Zach Johnson doesn’t think we’ll be friends. He didn’t take the U.S. Ryder Cup captaincy at the height of golf’s most controversial period because he imagined he would have it easy – from reporters, golf fans or anyone else. And to date, captaincy has not been like that. There have been months-long feuds between LIV and the PGA Tour and legal dramas that have threatened to affect tournament eligibility. And did we mention that about the PGA/PIF merger?
Why would Johnson (or his Team Europe colleague, captain Luke Donald) choose this scrum? Because the 47-year-old, 12-time PGA Tour winner believes he has the DNA to claim the first U.S. Ryder Cup victory on European soil since the Clinton administration – a DNA that doesn’t lack for excitability . But Johnson’s fighting spirit could be just what Team USA needs. There will be a saying sewn into their uniforms: Dodici forti. It’s Italian for the old American Ryder Cup axiom “twelve strong.” With Johnson having spent much of the past year competing alongside most of the dozen players who will ultimately make up his team, the Americans will certainly have a 13th man in the foxhole.
GOLF: Okay, Zach, let’s start with a simple question. What do you think makes a good leader?
Zach Johnson: I think a leader is someone who represents a larger mission than just themselves. It is
a cliché, but I have always believed in the saying: “Slow to speak, quick to listen.” Leaders are selfless but are not afraid to jump into the fray because that is what they have chosen to do.
You mention jumping into the fray, and you certainly did. Why do you think this is an important quality?
Listen, it’s not necessarily something I enjoyed, but yeah, I’m okay with it. People know where I stand and where my loyalties lie, but hey, I have great friends who went to LIV and they’re still great friends. My approach is that I wear a different hat. This is not the PGA Tour Ryder Cup. This is Team USA
When you talk about the selection process, do you see your job as putting together the 12 best American golfers or the best American Ryder Cup team?
I answer this: How do you define the 12 best American golfers? How do you measure that? It varies from day to day and perhaps even hour to hour. Six boys earn their place on the team [on points], and from there I have to pick the top 12 American players who will make up the best team for Rome this week. All the elements – dressing room suitability, experience or lack thereof, the list goes on – are included.
I know you’ve been asked about LIV ad nauseam…
Did you ever have any concerns about adding LIV players to the American roster?
I was afraid to bring anyone into the room. It didn’t matter which tour you were on. The bottom line is that the only drama I want is what their golf clubs do on the ropes
They had a reconnaissance trip to Rome in early September. For whom is this time most important – you or your players?
This time is crucial for everyone. That’s a strong word, but it’s crucial. We are a team and we need to start getting into the mindset of being together. It’s not about putting your ego aside. No, bring your ego, bring your personal expertise and compete.
Last question: What have you learned about the state of American golf in 2023?
It’s really deep and somehow it just keeps getting deeper. These kids are ready to go. I suspect the inspiration came from Tiger Woods, but either way it’s pretty awesome to look at.
https://golf.com/news/zach-johnson-us-ryder-cup-captain-interview/ With Zach Johnson, the U.S. could have the frontrunner for a hotly contested Ryder Cup