The US Ryder Cup team has its successor. Zach Johnson will take over for Steve Stricker as team captain for the 2023 matches in Italy, according to the Associated Press,
Johnson was an assistant captain on the last two Ryder Cup teams and played on five other US sides before that, including the 2016 team that won at Hazeltine. He has been among the inner circle of folks in the United States team room for several years now, and according to the AP, Stricker was one of those on the selection committee who picked Johnson.
This is not a big surprise, as all the chatter at Whistling Straits in 2021 indicated Johnson was next in line behind Stricker to try to lead the US to its first win in Europe in 30 years. Not since The Belfry in 1993 when the US won 15-13 over Europe has the US notched a victory across the pond, losing its last six in a row and many of them in embarrassing fashion.
There is hope, though. With a young core that actually seems to like each other (and Johnson, for that matter), the US obliterated Europe at Whistling Straits last year, 19-9. Jordan Spieth said after those matches that they had some work to do in Italy at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
“I feel I can speak to this losing twice over there and being part of the average age group,” said Spieth. “I think that this is unfinished business. … We needed to win this one, and I think it was a massive stepping stone for this team and the group that we have here that have really known each other since almost back to grade school to continue to try to work hard to be on these teams to go over there.
“It’s one thing to win it over here and it is a lot easier to do so, and it is harder to win over there,” Spieth continued. “If we play like we did this week, the score will look the same over there in a couple years, and that’s what we’re here for.”
Johnson would join Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead and Seve Ballesteros as the only golfers to win a Masters at Augusta National, an Open at St. Andrews and captain a winning Ryder Cup team if the US goes on to win in 2023.
Whether you believe Johnson is a good pick is not necessarily the point. He was always going to get the node somewhere. If not here, then at Bethpage in 2025. But if you do believe he’s a good selection, it’s probably for this reason: Perhaps nobody in the modern game has gotten more success out of his talent than ZJ The very thing the US has struggled with in road Ryder Cups in Europe is not getting the most of its talent.
Johnson was not necessarily blessed with the tools necessary for the modern game. He does n’t drive it like a stallion, and if he’s ever hit a long iron better than contemporary Adam Scott, then it was only because Scott mis-hit his. And yet, Johnson has 12 PGA Tour wins, including those two majors — one more than Scott. Johnson has competed on the PGA Tour for two decades because he’s smart, clever and strong-willed. Mentally, he’s a stalwart, which is not how anyone would describe this US team in Europe over the past 20 years.
That doesn’t mean the Johnson captaincy will work necessarily — you could have said a lot of the same things about Jim Furyk in 2018, and that didn’t go all that well — but it’s at least something for the Americans to hang their hats (or paperboy caps) on when they roll to Europe in 19 months looking for their first drink from a trophy over there since before most of them were born.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism