Zach Johnson made his United States Ryder Cup Team official Tuesday with his six selections consisting of Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
This sextet joins the previously announced six qualifiers in Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele in going against a European side which will be fully known within a week’s time.
What is there to make of these picks?
By no means were any of these picks a reach.
Burns being announced first pretty much ended any notion for golfers who were on the bubble, most notably Cameron Young, who earlier in the cycle was essentially guaranteed a spot when vice captain Fred Couples stated on his Sirius XM Podcast that he was on the team.
What separated Burns from a player named Young was a few factors.
For one, Burns defeated Young in the World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play. Additionally, Burns finished the playoffs in better placement than Young in all three events and he was likely a better fit on the team, naturally being Scheffler’s likely playing partner.
Thomas’ results this season were nothing to write home about and various aspects of his game let him down throughout the campaign, but it is impossible to deny his influence in the locker room and his Ryder Cup results deserved the respect they received in the process.
Fowler’s improvement this season has been both very significant and highly covered. His placement of 11th in Strokes Gained: Total and ninth in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green also set him apart, as does plenty of Ryder Cup experience.
Keegan Bradley certainly has a reason to be upset and he clearly was frustrated to receive the call that he had not done enough to make the team.
It was clear how much he wanted to be a part of things and certainly he was in the mix but towards the end of the process had not done enough to back up his Travelers Championship victory, only earning one top-10 finish which came at last week’s Tour Championship, which has an extremely limited field.
Could it be that Fowler is more liked? Certainly, that could also play a factor as well.
Koepka was a no brainer and only fell off the automatic berth in the final week when he was overtaken. There was no doubt as evidenced by his Masters result and PGA Championship victory that this spot was secured.
While some in the room certainly have negative thoughts towards LIV Golf, there was no reason to drive a wedge deeper especially as both sides are negotiating. What Koepka did in his major reps this year forced him to be part of the team.
LIV Golf members such as Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch and even Dustin Johnson warranted consideration; it was clear that each was overlooked.
The one thing that was not certain was whether any or all golfers received a phone call from the U.S. captain. All that was stated was that the top 20-25 golfers were called either way, which did not indicate in a clear manner whether any other LIV golfers earned that respect.
The non-answer answer is likely telling in how the room felt, though Johnson made it clear that the team wanted Koepka on it.
Morikawa had been battling through his swing this season and did not have any wins to show for it, but he placed top 25 or better in five of his final seven starts, which included fantastic form for the first two Tour Championship rounds.
His nature to remain poised through adversity, plus his fit for the course and 3-0-1 Ryder Cup record all certainly did not hurt either.
Spieth’s selection also appeared to be a simple one. Though he did not win this season, he had seven top-10 finishes and did not make any major mistakes which would harm his position. Spieth’s consistent play will be a fit for this team.
Lucas Glover also was also a snub, though his case appeared to be a bit too little, too late. Had he won a third consecutive event, a bigger case could have been made. His putting improvement could have been a nice addition to the team.
Tony Finau is always a name that comes up this time of year as well and he is very well-liked on and off the golf course, but his play was just not where it needed to be to earn a selection.
This American team has a lot going for it as it looks to break a 30-year drought of winning overseas, but the pieces are now in place. It just comes down to execution.