Zach Johnson reflects on a Ryder Cup regret, preparation and a lopsided loss in Rome

zach johnson at the 2023 ryder cup

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson met with the media on Tuesday and discussed the Americans' loss in Rome.

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When Zach Johnson spoke to the media on Tuesday in St. Simons Island, Ga., it had been 44 days since the Americans lost the Ryder Cup, and 44 days since Johnson spoke about it publicly.

He still thinks about it a lot.

“There’s really about a year of true work, maybe 13, 14 months of work, so when you have something of that magnitude that you’re doing day in and day out for the most part and then it comes to an abrupt halt, you can’t not think about it. And I love it, I am a fanatic of the Ryder Cup,” said Johnson, ahead of this week’s RSM Classic, the final event of the PGA Tour season. “So given my role in the last one, yeah, it’s natural. I’ve got a lot of 20/20 hindsight things that I certainly think about. Arguably, some regrets. But I think again something of that magnitude, win or lose, you’re going to have that, that’s sports.”

In a press conference in which more than a half dozen of the questions were focused on the Ryder Cup, what went wrong, second-guessing, what happens next and more, Johnson did highlight one regret, which is a term he tip-toed around that night in Rome.

Johnson, on Tuesday, talked about compartmentalizing. How the best athletes — especially golfers — can do that well. Tiger Woods, he said, was one of the best at it.

“What I’m saying about compartmentalization is I think when it comes down to it, I look at things, every piece of my job is just that. Even within that compartment, there’s compartments. So I try to treat the Ryder Cup in that manner. I’m not one to tell them what to do or how to play, obviously I’m not their coach, but I am trying to put these guys in a position to play their best golf. That’s what compartmentalizing is,” Johnson said. “So I looked at every aspect of the Ryder Cup before and the week of and tried to diagnose it and study it and figure it out, like what’s the most efficient way to tackle each and every item. The common denominator that I go back to that I wish I could have changed, or not changed, I wish it would have dawned on me earlier is just the pure commodity of time and understanding that it’s precious. … If I could have put more value into time management, I could have put my guys in a better position to play golf at a better rate early on. I’m not suggesting that would have changed the outcome, not at all. I can’t determine that, that’s sports, right? I’m just saying I think in my seat I didn’t see what needed to be seen until after the fact. Now, it’s been seen and it’s been voiced by me and probably a couple others but specifically myself, so hopefully next time around there’s a better template put into place so these guys can go play golf.”

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While Johnson didn’t provide examples when what exactly he meant regarding time management, if he was alluding to the pre-tournament preparation, that was one key storyline that was hit on often. Former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley touched on it often during the week, as did others. Only nine of the 12 American players made it over for the scouting trip a few weeks earlier, and the majority of the team hadn’t played competitively since the Tour Championship, which ended five weeks earlier. Europe, meanwhile, had all 12 of its players compete in the BMW PGA Championship two weeks before the Ryder Cup. Seven finished in the top 10.

Asked about it on Tuesday, Johnson said “there could be some truth in that” angle, and said it’s already been talked about, hoping the PGA Tour, PGA of America, DP World Tour and Ryder Cup Europe collaborate moving forward.

“Ideally you want to have some fresh guys. I don’t know if it’s the captain’s role to say, ‘Hey, you guys got to go play.’ I don’t know if that’s the proper way to approach it,” Johnson said. “Bottom line is the FedExCup takes a lot of time, energy and they need to rest, too.”

After Rome, the home team has now won the Ryder Cup in eight of the last nine meetings. (“Anybody can beat anybody at any given time,” Johnson essentially said, to condense one lengthy answer about the anatomy of home-field advantage.) Rory McIlroy said winning a road Ryder Cup might be one of the hardest things to do in sports.

But on Sunday in Rome, after the U.S. lost 16.5-11.5, it was Johnson who was stuck talking about his team’s performance, questionable pairings and team-room controversy. While Luke Donald, who led Europe, was heavily praised.

“I’m not going to fault anybody for suggesting that Luke did a better job because they won,” Johnson said. “That’s only natural. I think Luke would also attest to that, you know what, he’s happy for his 12 guys that won. I’m upset that my 12 guys did not win.”

As for the coach in 2025, that’s up in the air. Years ago, Phil Mickelson seemed like the likely candidate, but things are different now. Would Johnson, if asked, be game to lead the Americans at Bethpage Black?

“Oh, my gosh, I don’t know. That’s the first time I’ve had that question posed,” he said. “I’ll just say this: I will serve Team USA to essentially any capacity if there’s individuals that want me to be a part of it. If I’m the best choice for this, that or the other, whatever that role is, I am able and willing to help them out because I love helping and serving. You know, I’ve learned a lot obviously, I have some experience, but at the same time I think again one of the beauties of Team USA is that we have new guys coming up that deserve an opportunity and have the ability and the passion to do it as well.”

Josh Berhow Editor

As’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at

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