What kind of Ryder Cup captain will Zach Johnson be? “I can’t stand drama, so it will be my goal to avoid that”

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia – It’s too early to say what kind of Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson will be in 2023 when the US meets Europe from Sept. 28 to Oct. 28. 1 at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome.

That answer usually comes after the games and fair or unfair is almost always tied to whether a captain’s team won or lost.

But two-time Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III offered a hint.

“He’s already leading the way,” Love said. “He is working on it.”

Love referred to the myriad organizational details that a captain and his wife must plow through about a year before games: uniforms for the players, outfits for the wives, golf bags, practice rounds, travel, corporate events with sponsors, and post-meetings meetings with the PGA or America, the governing body for the Ryder Cup.

“I love it all,” said Johnson, who has lived on St. Simons Island since 2006. “Anything to do with the Cup, I love it.”

And the captain also has an important job, especially in recent years: make sure the preparation and attention to detail is so exhaustive that the 12-man team can show up that week and focus on golf – and hopefully soap operas to a can minimize.

“I’m a man who can’t stand drama, so my goal will be to avoid that,” Johnson said at a press conference at the Sea Island Club, the site of this week’s RSM Classic, on Wednesday. “It’s not always easy, it’s not always practical, it won’t always happen. That’s No. 1. No. 1. 2 would be: I just want to give the guys the opportunity to go into the most uncomfortable week in a very comfortable way.”

2023 Ryder Cup

2023 Ryder Cup

Team captains Luke Donald of England and Zach Johnson of the United States pose for a photo with the Ryder Cup Trophy at the Colosseum during the Ryder Cup 2023 Year to Go Media Event on October 4, 2022 in Rome. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

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Breaking a 30-year drought on the roads

Love and 2021 captain Steve Stricker have led the US to victories in two of the last three Ryder Cups, breaking a European domination that saw that continent win three in a row, and six of seven.

But Johnson has another tough task: winning a road race. The US last won in Europe in 1993 at The Belfry in England. When Europe won in France in 2018, it was their sixth win in a row on home soil.

Chances are Johnson will have about the same star team that won 19-9 in Whistling Straits in 2021.

Unless a compromise is reached with LIV Golf, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau will not qualify, but Johnson will likely have veterans like Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa and Tony Finau.

But he may also have the 2021 Ryder Cup rookie foursome of Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Harris English and Daniel Berger, who went 8-3-1 combined, and some players who have yet to make a team but are racking up points, like Will Zalatoris and Cameron Young.

Johnson said the PGA of America’s Ryder Cup “Task Force,” which established a list of best practices and a more consistent leadership process after the 2014 Ryder Cup loss under Tom Watson, has delivered results with the wins under Love and Stricker. He sees no reason to change.

“We have a system. … a template,” Johnson said. “The system for Team USA is really, really good right now. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to win…but it’s good and it can take on that leader’s persona year after year so you can stay on the same road and just have a different bus driver.

Johnson must be well prepared. He has played in five Ryder Cups and was vice-captain for the last two, under Stricker and Jim Furyk.

Since one of his neighbors on St. Simons Island is Love, Johnson has an experienced guide through the minefields of the coming year.

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Johnson’s first goal: to play captain

Job number one for Johnson is to become a Ryder Cup player. The last playing captain was Arnold Palmer in 1963 when he went 4-2 to lead the USA to a 23-9 victory over Great Britain and Ireland at East Lake in Atlanta.

“I’m going to try to make the team,” he said. “That might be a bit clever, but it’s a Ryder Cup year, that’s always been one of my goals, right? The best things I’ve been associated with in this game are those teams. Is that realistic? I have no idea.”

Johnson last clinched the Tour Championship in 2015, the year he won the second of his two major championships, the British Open in St Andrews. He will make only his second start of the season this week.

“There were two tournaments this fall that I would have liked to have played, but I couldn’t play and that’s okay,” he said of Ryder Cup-related issues. “If that’s a problem, it’s a big problem. It just means I have to be very efficient in my practice.”

But while still playing on the PGA Tour, he can stay close to potential players on his team, not just practicing rounds and range sessions, but trying to beat them.

“I’m kind of in that bridge between part of the youth and part of the non-youth of the game,” he said of his age 46. “I’m in a good position. I think it’s smart to have someone from my age group lead the team at some point.”

Johnson will become the first Ryder Cup captain under the age of 50 since Paul Azinger in 2008, and when games begin he will be the youngest since Tom Lehman in 2006.

“The great thing about me as captain is that I’m still with these guys on an almost weekly basis,” Johnson said. “For the most part, I play a fairly full schedule given some limitations.”

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Davis Love III, captain of Team USA, Zach Johnson of the United States, Brandt Snedeker of the United States and Jimmy Walker of the United States watch on the 14th hole during the afternoon four-ball games in the 41st Ryder Cup at the Hazeltine National Golf Club. Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Players support Johnson

Prospective players are eager to make the team and have the opportunity to work with Johnson.

“He just has so much passion for him,” English said. “He’s very positive and just a great guy. He’s going to keep it light there. He’s been on a lot of Ryder Cup teams, he’s seen the good and the bad and he’ll take all the good and lean on guys like Davis, rely on guys like Stricker to help him. He’s going to be an incredible captain to play for.”

Brian Harman spoke of Johnson’s inner fire, the intensity that brought two major titles and 12 PGA Tour wins despite being one of the shortest hitters on the Tour in an era of bombers.

“He’s a bulldog,” Harman said. “He’s a fighter and I think that’s the kind of captain you need, especially if you’re playing that tournament abroad. You need a tough guy who cares more about winning than style points and I think he’s going great become.”

Love said Johnson has an eye for organizational details.

“He’s very good at time management, he can really use his team to build a game plan,” said Love. “We have someone smart and organized as captain.”

Johnson said he will mostly be himself.

“I hope I’m the same guy,” he said. “I don’t have to deviate from being myself. The best captains I’ve ever had led by being themselves. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Contact Garry Smits at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter

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‘He’s a bulldog’: Players love Zach Johnson to captain Italy’s 2023 Ryder Cup

Zak Johnson

Zak Johnson

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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