Has the Ryder Cup Become a Popularity Contest? Zach Johnson's Picks Raise Eyebrowsby Sophie
In a stunning announcement that has the golf world abuzz, U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Zach Johnson has revealed his six captain's picks for the upcoming Ryder Cup showdown against Europe. The list includes heavyweights like Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas, but also raises questions about the criteria used for these selections.
A Gamble on Big Names
In a move that raised eyebrows, Johnson picked two-time major champion Justin Thomas, despite Thomas's recent struggle on the PGA Tour. In what seems like a gamble, Johnson emphasized Thomas's experience and team chemistry over recent form. Thomas, who has a respectable Ryder Cup record but missed the cut in three out of four majors this season, was chosen over players like Cameron Young, Keegan Bradley, and Denny McCarthy, who finished higher than Thomas in Ryder Cup points.
A Nod to Fan Favorites
It seems that Johnson's picks lean heavily toward players who are fan favorites and media darlings. Brooks Koepka, a five-time major champion, received an "easy pick" nod from Johnson, even though he left the PGA Tour for the Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf League. Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, two other popular figures, also made the cut.
The Case for Underdogs
Players like Lucas Glover, who won twice on tour late in the season, were left in the dust. This selection approach could send a message that popularity and past achievements may weigh more heavily than current form or stats. One could argue that Johnson seems to put more weight on team chemistry and Ryder Cup experience than on current form and rankings.
Ryder Cup Veterans Out
European Ryder Cup veterans like Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, and Ian Poulter, who could not compete due to resigning from the DP World Tour, add another layer to the debate. Are captain's picks increasingly becoming a who's who list of the golf world, rather than a meritocratic selection?
Looking Ahead to Rome
With the Ryder Cup scheduled from September 29 to October 1 at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club outside Rome, Johnson's picks put the spotlight on what seems like an underdog U.S. team. As the U.S. hasn’t won a Ryder Cup away from American soil since 1993, Johnson's gambit could either be a masterstroke or set the stage for a European romp.
In an era where every stat, swing, and putt is scrutinized, should team selection also come under the microscope? The strategy for picking team members may need to be reevaluated to ensure that the best players, and not just the most popular ones, represent the U.S. in this prestigious event.