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The United States aim to retain the Ryder Cup in Rome and capture its first win on away soil since 1993 at the Belfry.
The Stars and Stripes are favourites to defend the trophy they claimed with a dominant victory at Whistling Straits in 2021.
Zach Johnson has a wealth of options and is boosted by Brooks Koepka, the only LIV Golf player in Rome.
Koepka, together with Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman, the USA have three of this year’s four major winners, bolstering the Americans’ hopes of winning in Italy.
Here, Independent Sport examines the strengths and weaknesses from Johnson’s team.
How was the team selected?
Qualification for Team USA began in March 2022 and closed on 20 August 2023.
The USA selected six players on the points list to automatically quality and then captain Johnson selected six wildcard picks to complete the team.
The top six automatic qualifiers were Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele. The six wildcard picks were Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Sam Bruns, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas.
Team USA 2023
It’s funny what a difference two years can make. Scheffler entered the 2021 Ryder Cup as a ‘last man on the plane’ rookie wildcard pick and comes into the 2023 edition as the first name on the list. From the USA’s lowest-ranked player at Whistling Straights, he heads to Rome as their highest-ranked and possibly the best golfer on the planet. Arguably drew the short straw when put on ‘Bryson babysitting duty’ in Wisconsin but thrived to secure a win and a half alongside DeChambeau in the fourballs sessions before obliterating the previously unbeaten Jon Rahm 4&3 in the singles for a very impressive 2.5 points from 3 on debut. Zach Johnson will surely have pencilled Scheffler in for at least four sessions and three points this time although the one weakness in his other-worldly game remains the putter and matchplay often comes down to who is hottest with the flat-stick. If he’s suddenly standing over an eight-foot putt to win the Ryder Cup on Sunday afternoon…
Made the team after his shock US Open win at LACC, Clark feels like he has the game to contend for many years, even if he finishes his career with one major. Ninth in driving distance (313.7 yards) on the PGA Tour, Clark lets it rip. Ninth in total birdies made, this is another aggressive play for the United States, who could get into the heads of the Europeans. Something to be wary of though is his accuracy from the tee, sitting 150th (54.64 percent), the course set-up could negate the ceiling of one of the standout players in the sport this year.
The idea of Harman being in the Ryder Cup team was previously preposterous but then he demolished the field at Hoylake at the Open to lift the Claret Jug and book a Ryder Cup debut at the age of 36. His game is actually well-suited to matchplay golf with a steady diet of fairways and greens combined with being one of the best putters on the PGA Tour. He gained more than 11 strokes on the field with his putter at Royal Liverpool, making a scarcely believable 58 of 59 putts within 10 feet across the week. Do that in Rome and it’s hard to see how he drops a point. The deadly cool demeanour as he calmly blitzed his way to a maiden major title on Sunday also bodes incredibly well for his prospects amid the Ryder Cup cauldron. The man who hunts for sport will be taking dead aim at the Europeans and he rarely misses.
A divisive figure in the game due to his slow play, Cantlay is a model of consistency on the PGA Tour, landing eight top-10 finishes across 15 regular events outside the majors, putting him fourth in the world rankings. He is yet to translate that into the majors with just two top-10 finishes across 15 starts in four years. Quite frankly, when it matters most, Cantlay has not been in the picture. That image may change if he can back up his 2021 Ryder Cup showing, where he won three matches and tied one more at Whistling Straits, with only Dustin Johnson scoring more for the USA.
A glue guy. One of the most popular players on the team, Homa thrived at the Presidents Cup and will be a dream for Johnson when mapping out his pairings. A 4-0 record last year at Quail Hollow, Homa has finally made a dent at a major, too, with his T-10 at Hoylake this summer. There is much more to come from a player that has won three times in just over 15 months and a decent performance in the FedEx Cup play-offs pushed him within the top six qualifiers to earn an automatic spot in Rome.
Formed deadly partnerships with Patrick Cantlay and Dustin Johnson two years ago on debut and there’s no reason to think the Cantlay-Schauffele dream team won’t reunite this time to replicate their double fourballs success from Whistling Straights. Schauffele is the epitome of consistency, as evidenced by him remarkably finishing between T10 and T17 at each of the last seven majors, and is towards the top of the leaderboard almost every week. The lack of a major title is the one knock on him but that’s splitting hairs, especially as he has an Olympic gold medal from Tokyo 2020 and has won some of the PGA Tour’s biggest regular events. A win at the 2022 Scottish Open showed a handy ability to triumph on European soil and Zach Johnson won’t need to worry about what he’s getting from the 29-year-old – pencil him in for at least three of the four pairs sessions and move on to more pressing dilemmas.
Koepka is back, making it five majors this year after his PGA Championship victory. LIV Golf, no problem for Koepka, although he did narrowly miss out on one of the six automatic selections when Xander Schauffele’s performance at the BMW Championship saw him leapfrog the ultimate alpha male golfer. Perhaps there’s a world where his defection to LIV may have kept him off of Captain Johnson’s weekly radar and he may not have earned a wildcard. Now with a wealth of Ryder Cup experience, having featured in the last three US Ryder Cup teams, including victories in 2016 and 2021, the 33-year-old will hope to improve on his 6-5-1 record.
An absolute team golf demon. Stick him in a Team USA jersey and success follows. Well, in the pairs format at least… 2.5 points on debut in 2014, 2.5 more in 2016, 3 in 2018 and another 1.5 in 2021 makes him something of a banker, except those totals include just one half-point in the Sunday singles. Defeats to Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson and, most inexplicably, Thorbjorn Olesen, before ending all-square with Tommy Fleetwood two years ago, speak to a chink in the armour that Europe will hope to exploit at Marco Simone. It’s not just the Ryder Cup where that singles mental block appears as his victory over Cam Davis in last year’s President’s Cup was his first full singles point in eight appearances in team competition for the USA. Will also be interesting to see who he is paired with in foursomes/fourballs if his usual partner in crime Justin Thomas isn’t selected as a new pairing could struggle to meld. Three majors and 16 worldwide tournament wins in case you were wondering about his credentials in regular strokeplay golf.
Jordan Spieth celebrates during the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits
It felt inexplicable but there was a growing movement suggesting that Morikawa shouldn’t be selected for Rome. It sounded ludicrous at the time and, frankly, it still is. Yes, he hasn’t won a title since he triumphed at the DP World Tour Championship in 2021 (although he did miss out in a play-off at the Rocket Mortgage Classic earlier this year) but as a two-time major champion by the age of 24 who, on his day, is the best iron player in the world, has won a major on European soil and racked up an impeccable record on his Ryder Cup debut two years ago, Zach Johnson was always going to select him as a wildcard. His iron play makes him almost the perfect foursomes candidate and his partnership with Dustin Johnson which racked up three points from three at Whistling Straights was as impressive as you can get. Another two points at last year’s Presidents Cup.
Burns’ talent is undeniable but his name created debate after Keegan Bradley and Cameron Young were overlooked. Friends with Scottie Scheffler, Burns offers Johnson a natural pairing for the world No 1. The 27-year-old made a pretty compelling selection case by winning the WGC Matchplay in March but has produced largely indifferent form in the months since. Burns has an uninspiring record of two halves and three defeats from five Presidents Cup matches last year and there are questions about his ability to compete at the very highest level as his search for a first-ever top-15 finish at a major championship goes on.
A renaissance for Rickie Fowler has been one of the most popular storylines in golf, piling up the top-10 finishes, only to fall agonisingly short at the US Open, having co-led heading into the final round. But Fowler would not have to wait long for his breakthrough win, winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic a few weeks later. Capable of firing darts at the flag, which will always make for great matchplay viewing, but Fowler will hope to improve on a fairly poor Ryder Cup record (3-7-5) after featuring in four of them in his career to date.
One of the most divisive picks in Ryder Cup history? Perhaps. Johnson’s reputation may come down to the pick and whether Justin Thomas can inspire the stars and stripes in Rome. Fifth at the Fortinet Championship brings renewed confidence, paired with his immense Ryder Cup pedigree after months of putrid form. A sparkling 6-2-1 record in two previous Ryder Cups (plus a 10-3-2 ledger in Presidents Cups), while also being the Captain America who inspires his team and gets up the Europeans’ noses, made for an awfully compelling case to put him on the plane despite his form. And it was barely 12 months ago that he was winning his second major at the 2022 PGA Championship, though he couldn’t even qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs by finishing in the top 75 of the season-long PGA Tour rankings this season.
Justin Thomas celebrates during the 2021 Ryder Cup