US 2023 Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson is learning all he can this week as a Presidents Cup assistant captain, lessons he hopes will help produce victory next year in Italy.
Johnson will help US Presidents Cup captain Davis Love against the non-European Internationals squad at Quail Hollow seeking hints to help his Ryder Cup cause against Europe.
“I’m going to learn and I’m going to keep learning,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I’m taking notes. Sometimes they’re very, very large in magnitude, and then sometimes they’re really small.
“But sometimes those small things can go a long way.”
The Americans are coming off an epic 19-9 Ryder Cup blowout of Europe last year under captain Steve Stricker, another of this week’s US assistant captains, who has helped pass along systems and knowledge.
“You’re seeing better team results from USA golf because it’s gotten more consistent from team to team,” Stricker said.
“We have this ability to go from each year to learn more and more and to create these pairings that we know, or hope we know, will work.
“I think that can only benefit us for next year’s matches in the Ryder Cup, and then we’ll use stuff that Zach did for the next year’s Presidents Cup.
Johnson won the 2007 Masters and 2015 British Open. The 46-year-old son of a chiropractor won 12 PGA Tour titles and played on four Presidents Cup-winning teams and five US Ryder Cup squads, including the triumphant 2016 lineup.
“I’ve learned a lot, both from the captains that I played for and then the ones I’ve served alongside,” Johnson said. “We’ve kind of got a template, a system, in place.”
That foundation, built in the wake of a 2014 US Ryder Cup loss at Gleneagles, has enabled captains to provide their touches to a basic formula.
“The beauty of it is the personality of that leader can jump into that system and have his own form, add his own nuances to it, and it can be their team,” Johnson said. “You can personalize it even within the system.”
Johnson said he won’t tinker with the basic US program as he tries to lead the first US victory in Europe since 1993.
“I’m not going to reinvent the wheel next year,” Johnson said. “I think the synergy we have year to year is there. The rhythm of it is there.”
– Lessons of Medinah –
Stricker, who also captained a 2017 US Presidents Cup rout of the Internationals by 19-11, says the Americans are not overconfident this week even with an 11-1-1 lead in the overall rivalry and eight wins in a row, having never lost on home soil.
But Stricker said that lack of complacency has roots in the US Ryder Cup 2012 Miracle at Medinah loss to Europe, which won 8.5 points in singles for a fightback over a US side captained by Love.
“We learned from the 2012 Ryder Cup team and how we had this opportunity to win the Ryder Cup at Medinah, four-point lead going into Sunday, and we didn’t take enough time, really, or do the right things,” Stricker said.
“Davis would be the first to acknowledge that, I think. We just didn’t think that through enough probably.”
Stricker said he made sure those lessons were learned so there was no chance of a similar fate last year.
“We put in a lot of time, and we made sure that we got that right… knowing the history of what the Europeans did,” he said.
“There’s no complacency here at all. These guys know anybody can beat anybody at this level. There’s not one of them that isn’t taking this very, very seriously.
“That has been Davis’s approach to this in messaging, that we can’t just think we can show up and win this thing. We’ve got to go out and play well and take care of business.”