GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — Zach Johnson indicated he wouldn’t change a thing about America’s preparation and plan for the Ryder Cup despite them losing 16½-11½ to Europe at Marco Simone Golf Club.
The U.S. went into the Ryder Cup looking to end Europe’s 30-year unbeaten run on home soil. Europe captain Luke Donald said before the event his team was the underdog, but it was the hosts who sprinted to an early lead across the first two days and held off an American fightback Sunday to reclaim the Ryder Cup.
Speaking after the end of the competition Sunday, Johnson said he was still processing the three days and would love to start the whole week again.
“Four years from now, hopefully we’ll implement a better process certainly than I did and we can show up in Ireland, obviously retain it, get it back in New York [at Bethpage Black in 2025], but keep it once we go back to Ireland,” Johnson said. “So, playing on foreign soil, I mean, I wouldn’t have it any other way as the leader. That’s the way I’m wired. I mean, I don’t know.
“I love playing in front of our fans. I know these guys would probably say the same thing. I know they would say the same thing. But there’s something special about coming over here and having to fight because it’s hard, and I like the fight. So, I wouldn’t change anything.”
Johnson also dismissed any suggestions that his team came into the competition underprepared, with nine of the 12 players in the team not playing any golf since the FedEx Cup in August. “No. I mean, my first reaction would be no,” Johnson said when asked whether their slow start Friday was due to some of the players not having played much tournament golf.
“I mean, there’s also something to be said about rest and recovering and getting your game in a position where you can go compete,” he said. “I mean, these guys have won a lot of golf tournaments with weeks off. I have.
“So, I don’t think so. We had prep time here. Again, 2½ weeks ago. Reps are reps. The schedule is the schedule. You can’t control that. We try to control what we can control.”
Justin Thomas said the defeat was not down to any issues behind the scenes and the team was closer than ever.
“It’s a very, very busy, long week with very different routines and schedules that you would have in a normal week,” Thomas said. “The loss that we had this week has absolutely nothing to do with team camaraderie, because this is probably the closest team I’ve ever been a part of.”
Scottie Scheffler got the American team off to a decent start Sunday as he tied with Jon Rahm in the opening singles match of the day. He was desperate to bring something to the scoreboard after he and Brooks Koepka suffered a record 9 and 7 defeat to Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg in the Saturday foursomes. Television cameras picked up Scheffler in tears just off the green on 11 on Sunday, and he was then benched for the afternoon session.
“It’s a tough week, and sometimes you get on the wrong side of things,” Scheffler said. “And like Brooks and I went out, and we both just decided we were going to play terrible. I kind of started the party. I got off to a bad start, and things spiraled out of control from there.
“I was emotional after the round because I care a lot about this tournament. It’s one of my favorite tournaments of the year. These team events are tough to beat. Like the guys said, this felt like the closest group of guys that we’ve had. And at the time I felt like I was letting these guys down. I was put out in the morning to get a point, and so far, I had played in three matches and felt like we had a good chance of getting a point on Friday, and then we went out Saturday morning and just wasn’t able to get much momentum going. And it was pretty tough.
“Going out first today, I wanted to do what I could to get a point on the board for our team. We wanted to come out fighting, no doubt about that, and I put up another good fight on 18 for another halve, which is tough. I really don’t know what to say because I just wanted to win my match today for these guys. That’s really all there is to it.”