Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we’re discussing Solheim Cup week, Rory McIlroy’s Subpar interview, Dustin Johnson and the Ryder Cup, and more.
1. The Solheim Cup starts this week at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain, and there is no shortage of storylines. Which one will you be watching most closely?
Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): I’ll be interested to see how Lexi Thompson’s week plays out. She’s been out of form all season (to put it lightly), but coming up clutch in Spain could completely flip the narrative for her in 2023.
Claire Rogers, senior social media manager (@kclairerogers): Rose Zhang! I can’t wait to see what the Solheim Cup (and LPGA!) rookie brings to the matches and how her game stacks up in a team setting.
Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): Let’s stay big picture: Can the Americans win?! Team Europe comes in with two victories in a row and four of the past six, including some shockers. Team USA once again enters with the edge in on-paper talent, world ranking etc. Will it actually matter? More specifically I’m intrigued to dive into the subgroup represented by Team Sweden; there are four Swedes on the European side, including player-slash-assistant-captain Anna Nordqvist and future World No. 1 Linn Grant. The Swedes are stars! How will they perform under the bright lights?
2. Who is your MVP from the American side? The European side?
Melton: American MVP: Rose Zhang. European MVP: Leona Maguire.
Rogers: I have to agree with Zephyr on the U.S. side. Rose Zhang for the Americans, Linn Grant for the Europeans.
Dethier: Gimme Meghan Khang for the US; she’s been playing incredible golf and should mesh well with any playing partner — including Nelly Korda? But if you’re an investor, you should still find her at some better odds. For Team Europe, I’d go Charley Hull. Her summer suggests she’ll embrace the moment.
3. Rory McIlroy appeared on GOLF’s Subpar podcast this week and discussed several subjects, including the Ryder Cup, where he believes the Americans will have an advantage with wedges and short irons; the Masters and what’s holding him back; Michael Block, whom he played with during the final round of the PGA Championship; and whom he would like to punch more: 2007 Walker Cup Billy Horschel or 2016 Ryder Cup Patrick Reed. With that, what was the most interesting nugget from McIlroy’s appearance?
Melton: I enjoyed his tales about Michael Block. The club pro was one of the best stories of the year, and getting to relive some of his best moments from Oak Hill was a joy.
Rogers: I was surprised to learn how much McIlroy hated facing Billy Horschel at the 2007 Walker Cup. It’s funny to think about how long these guys have all been facing each other, and to hear that the two of them went from that to being good pals makes me wonder how many other guys were junior and amateur golf rivals.
Dethier: The interview had no lack of good nuggets, including those two — but I was intrigued by what he didn’t say. McIlroy has become something of a lightning rod for the pro-LIV crowd and has even engendered mixed emotions from some corners of the PGA Tour, too. That’s partly why, beginning this summer, he took a step back from being so vocal about the whole thing. He reiterated that point in the Subpar appearance; he pointed out that he didn’t want to say too much. That’s not exactly in his nature, so the fact that he was thinking about it (and waited this long to join the pod) suggests he’s well-attuned to his public perception.
4. Dustin Johnson, in an interview this week with the Palm Beach Post, said that he “would love to be a part” of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and that while his play wasn’t great in 2023, he thinks it was enough to have earned a spot in Rome. Furthermore, Johnson went on to claim that if he hadn’t joined LIV Golf and instead had plied his trade on the PGA Tour, he would be heading to Marco Simone with the rest of the American Ryder Cuppers, just as he did in 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2021. Should Johnson have been more strongly considered? What else could he have done?
Melton: I’m not sure why DJ thinks he played well enough to be on the team this year. He’s got just two major top 10s in his past eight starts and has been largely irrelevant in golf’s biggest events since his 2020 Masters triumph. Sure, he’s won a couple LIV events of late, but does that really mean much? If he wants to be considered more seriously, he simply needs to play better when lined up against the game’s other top stars.
Rogers: Before I even get into this, I just need to say that I absolutely love DJ’s confidence here. “Yeah I didn’t play that well, but it was still good enough” is an awesome take. Do I think he’d be heading there if he didn’t go to LIV? Probably. But again, these guys knew what they were getting into when they went over there to play. It makes a ton of sense for Koepka to be on the team after his win at Oak Hill, but without a major win, it’s hard to make an argument for the guys on LIV because they had been told they wouldn’t be eligible.
Dethier: It’s sort of an impossible hypothetical because if Dustin Johnson had played on the PGA Tour, we would have had a completely different sample to work with. That either would have been good for DJ (top finishes against better competition!), bad for DJ (mediocre golf in deep fields!), or neutral for DJ (a little bit of everything — think Cameron Young’s resume). His 5-0-0 record at Whistling Straits would give him an edge. So would the fact that he’s one of this generation’s greatest golfers. As a result, there’s a better chance he would have made it … but that’s a different world than this one.
5. Justin Thomas, after a year where he missed the PGA Tour’s playoffs, finished fifth at this week’s Fortinet Championship, displaying a few changes along the way. Notably, he said he’s taking more ownership of his game from an instruction standpoint — his coach is his dad, Mike — and he added a longer driver. What did you learn from Thomas this week? How big was the finish for him and the U.S. Ryder Cup team?
Melton: Confidence is everything in golf, and all it takes is one week to get your mojo back. If in fact this is a turning point for JT, the Americans’ chances in Rome just got a hell of a lot better.
Rogers: I learned that those 80s in the spring probably didn’t mean much! The strong finish should help build confidence and momentum heading into Rome and hopefully silence the JT doubters a bit.
Dethier: This finish didn’t do anything for the Ryder Cup team in the sense that it’s still 0-0 heading to next week. But it should shut up some of the doubters arguing that Thomas is in poor form; instead of being the guy who missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs, he’s now the guy coming off a T12 at the Wyndham and a fifth at the Fortinet. I’m sure U.S. captain Zach Johnson is happy to have some better ammo for his decision.
6. Next Saturday is the start of fall. And the start of fall means the start of fall golf. Where are you looking at playing among the cooler temps and colorful backgrounds?
Melton: Anywhere and everywhere in the Northeast. When the leaves start to turn colors in the fall, there are few places with a more picturesque setting. Fall golf in the Northeast is unmatched.
Rogers: Boston! There are a handful of courses right near me that I played at for high school matches many moons ago, and I’m excited to return to them this fall. Granite Links, Robert T. Lynch, George Wright, William Devine and Blue Hills are all on my list.
Dethier: I’ll be touring the Pacific Northwest; there’s some urgency to September and early October golf here before the rains come. Chambers Bay is terrific in every season …