Team USA favored for ryder cup following captain’s picks

By Chris Harris Contributor

Updated 9/2/23 12:03pm ET

After much speculation — and a few sleepless nights for some contenders — the United States Ryder Cup team is set. And sportsbooks favor American success that has not been accomplished in three decades.  

U.S. Captain Zach Johnson revealed his six picks – Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who will join automatic qualifiers Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele to compete Sep. 29 through Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.

Every other year, the announcement has become one of the sport’s most divisive and anticipated days, as the public analyzes who made the cut and those left behind. But let’s be honest, it will be an uphill climb, as the U.S. squad has not won a Ryder Cup on European soil in 30 years (15 events). 

However, the odds suggest otherwise. Team USA is a -138 favorite to win the competition outright with Team Europe a +137 underdog and the tie at +1200 (12 to 1 odds).

This year’s event will be played about 30 minutes outside of Rome, Italy at The Marco Simone Golf and Country Club. The course was completely renovated to host the 2023 Ryder Cup and sits on 350 acres in the Roman countryside. Of note, the last 5 holes are the featured holes, specifically designed for match-play and low scoring.

As usual, the golfing public has some strong opinions on Johnson’s picks. So, how do we feel about it? That likely depends on whether “your guy” made the team. Let’s dig in on the roster. 

Captains Picks:

1. Brooks Koepka

Age: 33
World Ranking: 14
Ryder Cup Appearances: 2016, 2017, 2021
U.S. Ryder Cup Record: 6-5-1 (2-2 in foursomes, 2-3 in four-ball, 2-0-1 in singles)

There were doubts about whether Koepka, who finished T-2 at the Masters and won this year’s PGA Championship, would be selected for a pick after Xander Schauffele knocked him out of the sixth and last automatic qualifying berth after the BMW Championship. Johnson recognizes Koepka’s worth, particularly at a Ryder Cup away from home, when his game, bravado and fearlessness are just as valuable as his 6-5-1 record. 

2. Sam Burns

Age: 27
World Ranking: 21
Ryder Cup Appearances: First debut
U.S. Ryder Cup Record: N/A

Burns has only achieved two top-10 finishes since winning the WGC-Dell Match Play in March, the other being a T-9 at East Lake. Approaching the greens this season, Burns performed poorly, finishing outside the top 100, however, he was 11th in putting and 30th in total strokes gained. Burns will become a mainstay on these teams and will make Scheffler’s foursomes more formidable. Still, Johnson’s pick of Burns was a bit of a head-scratcher to many fans.

3. Rickie Fowler

Age: 34
World Ranking: 25
Ryder Cup Appearances: 2010, 2014, 2016, 2018
U.S. Ryder Cup Record: 3-7-5 (1-3-2 in foursomes, 1-2-2 in four-ball, 1-2-1 in singles)

Fowler has returned to the U.S. team for the first time since 2018, thanks to his impressive summer — he took home the victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, had a 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open, tying for sixth, and locked in his first Tour Championship spot since 2019. This season, Fowler finished ninth in the category of strokes gained approach and was ranked 64th or higher in each of the other four categories. Although Fowler’s individual performance in his previous Ryder Cup appearances isn’t very impressive, having Fowler in the team room is unquestionably advantageous.

4.  Colin Morikawa

Age: 26
World Ranking: 19
Ryder Cup Appearances: 2021
U.S. Ryder Cup Record: 3-0-1 (2-0 in foursomes, 1-0 in four-ball, 0-0-1 in singles)

Although he didn’t play his best this season, Morikawa finished strong with a playoff spot in Detroit and had top-25 finishes in all three postseason events, including a T-6 at East Lake. Morikawa remains one of the Tour’s top iron players, placing second this year in strokes gained on approach. When you rip your irons like Morikawa, there’s a reason he went 3-0-1 in his Ryder Cup debut at Whistling Straits.

5.  Jordan Spieth

Age: 30
World Ranking: 12
Ryder Cup Appearances: 2014, 2016, 2018, 2021
U.S. Ryder Cup Record: 8-7-3 (3-2-2 in foursomes, 5-2 in four-ball, 0-3-1 in singles)

Spieth has had two top-10 finishes since losing in the playoffs at the RBC Heritage and is playing very solid golf right now, but it’s not exceptional. However, with four Ryder Cup appearances under his belt, Spieth has the golf experience this U.S. team needs. He may be winless in singles matches thus far (0-3-1), but you can depend on Spieth as a team player, where he’ll probably link up with Thomas.

6. Justin Thomas

Age: 30
World Ranking: 26
Ryder Cup Appearances: 2018, 2021
U.S. Ryder Cup Record: 6-2-1 (2-2 in foursomes, 2-0-1 in four-ball, 2-0 in singles)

Even though he was unable to make the FedExCup Playoffs, Johnson undoubtedly admired Thomas’ grit at the Wyndham Championship to narrowly miss making the postseason and undoubtedly believed that Thomas’ experience and capacity to team up with Spieth made him too valuable to pass up. Whether or not Thomas is in peak form going into Rome, he should be heavily relied upon given his 6-2-1 record in his two previous Ryder Cup appearances. Thomas simply performs at his best during these team games. You can argue Thomas shouldn’t have made the cut, but you can’t argue that he isn’t the heart and soul of this U.S. team.

The Ryder Cup is played biennially. Every two years, 24 of the best players from the United States and Europe participate in a match play competition. The U.S. leads 27-14 in a tournament that dates back to 1927. As a reminder, ties can occur – it’s happened four times. In the event of a tie, the previous winner from the last competition retains the hardware.

The players who narrowly missed out are no doubt disappointed, and the players chosen will have to perform well to compete with a stacked European squad. Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to tee time.

*Odds courtesy of BetMGM

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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