What nearly brought Zach Johnson to tears during his Ryder Cup press conference
The festivities at the PGA of America headquarters in Frisco, Texas, were coming to a close. The auto-qualifiers were previously set, the captain’s picks were just announced and U.S. captain Zach Johnson and the six newest U.S. players had spent about 45 minutes answering questions from the press.
But some of the final questions — or the answers they inspired — pulled at Johnson’s heartstrings. Or perhaps it was the finality of his 12 players finally set, or the realization of the event quickly approaching after nearly two long years of waiting.
Julius Mason of the PGA of America emceed the press conference. After the media finished asking their questions, Mason asked Johnson about a previous comment in which he said he was excited to lead a team overseas as opposed to at home.
“I’ve probably mentioned, I think these six guys are built for competing over there. I very much feel like I’m built that way, too,” Johnson said. “Of the five Ryder Cups I’ve played, I’ve played in three over there, and I have enjoyed every second of it. I didn’t really enjoy the scoreboard at the end of them, but I enjoy what it takes out of me to go fight, whether I’m playing a singles match or whether I’m playing in tandems with a buddy. It’s what I feel like I’m designed to do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my favorite thing in sports is to be on a Ryder Cup team representing this nation. I would be thrilled, the honor of doing it in the United States, because this is my country, but I am equally as thrilled to do it over there.”
Johnson, it appeared, started to get emotional toward the end of that answer, as he talked about the importance of representing his country. But the next question got him.
Can you believe that you and [wife] Kim are going to be packing your bags in less than a month from now?
“No, I’m packing just one. She’s packing for four. I’ll be done really quick,” he said. “No, I cannot. I know we’ll be ready. I know what’s ahead. It seems like months upon months away, and I’ve been saying that for months. Now it’s right around the corner, which is crazy to really think. This journey has been amazing. The process of it has been amazing. I’ve had former captains, specifically some vice captains of mine, but even other captains that have said, ‘Just enjoy the process, enjoy the journey, write things down. But just try to find the joy in it.’ Yes, there’s been a lot of work and a lot of things that you can’t really plan for, but that’s also part of the joy in it.
“Just really excited,” he continued. “Really excited about having my 12 guys complete. Really excited that these are the guys that all of us, corporately, feel like we can go on a mission with only one goal. But we’re going to do it together. We’re going to do it with character. We’re going to do it with high class. We’re going to do it with the integrity that the Ryder Cup deserves. Partnering with Luke and Diane [Donald] through this time has been special. Nothing but the utmost respect for Luke. We’ve been buddies for quite a while. Kind of doing this with him I think has been a joy and certainly something that I feel fortunate. He’s been overly transparent with me on things that we can kind of hash out together. I don’t take that lightly. Again, my excitement is immense.”
Then, he dropped in one final comment.
“The best thing, personally, is being able to share this with my wife, Kim,” he said.
Johnson then paused for a few seconds, biting at his lip and fighting his facial expression to stymie the emotion. He gestured with his hands and whispered “I’m not gonna cry.” He leaned back in his chair and blinked to clear his eyes.
“Dadgum it,” he said.
Why the emotion? Well, the Ryder Cup is special for several reasons, but players’ wives — and especially the wife of the captain — have roles, too. The captain’s wife handles lots of the planning, the design and layout of team rooms, input on team uniforms, hotel scouting and bookings and many other logistics. Johnson’s wife, for example, made her own trip to Rome in July for some intel. Not many pro golf events have husband and wife work so closely together, but for the Ryder Cup captain and his wife, it’s essential. For Johnson, that teamwork has been memorable, too.
After a question about the Junior Ryder Cup, the press conference was over. The actual Ryder Cup begins in less than 30 days. It’s been a long time coming.
You can watch the full press conference below.