This week may be the PGA Championship but it’s customary each year for the PGA of America to extend an invitation to the rival captains to visit the media centre for an update on the Ryder Cup.
It’s only been a few months since the PGA of America announced Zach Johnson as their defending USA Team captain while it was later than normal, indeed on March 15th, the European Tour announced Henrik Stenson as the first Swedish-born player to lead a European Team
Stenson’s appointment in taking over from Padraig Harrington did come as a surprise given possible links to the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway league but that aside, the 46-year-old seems to be warming to the European captaincy role, albeit it’s only been two months, and we’re just over 500 days away to teeing-off on September 29th next year for the hosting of the 44th Ryder Cup.
“The Ryder Cup is about 500 days away, and we’d better make use of those 500 days”, said Stenson smiling. “I’ve got a big and strong team around me, my own personal team that works together with Ryder Cup Europe, and there’s a lot of wheels that are spinning at the moment. A lot of things in planning. And I’m heading down to Rome in a couple of weeks’ time for the first site visit. We have a busy couple of days ahead of us there.
“It’s already started, and a lot of fun processes. It’s a very big honour, obviously, to be named the captain and to get to lead the European team on home soil next September.
“We’re going to try and do everything we can to be well prepared and ready”.
Stenson was asked why he felt it was not till March 15th his appointment was made, and while it very well seems to have been influenced by the talk of the Saudi-backed league, the 21-year times tour winner, was at his political best.
“I think if you look at the announcement of the European Captain over the last two, three times, there hasn’t really been a set time for when that has been announced,” he said. “It’s been, I think, anything from December to February to January to March. It’s been kind of a little bit all over the place within the same time frame. I don’t know if there’s anything to read into that.
“There is a captain’s agreement that’s been signed between the captain and the European Tour or the DP World Tour, or Ryder Cup Europe is probably the most correct counterpart. What’s in the contract is within that contract and not something I can really disclose at this point”.’
And following Stenson into the Southern Hills press room was Johnson, and somewhat surprisingly revealing if he had the choice he would prefer to be a USA Ryder Cup in Europe rather than on home soil.
“If my peers, our Ryder Cup committee and the PGA of America says it’s your time to do it, whatever two years that falls on, I’m going to have to certainly think about it and more than anything welcome it”, he said.
“Ideally for me, in the back of my mind, if this thing ever did come to fruition, yes, I would rather be a captain in Europe. I can give you a number of reasons.”
Johnson also impressed when asked, and a seemingly obvious question for an American, what he knew of Italy.
“Well, No. 1, I’m a geography nerd, so I know the makeup of Italy. Two, I don’t know if I’m a foodie, but I don’t eat to live, I live to eat”, he said smiling. “It’s probably — it depends how you look at it, not a great recipe to go over there because my guess is — I eat until I’m uncomfortable, so that’s going to happen quite a bit. That’s a good thing, actually.
“My parents have been there two or three times, my wife has been there twice. The consensus is it’s their favourite country, outside of this great nation.
“I cannot wait. I’m ecstatic about it. There’s a lot to be done between now and then. I think we’re day 499, 498 before the actual event, so this is a pretty long engagement party.
“But again, that’s okay. I know the makeup. I know you’ve got the Mediterranean down here, and I know that the Alps are up north and the beauty of that country is the people within it, so I’m excited to meet them”.
Well done Zach! You’re passed your Italian geography test.