Zach Johnson will be tasked with ending a 30-year away drought for the US when he is named as the country’s Ryder Cup captain on Monday.
The two-time major champion has been the favourite to succeed Steve Stricker who oversaw a record 19-9 victory over Europe last September.
There was talk in the wake of the Whistling Straits waltz that Phil Mickelson could be in contention to lead the Stars and Stripes in Rome in Sept 2023, but his candidature was effectively doomed when he sided with Saudi Arabia and their mooted Super Golf League.
On Tuesday, Mickelson revealed he was taking a break from the game after a controversy in which he called the Saudis “scary motherf—–s to be involved with”, but that he believed he was justified in doing so in order to gain leverage from, the PGA Tour in his own over media rights. Mickelson has always been touted as the perfect US captain for the 2025 match in New York and it will be intriguing to see if this actually transpires after this reputational damage.
So it is Johnson who must try to inflict a first home defeat on Europe in 30 years. The Iowan, who turns 46 on Thursday, has been a vice-captain in the last two matches and appeared on five teams as a player, most recently in 2016 where he was at last on the winning side.
The Associated Press first revealed the news on Wednesday and it was later confirmed by Telegraph Sport sources.
Nobody will be too surprised at the decision of the PGA of America panel – which included Stricker – despite an unenviable record that has seen him involved in seven Ryder Cups and only prevailing on two occasions.
Johnson is unassuming but hugely popular in the locker room and his status in the game cannot be questioned as one of only six golfers to have won majors at both Augusta and St Andrews, emulating Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, and Tiger Woods at the Old Course in 2015.
Europe have put back making their choice until the end of March, meaning that this will be the latest they have unveiled the new captain since Bernhard Langer in 2003. Much of this procrastination can be put down to the SGL saga.
Henrik Stenson has been mulling over an offer to join the breakaway league, knowing that if he jumps that will be the end of his Ryder Cup career. If the Swede does defect then Luke Donald would be the favourite, with another Swede in Robert Karlsson and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie also in the four-man race to succeed Padraig Harrington.