NAPA, Calif. – Zach Johnson is wearing two hats this week – one trying to prepare to play in the Fortinet Championship, which begins Thursday, and the other preparing to captain Team USA for the Ryder Cup in Rome, which beginning Sept. 29 and included two impromptu Zoom calls when he woke up Tuesday.
He said he is taking both jobs seriously, including laying down the gauntlet for his two Ryder Cup players on the course this week, Max Homa and Justin Thomas.
“Max and JT, I don’t really want to speak for them, but if they don’t play well, they might not play. That’s the bottom line,” Johnson said, speaking at a pre-tournament press conference, before adding: “Kidding.”
“There was a little hesitation there, did you see that?” said Stewart Cink, one of Johnson’s Ryder Cup vice-captains and a former champion at the Fortinet Championship.
Johnson went on to say he was unsure whether he would play this week.
“At the same time, given the people that I have around me, specifically someone like Stewart and our other peers, our leadership captains if you will, we’ve done a lot of good work to date,” Johnson said.
He had no doubt that it would be an advantage for Homa and Thomas in particular to get some reps under tournament conditions.
“I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to go out and compete. That’s what we’re designed to do, that’s where we’re wired,” he said. “Ideally, they get some momentum. Momentum in this game is pretty deadly and can be a really good thing.”
He added: “I’m not going to give their scorecard a whole lot of credit when it comes to what we’re trying to do two weeks from now.”
“I think it’s inevitable that whatever Max and JT do this week is going to be overrated for better or for worse,” Cink said. “I hope they both win. I don’t think it’s possible, but I hope they both win. That alone would be great for their confidence.
“And we’re in third place,” Johnson said.
Confidence is knowing that your best golf is still waiting.
“We hope they have confidence coming out of this week and that would be a big thing,” Cink said.