Johnson named Ryder Cup captain for 2023
Two-time major champion and Iowa native Zach Johnson is taking over as Ryder Cup captain, leading an American side trying to end 30 years without a victory on European soil.
Three people with knowledge of the decision confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the PGA of America has yet to announce the Drake University graduate’s selection.
The PGA scheduled a news conference to announce the new captain for this coming Monday.
The decision is not a surprise. Johnson, 45, has been an assistant captain each of the last two matches, and the U.S. team has moved toward captains with previous involvement.
The 2023 matches are scheduled for Marco Simone in Italy. The Americans are coming off the country’s biggest Ryder Cup rout, beating Europe 19-9 at Whistling Straits last September with Wisconsin native Steve Stricker as the captain.
Stricker was part of the Ryder Cup committee — three PGA Tour players and three PGA of America executives — that picked the next captain.
Europe has yet to announce its next captain, a process that has been slowed as some candidates contemplated joining a Saudi-funded rival league that has yet to get off the ground.
Tony Finau, when asked last week at Riviera if he could envision Johnson as Ryder Cup captain, gave his endorsement and described his as a “great leader.”
“He’s a cool blend of the older generational player and a person with a new generational outlook on the game,” Finau said. “He’s lived in both worlds. He’s got a great perspective on the game and the team atmosphere.”
Johnson played in five Ryder Cups, part of a hardscrabble career that began with him driving the country to play on mini-tours out of college and now includes 12 wins on the PGA Tour, including the Masters in 2007 and the British Open in 2015 at St. Andrews.
Once a self-described as a “normal guy” from Cedar Rapids, he joined Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead as the only players to win at Augusta National and St. Andrews.
Xander Schauffele, reflecting on Johnson’s time at Whistling Straits, said while Johnson was lighthearted as a non-playing assistant captain, that wasn’t enough to hide his competitiveness.
He thought Johnson’s playing career gave insight to him as a potential captain.
“You look at his game and what he’s accomplished,” Schauffele said. “He’s a shorter guy, like the old-school type. If you’re in trouble, chip out and hit your wedges close and putt really well. If you think about that type of player, they have to be so precise and disciplined in their approach. That created who he is. He’s got a lot of fight.
“I can feel how much everything means to him and how much he wants to win.”
The Americans have won the Ryder Cup only four of the last 13 times, and their last victory away from home was in 1993 at The Belfry in England.
The Ryder Cup moved back to odd-numbered years when the 2020 matches were postponed one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whistling Straits had a full house of fans, but because of travel restrictions, they where overwhelming Americans.