‘He isn’t playing any good’: Tiger Woods’ ex-coach pans Justin Thomas Ryder Cup captain’s pick

Justin Thomas reacts to putt at 2023 Wyndham Championship

Justin Thomas was picked for the U.S. Ryder Cup team despite a poor season on the course.

Logan Whitton/Getty Images

Golf instructor Hank Haney, former coach to one Tiger Woods, hasn’t shied away from sharing his opinions since parting ways with the 15-time major champ many years ago, both on his social media channels and his eponymous golf podcast.

And those opinions are often controversial ones. But this week he’s striking a chord with many golf fans over the hottest debate within the golf world: Justin Thomas’ selection as a captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

After captain Zach Johnson officially announced his selections on Tuesday afternoon (Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns and Justin Thomas), Haney took to X (formerly Twitter) to share his thoughts on the picks.

“It didn’t matter who Zach Johnson picked the USA team will be heavily favored but those picks confirm it’s the Boys Club.”

Haney’s tweet seemed to imply that the U.S. team is ignoring on-course performance in making picks in favor of considerations like close personal relationships and camaraderie. The opinion received its fair share of supporters and detractors, the latter highlighted by Colt Knost.

“But Europe is so successful in the Ryder Cup bc of their ‘team camaraderie! Or ‘boys club’ as some might call it!!”

While Haney didn’t specify a particular player in his tweet, the most obvious elephant in the room is Thomas. While the two-time major champion has been a fixture on the last two U.S. Ryder Cup teams, he struggled mightily on the course this season. He didn’t win, earned only three top-10 finishes and ended up 71st in the FedEx Cup standings.

As a result, Thomas dropped all the way to No. 15 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. Despite that reality, Thomas was chosen for the team over players in front of him in the standings, including Denny McCarthy (No. 14), Keegan Bradley (No. 11) and Cameron Young (No. 9).

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It turns out that Haney laid out his reasoning for why the U.S. captains should have left Thomas off the team on the most recent episode of the “Hank Haney Podcast,” which was released last week before the captain’s picks were announced.

“First off, they love Justin because he’s their buddy,” Haney argued. “You know what? I like Justin Thomas. I’m a huge Justin Thomas fan. I think Justin Thomas is a great player, he’s won two major championships… Justin Thomas is one of my absolute favorites. He’s a gentleman. He’s a great guy, but he isn’t playing any good.”

While acknowledging Thomas’ resume and his impressive play at previous team events, Haney’s contention is that the primary reason Thomas was picked for the team is because he’s close personal friends with not just other players on the team, but some of the other captain’s picks, such as Spieth and Fowler.

Because of those friendships, Johnson and the U.S. assistant captains overlooked Thomas’ major struggles on the golf course, as he highlighted on the podcast.

“He didn’t make the FedEx Cup Playoffs! Come on, I mean, really?” Haney said.

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Young was a particularly glaring omission, given that he was ranked within the top-10 in the U.S. team standings. And he wasn’t just ranked above Thomas. He also finished ahead of Morikawa, Fowler and Burns.

Johnson admitted to the difficulty of leaving him off the team during his Tuesday press conference.

“All of my phone calls were difficult. That goes without saying. It’s part of what I was warned about when it came to those and my vice-captains that have sat in this seat before,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “It did keep me up at night having to make those phone calls, specifically Cam [Young]. Phenomenal player, better person. He was nothing but class.”

The Ryder Cup officially gets underway Friday, September 29, at Marco Simone in Rome, Italy.

Kevin Cunningham

Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.