Worrying Signs For Team USA's Star Pairing On Eve Of 2023 Ryder Cup

The American duo look out of sorts, reports our man on the ground at Marco Simone

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth during a practice round ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Much was made of the form of Justin Thomas last season and whether he was worthy of a Ryder Cup pick. “You just don’t leave JT at home,” is what Team USA skipper Zach Johnson said, after he named Thomas as one of his six wildcards.

It could yet prove a smart decision given the intangibles the two-time PGA champion brings to the team room, but his play during the final practice round on the eve of the Ryder Cup left much to be desired. Worryingly for Team USA fans, worse could be said of Jordan Spieth

I followed the pair for nine holes on a sweltering Thursday in Italy expecting to find their games in tip-top shape as the Americans bid to win on away soil for the first time in three decades. I found the opposite. 

The duo played foursomes, which I took as a sign they'd get the nod for the first session on Friday morning, but laboured their way around Marco Simone’s inward half. Despite their resume, as it stands, it shouldn’t be a pairing that strikes fear into the Europeans. 

It started brightly enough. Spieth, who was on the even tee shots, found the left side of the 10th fairway and Thomas feathered an iron shot into about eight feet. Thomas then hit the 11th fairway after laying up, but from there it wasn’t pretty.

Spieth, in particular, seems out of sorts. He looks to be battling the dreaded two-way miss, missing right off the 12th, well left off the 16th and wide right up 18. He also flared his approach shot into the 15th miles right. Given the competitors they are and the talent they possess, it’s highly possible they’ll turn it on when they need to, but it is a pairing lacking form.

For Marco Simone is not a forgiving golf course. The fairways are tight and the penalty for missing them is severe. Even straying as little as 10 feet off the short stuff into the second cut of rough, players are likely to be left with no other option but to hack out.

The same is true around the greens. Given the width of the grass and its dry, rubbery texture, chipping is incredibly difficult. Members of both teams have been devoting a tremendous amount of time to practising this part of the game but the truth is, it’s a total lottery.

That puts a premium on hitting greens, something Thomas couldn’t do on the 150-yard par-3 13th with just a wedge in his hand. It wasn’t even close.

It wasn’t all bad and Thomas definitely looked the stronger of the two, but that clearly wasn't enough to send them out to bat with the stakes so high and the margins so small. 

Johnson deserves credit for leaving out two of the biggest names in golf from his Friday foursomes line-up and played down their struggles afterwards, saying: "It's a situation where it's not about their form. They're playing great."

You wouldn't expect him to say any different, but the reality is that he is surely worried about the form of Spieth and Thomas and if he'll be able to get something like the best out of them before Sunday night.

Andrew Wright
Staff Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x