'He Was Born For This' - Zach Johnson's Insights Into Ryder Cup Wildcards

Zach Johnson shares his insight into his Ryder Cup wildcards including a "ball-striking machine", a player "born for this" and one who "makes every team room better".

Zach Johnson with the Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Team USA captain Zach Johnson says it took a lot of thought and mulling over of different factors before settling on his six Ryder Cup wildcard picks, but is sure he's made the right choice.

Justin Thomas was the big name included despite his run of poor form, and he was joined by Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa and Rickie Fowler.

Johnson gave some insight into how difficult it was making the selections as he had to take into account their experience, records, personality and even how their games fitted into the course they'll tackle in Rome.

"When it came down to making these decisions, personalities, team room, camaraderie, and make no mistake, the golf course and the fit for Marco Simone was a big part of it, as well," said Johnson.

And here's what the USA skipper had to say about his six wildcard picks and their individual Ryder Cup records.

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas holds his hand up to his ear at the 2021 Ryder Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ryder Cup appearances: 2 (2018, 2021)

Ryder Cup record: 6-2-1 (Foursomes: 2-2 Fourballs: 2-0-1 Singles: 2-0)

The big talking point of the entire qualification process has been over Justin Thomas, but Johnson has gone for Ryder Cup experience over current form and hopes that JT can be America's Ian Poulter in Rome.

Johnson: "Yes, Justin Thomas, one of the most talented players on the PGA Tour in my opinion. He has without question been the heart and soul of Team USA, Ryder Cups, our emotional leader I would say, and I don’t think he would argue with that. He just leads by example.

"Overall a fantastic Ryder Cup record. His passion for the Ryder Cup is very evident. He would say it himself. He has said it himself.

"In my mind, he was born for this, and there is - you just don’t leave JT at home."

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth in the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ryder Cup appearances: 4 (2014, 2016, 2018, 2021)

Ryder Cup record: 8-7-3 (Foursomes: 3-2-2 Fourballs: 5-2 Singles: 0-3-1)

Jordan Spieth has never won a Ryder Cup singles match in four attempts, but will have the chance to rectify that after getting a relatively simple pick from Johnson - after a solid if unspectacular season. Spieth has the magic ingredient though that can produce something special in these team events.

Johnson: "Great putter, great short game. Seems he’s never out of the hole. I’ve been on the bad end of that myself.

"Great match play player, very consistent year, and we’ve seen that in the last so many odd years. Just seems to bring his best out in the hardest of situations. 

"All the intangibles you want as a teammate and as a player, a lot of heart, a lot of spirit, a lot of experience and one of our - I would say one of our stalwarts on Team USA."

Sam Burns

Sam Burns hits a golf shot

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Ryder Cup record: Rookie 

He's a rookie but Sam Burns did play in the winning USA 2014 Junior Ryder Cup team in Scotland so has actually tasted team success on European soil - something not many Americans can boast. He beat the likes of Keegan Bradley, Cameron Young and Lucas Glover for a spot.

Johnson: "Stud athlete, number one. Won the World Golf Match Play Championships this year. Tremendous putter, which is always good in a Ryder Cup. 

"To say that he meshes well with the other guys on the team, again, would be a massive understatement. And a versatile teammate. 

"Guys want to be around him. Guys want to play with him. It’s nice locking hands with somebody, locking shoulders with somebody that you want to be around, and Sam fits that to a tee."

Collin Morikawa

Collin Morikawa at the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ryder Cup appearances: 1 (2021)

Ryder Cup record: 3-0-1 (Foursomes: 2-0 Fourballs: 1-0 Singles: 0-0-1)

Collin Morikawa won three out of four in his Ryder Cup debut and made a strong finish to the season just to ram home his credentials. Johnson notes his renowned iron play, which was again on show as he finished second in strokes gained approach on the PGA Tour this season.

Johnson: "A Ryder Cup rookie at Whistling Straits with two Majors already under his belt. Not normal.

"Great young talent, great guy on and off the golf course, ball-striking machine. Consistent would be the word that comes to my mind, year after year, and he is a very strong fit for Marco Simone and what we feel the course will demand."

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka looks on during the 2021 Ryder Cup

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Ryder Cup appearances: 3 (2016, 2018, 2021)

Ryder Cup record: 6-5-1 (Foursomes: 2-2 Fourballs: 2-3 Singles: 2-0-1)

Despite Johnson not really watching any LIV Golf, Koepka did more than enough just in the Majors to ensure he made the Ryder Cup team - and only just missed out on automatic qualification which would've been some achievement from just playing in the big four events. 

Having five Majors in his pocket, being still friends with the PGA Tour guys despite his LIV move and having that big-game bravado all makes him ideally suited for a Ryder Cup on foreign soil.

Johnson: "Yes, what a performance at Oak Hill. Oak Hill in May, let alone.

"Five-time major champion, three-time PGA champion. He’s built in my mind for the biggest of stages, and there’s no bigger stage than the Ryder Cup. I think his record shows that. I know his buddies want him on the team.

"He’s very versatile. Guys want to play with him. That’s evident. I’m excited to have him go to Marco Simone on what will be the biggest stage in golf."

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ryder Cup appearances: 4 (2010, 2014, 2016, 2018)

Ryder Cup record: 3-7-5 (Foursomes: 1-3-2 Fourballs: 1-2-2 Singles: 1-2-1)

A resurgent year for Rickie Fowler saw him back contending for Majors, holding the 54-hole lead at the US Open, and back in the winner's circle with victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He doesn't have the best Ryder Cup record but Johnson is banking on his experience and versatility in Rome.

Johnson: "My boy Rick: Great 2023. Obviously that win, a really good US Open out in LA, pretty much a model of consistency this year through and through. Stats showed that. Also extremely flexible as far as pairings, and I would say formats. He can move around there a little bit.

"Those that know him or at least been around him, he makes every team room better. That’s Rick."

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.