Rethinking Zach Johnson, the unlikeliest Ryder Cup captain

by Joanne Miller

Zach Johnson’s career in golf has been defined by moments that were overshadowed by other players or events. In April 2007, Johnson won the Masters, but all the attention was on Tiger Woods. In July 2015, he won the Open Championship, but the focus was on Jordan Spieth’s bid for a Grand Slam. Throughout his career, Johnson has been easily overlooked but oddly successful.

Now, Johnson finds himself in a different position. He is the captain of the United States Ryder Cup team for the 2023 tournament. This appointment came as a surprise to Johnson, who thought he would potentially be chosen for a Presidents Cup in the future, but not the Ryder Cup.

Speaking about his new role, Johnson acknowledges that he has always been efficient in capitalizing on opportunities. This mindset has served him well throughout his career, which started in Iowa, where he was not even considered one of the top players in college golf.

While other players of his caliber would have gone into teaching or business after college, Johnson declared himself a professional golfer. Many thought he was delusional, but he believed that his process would eventually be better than other players’ processes.

Now, as the Ryder Cup captain, Johnson understands the magnitude of the position. Leading a Ryder Cup team requires work and comes with consequences. If the team wins, the players are celebrated, but if the team loses, the captain is blamed.

Being a captain involves more than just choosing pairings and giving speeches. It requires year-long communication, site visits, dealing with the PGA of America, and handling endless minutiae. Johnson knows that he must stay true to his personality as a captain and lead in a way that suits him.

In the end, Johnson’s captaincy in the Ryder Cup could be a defining moment in his career. A win would change how he is viewed in the golf world and finally get the recognition he deserves. Johnson has always been overlooked, but now he has the opportunity to prove that he belongs among the greats of the game.

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