next Tuesday, Sept. 5. Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton have already secured their spots on the team with two more players to qualify via the European and World points lists after Sept. 3.
The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome.