Zach Johnson has some tough decisions to make when filling out his US Ryder Cup team to face Europe next month in Italy.
But one that shouldn’t actually be that hard, should be as automatic as the first six named, is choosing Brooks Koepka.
And having Koepka on the team is best for the US
Koepka is arguably one of the top 12 American golfers in the world, a fact so obvious it feels silly to point it out. And adding the Jupiter resident to this team wouldn’t disrupt the chemistry. He would not be alienated or shunned by his peers. This would not be Brooks playing the role of Phil Mickelson and the rest of the team playing the role of Tiger Woods in 2004.
Just the opposite. He would be welcomed.
Consider his work this season in the majors, plus his reputation for locking down while on the biggest stages and his experience playing in three other Ryder Cups. If a draft were held to select the 2023 Ryder Cup team, Koepka would be selected second to Scottie Scheffler.
In fact, it was Scheffler who cited how close Koepka was to being an automatic selection for the event, which will be held at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club outside Rome.
“Brooks? I mean, I looked at the scoreboard the other night,” Scheffler said ahead of this week’s Tour Championship. “I think he was 30 points shy? Which is, I think it equated to about $30,000 over the course of the year.
“So if he played a tournament on Tour, I think he probably would have been on the team.”
Scheffler led the Ryder Cup points standings, with the top six earning automatic spots on the team. Koepka became No. 2 after winning the PGA Championship in May, which followed his runner-up finish at the Masters.
Koepka had just four shots on Ryder Cup points
But Koepka only had four chances to earn Ryder Cup points, those were the four majors. He finished seventh, 29.124 points behind No. 6 Xander Schauffele, and was in the top 6 until the weekend before the team was locked out. By comparison, Koepka was more than 1,232 points ahead of No. 8 Jordan Spieth.
And Koepka is one of three Americans to win a major in 2023. The others: Wyndham Clark (US Open) and Brian Harman (British Open) are second and third, respectively, in the Ryder Cup standings.
And the best they did in their other majors appearances: Clark tied for 33rd at the British Open, Harman tied for 43rd at the US Open.
In addition to winning his fifth major and finishing second at Augusta, Koepka finished T17 at the US Open and T64 at the British Open.
Other automatic spots went to Patrick Cantlay (No. 4 in the Ryder Cup rankings), Max Homa (No. 5) and Schauffele. Those six, plus Johnson’s vice-captains, had dinner Wednesday to discuss the final six spots, which will be announced Tuesday.
Given Koepka’s play, reputation and standing with PGA Tour players despite his decision to join the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV circuit, it would be shocking if Johnson did not choose Koepka.
Johnson has said he wants to find the 12 “that make up the best team.” In other words, the 12 that give him the best chance to win and end America’s losing streak in Europe dating back to 1993.
“Brooks, he’s right there,” said Harman, who will be playing in his first Ryder Cup. “I think he’d be a pretty good addition to the team. … The experience would definitely help, especially considering there’s probably going to be a fair amount of rookies over there.”
Keeping with the theme, the second is trouble free for Johnson Spieth, who has played in three Ryder Cups. It’s likely that the last four seats got the most conversation during last week’s dinner.
Koepka single LIV golfer with a chance
Listening to Johnson, it seemed all year that a golfer would have to do something extraordinary to overcome the LIV stigma and make the team, which Koepka, and only Koepka, has done.
The next three LIV golfers on the points list are No. 37 Phil Mickelson, No. 40 Dustin Johnson and No. 48 Patrick Reed. Mickelson and Reed are not even under consideration for various reasons.
DJ’s experience of playing in five Ryder Cups would have been hard to fathom had he had a Koepka-like season and not stumbled through the majors, finishing 48th, 55th, 10th and missing the cut at the British Open .
As for LIV results, Zach Johnson has strongly suggested that nothing happened in a league with 48-man courses playing 14 54-hole, no-cut events has accounted for his thinking.
But Brooks Koepka’s results outside LIV and his reputation have why the captain really has no choice but to send him to Italy wearing the red, white and blue.
This article originally appeared on the Palm Beach Post: Zach Johnson to add LIV’s Brooks Koepka to US Ryder Cup team