United State’s Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has named his six wildcard picks, completing the side that will take on Europe at Rome’s Marco Simone Golf and Country Club from September 29 – October 01.
Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Sam Burns have all been selected and they’ll join Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay and Max Homa in the Stars and Stripes next month.
Thomas’ selection is arguably the most contentious given the two-time major winner finished outside the top-70 in the PGA Tour rankings, has just two top-10 finishes in 2023 and missed the cut in three of the four majors. Thomas does have an excellent team record when representing the United States, however, amassing four points at Le Golf National in 2018 and two-and-a-half from a possible four at Whistling Straits in 2020, becoming the effective ‘heart and soul’ of the side.
Thomas’ close friendship with Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler also makes him an ideal partner for either, with Max Homa likely to complete the four-man pod assuming Johnson maintains the winning formula used to great effect by Steve Stricker in 2021.
Spieth’s selection comes as no surprise, with the man set to make his fifth appearance ranked eighth in the US Qualification table. Yet to win in 2023, Spieth’s consistency has seen him place in the top-10 on seven occasions with a playoff loss to Matt Fitzpatrick at the RBC Heritage his best chance at victory.
A record of 8-6-4 across his four previous appearances doesn’t really do justice to Spieth’s importance to the side or to his natural ability to partner any one of the 11 potential teammates, one of whom is Rickie Fowler.
Fowler’s selection is another that comes as little surprise given his resurgent 2023 season, however, few would’ve predicted that the man handed a shock wildcard selection by Corey Pavin back in 2010 would return for a fifth outing as a Ryder Cup player last year. His win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic was his first professional victory in four years, and Fowler is another who is popular with all of his teammates and an easy accomplice to be paired with.
Brooks Koepka, who finished seventh in the rankings despite playing in just four ranking events, is the most interesting selection. Undoubtedly good enough to deserve his place on the team, Koepka’s LIV Golf defection made qualification difficult but his runner-up finish at the Masters and PGA Championship victory looked to have all but secured his place on the team before being finally unseated by Max Homa and Xander Schauffele at the 11th hour.
Johnson’s task would’ve been much easier had Koepka been an automatic qualifier and the task of selecting a LIV player been taken out of his hands, but the US captain had little choice other than selecting Brooks who will now be the only LIV player in Rome.
Collin Morikawa’s selection was made easier by the fact that the two-time major winner performed well at East Lake where he’d have finished fourth without the handicap strokes. Despite having a poor season by his standards, he’s shown considerable improvement in recent weeks three-and-a-half points from a possible four at Whistling Straits was an excellent return on debut. With the strength of his approach play, Morikawa is an ideal foursomes player and guaranteed to be among the most desirable potential partners within the American team room.
With strong opposition from Tony Finau, Cameron Young, Lucas Glover and Keegan Bradley, Sam Burns got the final nod and completes the lineup. Victory at the WGC Matchplay in Austin earlier this year looked to have solidified his spot in the side, but an unspectacular five months followed and his performance at East Lake in tying Morikawa for fourth on the shadow leaderboard was likely a strong contributing factor in his selection. A close friend of Scottie Scheffler and one of the best putters on Tour, he’s a likely partner for the world number one and he joins Homa, Harma and Clark as the four rookies who’ll tee it up in their first Ryder Cup in Rome.