Ryder Cup Captains Johnson And Donald Playing With Potential Rookies This Week At Oak Hill

Zach Johnson and Luke Donald can keep a close watch on the performances of Ryder Cup hopefuls at Oak Hill Country Club

Zach Johnson and Luke Donald at the Honda Classic at PGA National
Zach Johnson and Luke Donald can cast their eyes over potential Ryder Cup players at Oak Hill Country Club
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are some intriguing pairings for the opening two rounds of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

For example, defending champion Justin Thomas goes out with World No.3 Rory McIlroy and two-time Major winner Collin Morikawa, while World No.1 John Rahm is paired with US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and LIV Golf player Cameron Smith. However, beyond the highest-profile pairings, there are two involving the Ryder Cup captains and potential rookie members of their teams.

Team Europe captain Luke Donald will be able to keep a close check on the performances of Adrian Meronk and Yannik Paul. Pole Meronk is beginning to look like a lock for the tournament. The 29-year-old won the Italian Open earlier in the month at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, the venue for September’s biennial tournament. He is well in contention for one of six automatic qualification spots, with a wildcard seeming likely if he misses out.

German Paul is also riding high in the European Team Rankings, and currently occupies the final automatic qualification place after some impressive results of his own, including successive runner-up finishes in the Thailand Classic and Hero Indian Open on the DP World Tour in February.

Donald’s opposite number Zach Johnson also has the opportunity to cast his eye over potential inclusions in his team after being paired with Kurt Kitayama and Sahith Theegala for the first two rounds. Both players are currently outside the top six in the US Team Rankings, which they would need to reach to qualify automatically, with Kitayama in 12th and Theegala in 16th.

However, each player has impressed at various points in 2023, with Kitayama winning an enthralling Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and Theegala achieving four top-10 finishes since the turn of the year.

There is still some way to go before automatic qualifying concludes and the final selections are confirmed, with Johnson’s Team USA line-up due to be completed after August’s Tour Championship and Donald’s coming after 3 September with the conclusion of the almost year-long Team Europe qualification process.

Despite that, the opportunity for the captains to observe potential team members at close quarters is likely one they will appreciate as they begin to form an idea of the players they see as the best options to close out victory in Italy.

Johnson, Kitayama and Theegala go out at 7.55am EDT/12.55pm BST in the first round and 1.20pm EDT/6.20pm BST for the second.

Donald, Meronk and Paul begin their first round at 8.44am EDT/1.44pm BST, with their second round getting started at 2.09pm EDT/7.09pm BST.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.