Justin Thomas is Team USA’s ‘heart and soul’: Zach Johnson explains divisive pick

Justin Thomas is Team USA’s ‘heart and soul’: Zach Johnson explains divisive pick

Justin Thomas is headed to Italy.

On Tuesday, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Zach Johnson selected Thomas as one of his six captain’s picks despite his lackluster performances throughout 2023.

“Obviously, form is a part of our decision-making process; there are a number of elements in that process, and form is one of them,” Johnson said.

“But so is fit for the golf course, fit for the team room, experience, and in my mind, when you are talking about [Thomas] specifically, he has passion and full confidence in [the Ryder Cup]. He is where he belongs.”

Thomas has had the worst year of his career this season, as he failed to make the cut at three of four majors, missed out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and carded rounds in the 80s at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship.

Justin Thomas, PGA Tour, Wyndham Championship

Justin Thomas reacts to his third shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the 2023 Wyndham Championship.
Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images

He also recorded just three top 10s, a career low.

Yet, Thomas has an impressive 6-2-1 career record at the Ryder Cup, a big reason why Johnson selected him.

“When it came down to it, it was a pretty easy pick,” Johnson added. “Especially since the top six guys also took some ownership in the team.”

Those top six players who previously qualified for the team include Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa, and Xander Schauffele.

Those six wanted Thomas to be a part of the 2023 Ryder Cup, which will mark his third appearance. Only Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler—also captain’s picks this year—have more experience than Thomas.

Thomas, a two-time PGA Champion, is also best friends with Spieth and Fowler, which helps team comraderie. He seemingly gets along with everyone.

On top of that, Thomas has experience playing in a Ryder Cup on European soil. In 2018, when Le Golf National in Paris hosted the competition, Thomas and Spieth played together in all four sessions on Friday and Saturday.

The two compiled a 3-1 record against the Europeans, and then Thomas went out and beat Rory McIlroy in the first match in singles on Sunday.

He and Spieth combined for seven points in France, as the other ten Americans combined for just 3.5 points.

Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Ryder Cup

Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas consult their yardage books during the 2018 Ryder Cup.
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

Three years later, at Whistling Straits, Thomas and Spieth lost to the modern-day Spanish Armada—Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia—in the opening match.

The duo then rallied on Saturday to defeat Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger, which helped give the Americans a commanding 9-to-3 lead going into the Saturday afternoon matches.

In total, Thomas and Spieth have combined to go 4-2 when playing together and will likely tee it up in Italy again.

Besides his close friendships with those on the team, Thomas is very close with Tiger Woods, who often refers to Thomas as a ‘little brother.’ It is unknown whether Woods made a pitch to Johnson on Thomas’ behalf.

But when considering all of these factors, especially the passion Thomas has, Johnson had no choice but to select the former Alabama star.

“He has been the heart and soul of Team USA,” Johnson said. “In my mind, he was born for this, and you just don’t leave [Thomas] at home.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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