Four time major-winning Brooks Koepka has singled out double major-winning Zach Johnson for praise ahead of Johnson being named 2023 USA Ryder Cup captain on Monday.
Johnson, who turns 46 on February 24th, will take over from good friend Steve Stricker as the USA team captain as he not only seeks to defend the Ryder Cup but also win on European soil for the first occasion since 1993 at The Belfry.
Johnson’s appointment is not unexpected but can also be interpreted as a surprise given that the now 51-year-old Phil Mickelson seemed the likely choice in the aftermath of the American’s domination of last year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. As such, the announcement of Johnson will come as a shock to Mickelson fans.
However, there are no disputing Johnson’s credentials in leading the Americans to Rome. He has played in five Ryder Cups from his debut in 2006 to his only win in being a member of the 2016 victorious side at Hazeltine.
For the past two Ryder Cups, Johnson has acted as vice-captain while he’s also been a member of four victorious USA President Cup teams.
Among the first to congratulate Johnson was Koepka when speaking ahead of this week’s Honda Classic where Johnson is also competing in the $8m event again at PGA National in Florida
“I like Zach. He’s always been fun in the team rooms. He’s been kind of a little bit of a rah-rah guy, which is always good”, said Koepka.
“Some of the stuff he comes up with that the public won’t see and what we see behind closed doors is probably what makes — we all knew he was in line, knew it was going to happen sooner or later, so it’s nice to see him get one. But yeah, the stuff he does behind closed doors is what I think makes the big difference, and I think every guy that’s played on a team that he’s been an assistant or played with him would definitely agree with that and be happy to see him do it”.
Johnson is also a winner of the 2007 Masters and 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews, thus putting him in a very elite club of just six golfers, including Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, and Tiger Woods to have won both at Augusta National and on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
With the PGA of America set to confirm Johnson’s captaincy on Monday, we still wait in anticipation of the new European Team captain to take on the Americans at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club on the outskirts of the Italian capital.
The usual end-of-year DP World Player of the Year was only announced last week, nearly six weeks post the final event of the 2021 season and now news of the new European Ryder Cup captain is also well behind previous times in an announcement of the replacement to Padraig Harrington.
Though one does not have to think too long or hard for the likely reason for the delay.