The First Call Inbox

Is U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson on the hot seat?

The selection of a slumping Justin Thomas over positive-trending players like Lucas Glover or Keegan Bradley raised more than a few The First Call readers' eyebrows

Zach Johnson — 2012 Ryder Cup
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson was twice an assistant captain, so he had an understanding of what factors went into making a captain's pick.

Question of the week [August 28 – September 3]: U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has announced his six captain's that will round out the American squad heading to Italy in September. What do you think of his selections and the prospects for victory

RELATED: The First Call Inbox archive

Dislike the fact that Justin Thomas was selected over Lucas Glover. The hottest golfers should have been selected.

Ron Bollinger
Greenbrier, Tennessee

Seems like the good old boys club. I agree with 11 players. Chances of winning are still positive.

Paul Couch
Summerville, South Carolina

Brooks Koepka should not be on the team. No LIV player should be considered to represent the U.S. in an international competition. Keegan Bradley would be better pick.

Ken MacKay
Stouffville, Ontario

His picks are crazy. Justin Thomas? He has not played well this year. What about Keegan Bradley or Lucas Glover?

Debbie Zboyan
Fords, New Jersey

I don't agree with Justin Thomas and Sam Burns.

Back when they changed the selection process, one of the reasons was that they wanted to pick players who were playing well. So Zach Johnson picked two players who weren't playing well.

They are using the same argument to pick Thomas and Burns as they are to not pick Lucas Glover and Keegan Bradley. Johnson said that the hot players could cool off in the four weeks until the Ryder Cup. Then he turns around and says the cold players could find their form in the four weeks until the Ryder Cup. Huh? Do you mean that the cold players will find their games in four weeks when they couldn't find them in four months? The hot players found their games and continued that trend.

The team chemistry argument doesn't fly. Pair Jordan Speith with Scottie Scheffler. Bradley and Glover would love to pair with each other.

A talk show host said a few weeks ago that if you pick your friends, you don't want to win. That is exactly what is going to happen. I'm predicting at least 16-12, Europeans winning. The only way for the U.S ,to win is if the Europeans play like they did at the last Ryder Cup and the Americans all putt like Victor Hovland has the last two tournaments.

Jim Fuchs
Costa Mesa, California

I believe that Zach Johnson will go down as one of the worst captains in Ryder Cup history. To go with the old boys club as his pics is going to be disastrous. I hope I’m wrong.

Alan Dunninger
Lake Worth, Florida

They should just take the top 12 qualifiers to play and take all the favoritism out of the equation. Earn your way on the team or stay home.

William Finger
Fort Myers, Florida

Lucas Glover is trending well, yet [Zach Johnson] overlooked such skill. He sustains a longer pro golf career than nearly all the American in their late 20s. He is a lockstitch for senior heart strings, oh, but overlooked.

Justin Thomas is trending poorly. But, he is best buddies with Jordan Spieth. Last seat in the private jet? You bet.

Cameron Young, Denny McCarthy, Keegan Bradley are all skill worthy, But, why Zach? Not buddy enough? Call for grinder mindset, Zach, and shoo away the buddy network.

Do good and make us proud. Sit Thomas as much as you are able.

Charles McCormick
Indianapolis, Indiana

No, Justin Thomas. Yes, Lucas Glover, who deserves it both for his play of recent and his age. He might never get another near chance. JT? Wazzup there? Not able to focus?

Donn Rutkoff
Oceanside, California

Six picks is just too much discretion for the captain to have. I disagree that the Ryder Cup is all about victory. It’s about qualifying for the team. Every professional player wants to be on that team, but when only six people qualify, there is an excellent chance their good play won’t be rewarded. 

Let’s give everyone a chance and eliminate the captain’s picks. The top 12 would be in. This would add excitement to the last tour events as pros fight for the last spot. 

It’s not always about winning in golf, it’s about the competition and getting there because you earned it. 

Sam Rankin
Charlotte, North Carolina

This is just my opinion — and only based on what I’ve heard — but from the first 24 hours of sports radio caller reaction, the key focus seemed to be on why Justin Thomas was chosen over a few others such as Keegan Bradley.
The overriding reason mentioned for Thomas is his excellent chemistry with the 2023 team roster, as well as having to play only one round of singles as solo exposure.  

In his defense, talk show hosts also compared JT’s captain’s selection to Ian Poulter’s selection and performance in previous Ryder Cups. There is obvious chemistry between Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns (as there is with qualifiers Xander Schauffle and Patrick Cantlay). 

Comments about Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley — his own reaction touches on this topic — and especially Patrick Reed had to do with said “chemistry,” including in the locker room.  

As in any other sport, there are many deserved and passionate arguments for those left out — especially Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover, but had Bradley stormed up the leaderboard Sunday in Atlanta, this could be a different conversation. 

Steve Moore
Birmingham, Alabama

Zach Johnson had the opportunity to put the European team away and validate his selection as captain by many naysayers who said he best serves as an assistant. Instead of slamming the door shut on the Euros, he is destined to fall quicker than cryptocurrency stocks on the NYSE. All because he’s a nice guy who couldn’t say no to Joey Fatone and the NSync band.

Yes, instead of choosing talented players who are hot at the moment, Zach took those who hang together off the course and can complete each others sentences. Let me clarify, I’m not referring to Brooks Koepka, who in my opinion ranks higher than 90% of those selected via points. The guy is a tough take-no-prisoners player who will probably be the top point getter for the U.S. squad. Nor am I referring to Collin Morikawa or Sam Burns who not only played well during the last half of the season and clawed out a strong finish in the season-ending Tour Championship.

That leaves us with three, Dino, Desi and Billy for those old enough to remember this musical trio. If you wanted Justin Thomas for his enthusiasm, pick him as one of the hundred assistant coaches focused on closed door rah-rah speeches on Saturday evening. The man is in a slump and will no doubt go oh-for in Italy.

Then there is Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, two of the nicest guys out there. When last I checked, the Ryder Cup format did not award points for congeniality. We are leaving some talented players at the airport who could have helped solidify our chances of bringing home Samuel’s trophy. Guys like Cam Young should be on the plane as should Lucas Glover and his hot putter.

Alas, we are destined to finish second in our quest and the captain's aftermath speech will be full of woulda, coulda, shoulda. At least, that’s how I see it shaping up. 

Paul Vicary
The Villages, Florida

While I like Zach Johnson, the whole process is a joke. If you aren't part of the inner circle, you will never sniff being on the Ryder Cup.  

Justin Thomas does not deserve to be there. It should be based on current play, not what you have done in the past.

Chris Ferrara
Jeannette, Pennsylvania

The weak link in this team is Jordan Spieth. He has not played well in several weeks. He couldn’t even break par at the FedEx. It almost seems as if something is wrong with him. His heart does not seem to be into playing good golf. I listened to the broadcast of Ryder Cup introductions yesterday and Jordan never even smiled. Just a complete lack of enthusiasm. He is known to be stubborn and will not change his coach or his approach. Something is seriously wrong with him, which makes him the team’s weak link.

Lou Body IV
Jacksonville, Florida

Not surprising, but I would've gone with Keegan Bradley over Sam Burns. I feel his overall play this year was better. As for Justin Thomas, I have no problems, no one in Europe ever complained about picking Ian Poulter who only earned his way on to the team twice in the seven or so times he played for team Europe. Time to move on and go Americans.

Wayne Smith
Georgetown, Texas

Both teams should be represented by players who are playing their best now. Past stats should never be a factor, in football, baseball, soccer, etc. Only golf, with its toxic environment, plays the clique selection game and that’s sad because Americans deserve better with the best players this season.

I won’t be watching.

Frank Segura
Austin, Texas

I wish Zach Johnson had chosen Keegan Bradley instead of Justin Thomas. Bradley certainly earned it with his play this year. I hope his selection does not backfire on him like the infamous choosing of Curtis Strange by his good friend and captain Lanny Watkins in 1995. I believe Strange had the worst record on the team — 0-3. Also, No. 9 ranked Cameron Young not being chosen was a head scratcher. At one time, there were only two captain's picks. Maybe they should go back to that selection process to avoid the uproar caused by Zach's picks.

Patrick Mullin
Bay Shore, New York

I certainly do not want to hear future captains proclaim I want players “currently playing well.” How do you explain the Lucas Glover and Keegan Bradley omissions considering their recent form? Let’s pick a guy who didn’t even make the playoffs. Sounds like a club and closed shop to me.

The response to my cynical comments is “the team is about winning, not standings.” Using that metric explains some of the captain's picks today, but it must still be a bitter pill for Glover, Bradley, Cameron Young and Denny McCarthy — all of whom outplayed Thomas by a wide margin. Using my metric, also known as a meritocracy, I simply go by the final standings 1-12.

Reid Farrill
Toronto, Ontario

Is the Ryder Cup Europe golfers vs. U.S. golfers or Europe golfers vs. PGA Tour golfers?

John Lukaszewski
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

I think the captain’s picks reflect name players rather than the hot players at selection time. I guess time will tell how wise these selections are.

Paul Heanue
Plymouth, Massachusetts

There are several other players who were trending upward, Justin Thomas was not one of them. He is probably a nice guy and welcomed in the locker room, but we are trying to win a sporting event. For example, Keegan Bradley and Cam Young each had six top-10 finishes. JT? Not so. 

Ralph Brown
Sacramento, California

Terrible pick of Justin Thomas. Didn’t earn his spot and should not have been added to team. Keegan Bradley, Lucas Glover and Tony Finau among others were more deserving. Wish they didn’t have captain's picks. Earn your way onto team via performance.

Jeff Stoltz
Gilbert, Arizona 

The First Call invites reader comment. Write to editor Stuart Hall at Your name and city of residence is necessary to be considered for publication. If your comment is selected for publication, The First Call will contact you to verify the authenticity of the email and confirm your identity. We will not publish your email address. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity.