US Ryder Cup Team: Who's a lock and who's praying for a pick?
Jun 12, 2023
Brooks Koepka (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)
Brooks Koepka’s appearance at the Ryder Cup in Rome is now in the hands of captain Zach Johnson after the PGA champion narrowly missed out on automatic qualification.
When Koepka outdueled Viktor Hovland and Scottie Sheffler to win his third PGA and fifth Major Championship, it put him in a great position to make the United States team that heads to Marco Simone Golf Club outside of Rome.
Due to his participation in the LIV golf series, Koepka only had two remaining counting events before the cut off after the BMW PGA championship. He finished in a tie for 17th in the US Open and had a poor Open Championship, finishing in a tie for 64th.
Koepka has one top 10 since his win at the PGA and that came at the LIV Golf Invitational Andalucía at Valderrama, but despite this Koepka is known as a ‘big game’ player and the US team would be stronger with him in it.
Koepka was fifth entering the BMW Championship in Chicago last week but after good performances from Max Homa and Xander Schauffele, Koepka was bumped to seventh in the standings and missed out on qualification by one spot.
Captain Zach Johnson has cast doubt over the possibility of Koepka and other LIV players getting a pick on August 29th.
He admitted: that “there hasn’t been much communication” between his team and the players on the LIV tour.
“It’s hard because I’m not able to witness what they’re doing and see their form, with the exception of four events a year. What Brooks has done this year, well no one’s surprised. I’m just glad he’s healthy,” Johnson added.
Bryson DeChambeau added further fuel to the fire by telling golf week that there has been a lack of communication between captain Johnson and the players on LIV.
“I talked to Captain Johnson at the PGA Championship a little bit. He said, ‘Good luck, play well, man. Rooting for you.’ After that, nothing,” DeChambeau said.
Koepka is probably the only LIV golfer who has a realistic chance of a captains pick due to his major victory at Oak Hill just 3 months ago, though DeChambeau’s recent win at LIV Greenbrier in which he shot rounds of 61 and an incredible 58 at the weekend thrust him into the conversation.
It remains to be seen whether any LIV golfers will get picked but there are plenty of big names who are hoping to be on the plane to Italy come the last week in September.
Locks for a pick
Spieth barely made the Tour Championship and will start next week in 29th place. Despite not winning this year, Spieth has shown glimpses of the form that saw him win four majors and finally seems to be over his slump from years past. Spieth is a lock because of his Ryder Cup pedigree. A 53 percent winning record might not sound groundbreaking, but Spieth’s partnerships with Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed have, in both Ryder and Presidents Cups, been key to the US team’s minimal success in recent times.
Koepka has to be on this team. He’s a recent major winner and also finished in a tie for second at the Masters. Koepka’s poor form outside the majors is nothing new and the PGA champion has made a habit of showing up when it matters most. I’d be very surprised if Koepka wasn’t on the plane but as a European fan, I’d be delighted!
Probably on the plane:
I was tempted to put Young in the lock category after Fred Couples said he was “going to Rome.” Young played in the final group at the Open Championship, finishing in a tie for eighth, but an inconsistent season means he won’t be at the Tour Championship, leaving doubt about his appearance at the Ryder Cup. But Freddie Couples doesn’t lie, does he…?
2023 was the year of Rickie Fowler’s return after years in the shadows. Fowler had eight top 10s in the 2022/23 season, including his first win in four years at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Fowler moved from 185th in the world before the first event of the year to 26th as of today. Fowler will be a great addition to the US team and has previous form on European soil that makes him a likely pick.
Despite falling outside the world’s top 20, Morikawa’s ball striking ability makes him a great asset to the US team. Morikawa went 3-0-1 in the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits including a tie with Viktor Hovland in the singles. Morikawa already has a natural partner in the team after teaming with Max Homa during the Presidents Cup and the Zurich Classic. A tie for 13th last week shows Morikawa’s form is improving. I would be surprised if Morikawa isn’t on the plane to Italy.
Hoping for a pick
When Justin Thomas’ ball skipped by the edge of the hole on the 18th at the Wyndham Championship, signalling the end of JT’s season, many would have assumed that his Ryder Cup chances were gone. But just like Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia for the European team, Thomas embodies the passion and leadership that is needed in the Ryder Cup. In a team with three rookies already qualified and potentially a couple more, Thomas would be a great addition and just like Poulter and Garcia have done countless times, it wouldn’t shock me if Thomas was picked and performed brilliantly. His previous partnership with Jordan Spieth in team competition is also another big positive worth noting.
Lucas Glover: Talk about perfect timing. Lucas Glover’s recent form is reminiscent of an NBA player who’s been slacking all season, before starting to turn it on as the playoffs get closer. Glover winning two weeks in a row has made him a late case for a captains pick and his inclusion is all down to Zach Johnson and whether he is willing to take the risk and trust that the 2009 US Open champion is going to continue his purple patch in an away Ryder Cup environment.
Sam Burns: Maybe it’s because of all the LIV golf and litigation news this season but I completely forgot that Sam Burns won the WGC Dell Match play earlier this season. Burns has been solid if not spectacular since his win, sitting in 26th place in the FedEx Cup rankings. A good week at the Tour championship and his match play pedigree might be enough to convince Zach Johnson to include him as one of the six picks on Tuesday August 29th.
Listen to this weeks podcast below
Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.