Given the PGA Tour and LIV Golf climates, there were a lot of individuals wondering what the 2023 European Ryder Cup side would look like, but now it appears that there are more questions than answers in the other direction as the Americans are struggling to find form with the event less than two months away at this point and time.
The largest question mark on either side appears to be what will be done about Justin Thomas, who sits in 14th position on the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings, well outside of the top six who automatically earn a spot.
If everything ended as of this writing, Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay would all secure their tickets to Rome.
Simply put, Thomas has not been in good form by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, his biggest blemish has been Strokes Gained: Putting, which places him 159th on tour, but several other aspects are lagging, too. His driving accuracy is 140th, green percentage 132nd, proximity 139th and scrambling 137th.
While there are some statistics that do benefit his game, these weaknesses surround his entire game, which makes it tough.
Thomas understands that there is a certain sense of urgency that needs to be present in his game as right now he is not in the FedExCup Playoffs.
It is clear that U.S. captain Zach Johnson is trying to encourage Thomas and seemingly give him an inside track on a playing spot which is why Thomas is in this week’s 3M Open and is expected to do the same at next week’s Wyndham Championship.
Whether it has been merely interpreted or clearly stated, the presumption around Thomas doing this is to show some form and see his game round a corner to make the playoffs and earn his spot.
So far Thomas has not helped his cause as it appears he will miss the cut in the Twin Cities by a single stroke, making next week crucial for him.
Earlier in the week, U.S. assistant captain Fred Couples seemed to narrow down the options for those vying for captain’s picks as in the Sirius XM radio show bearing his name, he seemed to reveal that Max Homa, Cameron Young and Jordan Spieth would comprise half of those picks.
Among those also trying to earn a captain’s pick are Keegan Bradley, Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler, Sam Burns and Tony Finau.
It is a tough spot for Thomas to try and earn his spot on the team, especially with Bradley and Fowler recently having won on the PGA Tour.
It remains to be seen if what Couples said is true, though he obviously is in close talks with Johnson about who would make the team.
Even if Thomas cannot get back into form, is he deserving of a spot?
There always is a case as Fowler and Spieth could express his importance to the locker room and providing a mental lift, something that was considered when Team Europe selected emotional leaders Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter in recent Ryder Cups.
Sometimes just having that presence can provide a lift, especially knowing what that can bring, though it could also be argued that Thomas could also do that as a special non-playing assistant or a similar position.
If Thomas is not a captain’s pick, a lack of trying would not be the reason. His care is very clear between making these uncharacteristic starts, trying to use a new Scotty Cameron putter and continuing to be open in conversing with the media — and by proxy the fans — instead of hiding and trying to go about figuring things out that way.
That Thomas’s name is still being mentioned by the decision makers clearly demonstrates that he is doing something right, the question is whether by stats or emotions, if he can do enough. The hourglass is almost out of sand.