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Europe Has NO Reason to Fear This American Ryder Cup Team

By: | Mon 04 Sep 2023

SO, do you think that Luke Donald and his European team are going to be quaking in their boots at the line-up they will face at Marco Simone at the end of September? I certainly don’t.

Zach Johnson’s team is as follows: Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa.

Yes, yes, I know they have the world number one, the US Open champion, the PGA champion and the Open champion in their side. And I am not denying that Scheffler and Koepka are going to be fearsome opponents. Koepka nearly qualified as of right despite only playing in four counting events, the majors, but he finished second in one of those and he won the other.

Clark and Harman are world-class golfers but they are not going to strike the fear of God into anyone. And can Harman reproduce the form he showed on the greens at The Open during the Ryder Cup? I doubt it very much.

I am certain Johnson must have had to make some very tricky phone calls. Keegan Bradley and Tony Finau will certainly be feeling aggrieved at being overlooked. They are both winners.

And, to be frank, that is more than can be said for Morikawa. He has won five times on the PGA Tour but his last success came at The Open more than two years ago. He built a reputation for laser-like iron play but that has deserted him this season, and he has also struggled manfully with the putter. He missed six of 24 cuts in the season that has just ended and managed just six top 10s. Rory McIlroy ended the season with 10 successive top 10s.

Jordan Spieth couldn’t stop winning between 2013 and 2017 but he then suffered an alarming slump and had to wait four years before his next success. He also managed to win the RBC Heritage last year. But this has been a disappointing season with six missed cuts and a solitary runner-up finish to his name. He finished 27th at the Tour Championship and looked horribly out of touch. His once-unbelievable putting touch has gone. And would you want him as foursomes partner given how wild he can be with a driver in his hands? I know that I wouldn’t.

One of the season’s feel good stories was Rickie Fowler’s return to winning ways. Like Spieth, he found himself in a horrible slump that lasted four years. There was barely a dry eye in the house when he triumphed at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. He missed The Masters in April because his world ranking had fallen so dramatically and then he missed the cut at the US PGA before finishing in a tie for fifth at the US Open. But since his win in July his form has hardly been electrifying. 

And here’s another thing. He was once a lock on any putt of 10 feet or less. He certainly cannot say that now. Fowler is a passionate American who will give his all but I can’t help feeling that, like Spieth, he is carrying a lot of scar tissue.

And that brings us to Justin Thomas, probably Johnson's most controversial pick. He missed six cuts, including five in eight starts at the business end of the season and ended up in 71st place in the FedEx Cup standings, which meant he missed out on the playoffs. And his 2023 record in the majors? He missed the cut at The Masters, US Open and The Open, and he finished in a tie for 65th place at the US PGA.

Justin Thomas

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

This is the first year since he joined the PGA Tour in 2015 that he has ended the season without at least one win. In 2017 he won five times. He played in the Ryder Cup in 2018 and was an integral part of the winning team in 2021. Johnson clearly wanted his experience in the team but this looks like a seriously poor decision.

It is also worth pointing out that Schauffele hasn’t won this year. He was second at the Wells Fargo and runner-up to Viktor Hovland at the Tour Championship but he would be the first to admit that he hasn’t exactly set the world alight in 2023.

And Cantlay has gained his place on the back of consistent rather than brilliant form. He is yet another member of the US team without a win in 2023. He is also one of the most deliberate golfers on the planet, so Johnson is going to have to be extremely careful who he partners Cantlay with. One thing I can guarantee is that we won’t be seeing him alongside Koepka, who has openly criticised his funereal pace of play.

Trembling in our boots? I don’t think so!

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Tags: ryder cup PGA Tour european tour dp world tour daily picks

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