U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson casts doubts on LIV golfers' hopes for 2023 event

Zach Johnson will captain the United States at the Ryder Cup in 2023 at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Guidonia Montecelio, near Rome. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

United States Ryder Cup team captain Zach Johnson has warned American golfers on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series that they may not be picked for next year's matches in Italy.

A total of 17 players were suspended by the PGA Tour ahead of LIV's inaugural event in St. Albans, England, earlier this month. Some players, including two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, chose to resign their membership from the tour, meaning they are no longer eligible to compete in tour events or the Presidents Cup.

Further players, including Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, have since joined LIV Golf, which will host its first event in the U.S. in Portland, Oregon, starting Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, Zach Johnson was asked about the challenge of making captain's picks for the 2023 Ryder Cup.

"So what I know is this: In order to play on the Ryder Cup team whether you're top-six or a pick, you must garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America," Johnson said. "In order to garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America, you have to be a member of the PGA of America. The way that we're members of the PGA of America is through the PGA Tour. I'll let you connect the dots from there."

Johnson, a 12-time winner on tour and two-time major champion, pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour but said he still has respect for golfers who have defected.

"I got some friends that have decided to go that route," he said. "A lot of individuals that I'm for. I mean, these are my friends. I'm for them. I want them to do well. I want them to, you know, find contentment or happiness in whatever it may be. It's not for me to say how that develops or how they find that. I will say I have the utmost respect for them individually."

Patrick Reed, whose "Captain America" nickname derives from his performances in three Ryder Cup appearances, said he has contemplated not being picked for U.S. team events, but he added that his decision to join LIV Golf was right for his family.

"I've thought about it [not being at the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup]. Who wouldn't?" Reed said ahead of this weekend's LIV event. "But at the end of the day, I felt like, when my family and I sat down and we just weighed all of our options, we felt like joining LIV Golf, especially with talking to some of the guys that played in London, that this was definitely the right decision. The right decision for us mainly mentally and physically. Just the quality of life. Being able to spend more time with the kids because that's been the hardest thing."

Neither Team Europe captain Henrik Stenson nor the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, have commented on how they will handle the ongoing issue ahead of next year's Ryder Cup matches.

Longtime Ryder Cup players Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are among the European golfers who have joined LIV Golf. Earlier this month, the DP World Tour fined defecting golfers £100,000 ($123,000) each and banned them from competing at three events co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour.

Said Garcia, when asked whether he knew before joining the LIV Series that it could impact his eligibility for the Ryder Cup: "You never knew how everyone was going to act. Obviously you were hoping that it wouldn't change. We still hope that it won't affect it."

The 2023 Ryder Cup is scheduled to take place at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Guidonia Montecelio, near Rome.

"I mean, why should it [Cup eligibility] be threatened?" Westwood said. "I've been playing Ryder Cup golf since 1997, and the criteria has been to be a member of the European Tour. Now, the criteria for being a member of the European Tour is to play four events. Why should they change that now?

"I've been a member of the PGA Tour and still played four events on the European Tour, and why would the European Tour change their rules so dramatically because another tour doesn't like it or feels financially threatened? There's just a bit too much protection going on for my liking and not enough transparency.

"I think as long as you fulfill the criteria to be a European Tour member, then you should still have the opportunity to try to qualify for the Ryder Cup team."