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Ryder Cup: Zach Johnson announces captain's picks and includes Justin Thomas

USA captain Zach Johnson has announced his picks for the Ryder Cup in Rome, with Justin Thomas has earning a call-up to the side.

The two-time PGA Championship winner has struggled for form throughout 2023, particularly since the spring, recording just two top-10 finishes, two top-50 finishes and missing six cuts.

His usually stellar iron play has deserted him throughout the season, and he’s not been able to rely on his putter or driver to help him out.

Marco Simone GC looks set to prioritise accuracy off the tee with ultra-penal fairway rough punishing wayward tee shots, and there will be immense pressure on Thomas whenever he does feature, especially considering some of the names who’ve missed out.

Thomas’s defenders will say that he was a major champion last year and that as one of the best golfers of his generation, he’s sure to return to form sooner rather than later. His detractors, however, could say that a Ryder Cup is not a place to find your form, and in a cauldron-like atmosphere, mistakes will be amplified.

Though Marco Simone has rewarded longer hitters, with Nicolai Hojgaard, Robert MacIntyre and Adrian Meronk all winning the last three Italian Opens, and it may be that Thomas proves a useful foil for good friend Jordan Spieth in four-balls.

But Thomas’s inclusion means a number of in-form players harshly miss out on a place. 

Cameron Young had a dry spell at the start of the summer with no top-30s in seven events, he’s hit the ball nicely since and made the final of the WGC-Match Play earlier in the year.

Denny McCarthy has enjoyed a solid, albeit winless, season, and ranking third for SG: Putting, could’ve been a useful addition. 

Lucas Glover also showed sparkling form as the end of the season, winning the Wyndham Championship and FedEx St Jude Championship in back-to-back weeks, going on to reach the TOUR Championship.

Keegan Bradley has impressed all season with two wins, playing his best golf since 2014; the 2011 PGA Championship winner also has some decent Ryder Cup history to call upon, having been the United States’ best player as a rookie at Medinah in 2012.

Nevertheless, the US can feel quietly confident of a first win on European soil since 1993, with the 2021 winner 4/6 to win in Rome.

Beside Thomas, who may recapture some of his old form over the next few weeks, there isn’t really a weak link in the side, which will be a big relief to captain Johnson having had to watch most of his players struggle towards the end of the season.

Of Johnson’s six picks, Brooks Koepka enjoyed a terrific first half of 2023, recording major finishes of T2-1-T17 to almost secure his place on the team without even playing a PGA TOUR event, though he’s struggled somewhat since his third-place finish at Valderrama in July.

Jordan Spieth has also impressed, despite failing to win and struggling with a wrist injury. The three-time major champion has five top-fives this season, three of which came in elevated events and one other came at the Masters.

Rickie Fowler is back to his best, recording a long overdue win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and will play a big part in Rome, while Collin Morikawa’s tee-to-green play has also been stellar and he’ll be a big threat to Europe. 

Sam Burns is the last man on the team having won the WGC-Match Play earlier in the season and, ranking 10th for Strokes Gained: Putting on the PGA TOUR, could prove an invaluable Ryder Cup player.

Then of the six who qualified automatically, Scottie Scheffler’s speaks for hiself, but he’ll desperately need to find something on the greens.

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay – who may well play all four matches together on Friday and Saturday – are in the form of their life and will be extremely tough to beat.

Even Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman have backed up their major wins with good results elsewhere, and Max Homa has four straight top-10s.

Though the team might not be quite as strong as the one fielded in 2021, it’s certainly got every chance of a first Ryder Cup victory on this side of the Atlantic in 30 years.

Team USA:

Scottie Scheffler
Wyndham Clark
Brian Harman
Patrick Cantlay
Max Homa
Xander Schauffele
Brooks Koepka
Jordan Spieth
Collin Morikawa
Rickie Fowler
Justin Thomas
Sam Burns

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