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Ryder Cup 2023: Zach Johnson says he's 'grateful we have a team doctor' as things get even worse for the U.S.

September 29, 2023
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Jamie Squire

As golf fans witnessed, Friday at the Ryder Cup was an absolute disaster for the U.S. But according to Zach Johnson, things are even worse than they seem for the Americans.

After falling behind 6½-1½ on the opening day, the U.S. captain revealed that in addition to playing against Europe, his squad is also battling health-related issues. And he alluded to those issues affecting his lineup.

"I would say that we'd love to have everything drawn out way, way ahead of time, but there's certain things you cannot control," Johnson said when asked about his afternoon four-ball lineup, "and we are trying to control the controlables in our team room, and I'll leave it at that."

Only he didn't quite leave it at that. Johson was then asked, "So you don't want to answer?"

"No, not particularly," Johnson replied. "The bottom line is there's been some unforeseen things that we've had to navigate around, which is really unfortunate, in the sense of health. It's not an excuse, because we have depth, but I'll just say, I'm grateful we have a team doctor."

A minute later, Johnson was asked a follow-up question about his team's health issues.

"We're just fighting things, I mean, internally," Johnson said. "It's kind of passed around a little bit, caddies, players. It is what it is. But it's nothing more than that. Guys are fighting and playing regardless. I mean, it's not anything that's kind of weighed us down because of the depth we have and because of the many options we think we have."

OK then. Still pretty mysterious. When asked later if illness was causing Johnson to keep Rickie Fowler on the bench Saturday morning, Johnson said this:

"I'm not going to get specific on individual guys. I don't think that's fair. I think it's irresponsible to say who is playing for what reason and who is not for what reason. I mean, I'm not—to say that all—you know, I'm not going to get into that."

And he had another exchange with a reporter trying to get more details.

Q. Sorry, may I just follow up. I know you've been talking about the health thing. Going to take a bit of a punt here, but is it like a head cold thing? I noticed quite a few of your players have been sniffling a lot in their press conferences this week.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, we have got some congestion and some just signs of things that are unfortunate. It's one of those where sometimes the energy is probably a little low, but the ability and desire to go out and play is still there. That's what we are weighing. Every one of them still wants to play every match, which is encouraging.

Q. But it's spreading through your team?

ZACH JOHNSON: It kind of has, yeah, I'm being honest, yes, it has. It has spread through my team.

You've got to feel bad for a guy who has waited years for the opportunity to captain a Ryder Cup only to have a team playing at less than 100 percent when it finally happens, but that's sports. And, of course, there will be some people out there who think Johnson is just making excuses for his squad's brutal start. Regardless, the U.S. team—and its doctor—certainly have their work cut out for them this weekend.