Zach Johnson puts LIV questions to rest with Brooks Koepka pick

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka at the 2021 Ryder Cup.

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The wait is over. With 31 days remaining until the start of the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, Team USA is finally complete, as U.S. captain Zach Johnson made his six captain’s picks on Tuesday morning: Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka.

Those players join automatic qualifiers Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele. While there were a handful of notable snubs, Johnson’s fully-assembled team looks pretty strong on paper. And perhaps more importantly, Tuesday’s announcement ended all doubts about whether or not LIV players would be excluded from the bi-annual exhibition as they were in the 2022 Presidents Cup, as Koepka’s selection made him the lone LIV golfer on the U.S. roster.

Johnson described his picks as “a great fit for each other,” and noted that he has a lot of options in terms of pairings. The American team will be facing some tough history, as the Europeans have won the last six overseas matchups.

Given the tense atmosphere over the last 18 months between LIV and the PGA Tour, many wondered whether or not a LIV player would be capable of gelling with a Tour-centric squad. But Johnson mentioned that personalities and the opportunity for camaraderie and a good team room played into his decision on captain’s picks, and it’s clear that Koepka fit the bill.

“Five-time major champion, three-time PGA champion. He’s built in my mind for the biggest of stages, and there’s no bigger stage than the Ryder Cup,” Johnson said of Koepka. “I think his record shows that. I know his buddies want him on the team. He’s very versatile. Guys want to play with him. That’s evident. I’m excited to have him go to Marco Simone on what will be the biggest stage in golf.”

When Johnson was questioned about whether or not Koepka’s LIV affiliation gave him pause when considering his inclusion, Johnson indicated that picking Koepka was an easy call.

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“What figured in my decision making was trying to formulate, pick six gentlemen that make the six guys that earned their way whole, meaning they’re all one-twelfth of the team. These guys are not ranked. They’re all a part of the team equally,” he said. “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. 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.

“When he started to really make his way on to this team, the way I kind of see it, he basically earned his way on the team, if you’re going to get down to the pennies and dollars of it,” Johnson continued. “It was a pretty easy pick. Brooks is great in the team room and great inside the ropes. That goes without saying. These guys wanted him. I wanted him. A very natural fit.”

Though Koepka won his fifth major at this year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill, he needed a pick because he only played six Ryder Cup points-earning events this season. This year will mark Kopeka’s fourth consecutive Ryder Cup team. He has a 6-5-1 career record, and a 2-2 Presidents Cup record from his appearance in 2017. Koepka missed the last two Presidents Cup with an injury and the LIV ban, respectively.

“Yeah, last years have been a lot, but at the same time, that’s what I’ve been grinding for,” Koepka said of being named to the team. “That’s what I’ve been trying to get back into shape, and 100 percent feel good, just for this moment and get out and go play with the team.

“Super excited, looking forward to it, and we’ve got a great group of guys, great captain, great assistants. It’s going to be a fun week.”

The Ryder Cup begins on Friday, September 29 in Rome. Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on