Greg Norman and Saudi Arabia’s collaboration to “grow the game of golf,” and to “bring people to together” yielded more unintended consequences with the announcement of the 2023 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
On Tuesday, in Frisco at the new PGA of America headquarters, U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Zach Johnson announced the Captain Picks for the final six spots on the 12-team roster, and someone is missing.
A few people are missing.
Other than Brooks Koepka, who was a Captain Pick, no player from the LIV Golf tour made the American team.
But, somehow, Justin Thomas is on the roster. JT, you better at least split.
The 2023 Ryder Cup scheduled for Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome will be the first played since LIV Golf took a three-wood to the model of the entire sport.
Johnson said all of the right things on Tuesday, but this roster has “Friends of the PGA Tour” written all over it.
Any time a Ryder Cup team is picked, there are always a few decisions to be dissected, and criticized. This one feels different because of LIV Golf.
The automatic qualifiers for the team are Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele; the remaining six are Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Colin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler, Koepka and Thomas.
Johnson’s reasons for his Captain Picks are “digestable,” but the selections reek of a 19th hole frat house, specifically Thomas.
The U.S. has not won a Ryder Cup on European soil in 30 years; Johnson best start preparing his answers now if/when this group continues that streak.
Leaving Keegan Bradley off this list feels regrettable. There are others, Cameron Young comes to mind.
Not even considering LIV Golfers Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Talor Gooch is a mistake.
“Technically, they do qualify; they had the four major championships last year counted in our point system. The four major championships counted in this year’s point system,” Johnson said. “One of those individuals earned his way on to our team, Brooks Koepka. He was inside the top six since his PGA Championship win.”
Johnson didn’t say it, but Koepka winning the 2023 PGA Championsip in May is the only reason he made this Ryder Cup roster.
Technically, other LIV Golf players, like Johnson, are eligible.
“They had opportunity,” Johnson said.
It’s hard for a candidacy to be taken too seriously when the end of your tournaments are cut off in favor of an episode of The Goldbergs.
(When Johnson won the LIV tournament last May in Tulsa, the network carrying the event, The CW, cut away for the final holes in favor of previously scheduled programming).
All of those players who went to LIV Golf knew this scenario was in play, so not a one of them should be terribly surprised.
The more likely scenario is that privately the American-LIV players who were ignored were a bit surprised that Thomas made this team over other PGA Tour players.
Thomas has been a brilliant Ryder Cup player, which is the reason why Johnson picked him. In two Ryder Cups, Thomas is 6-2-1, including a 4-1 mark in Paris in 2018.
In the present, Thomas has not had a good year. Thomas missed the cut in three majors this year, and did not qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Even in the big money world of pro sports, never under estimate the power of, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, especially if who you know is Tiger Woods.”
Friendships and relationships matter.
“It depends on the semantics of it all,” Johnson said to my question of how much relationships matter in picking this roster. “(Relationships) may be part of it, at the same time it’s more, ‘Can these guys gel and be comrades together.’ The camaraderie of it.
“That’s what I think you’re probably getting at. That’s the subjective side of what we do that weighs heavy into our decision making. You want guys to want to be together. If I were to go to some kind of index and say, ‘We’re going to take the top 12’ whatever that list may be, I’m not so sure that may be the best team for 2023 in Rome.”
Anyone who looks at the U.S. Ryder Cup team for 2023 in Rome will say the same thing - I’m not so sure that may be the best team.