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Zach Johnson: ‘Not overly worried’ about Justin Thomas or Max Homa’s form in Napa



In a news conference Tuesday at the Fortinet Championship, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson was asked about his hopes and expectations this week for the only two team members in the field, Max Homa and Justin Thomas.

Johnson answered – and then his assistant, Stewart Cink, couldn’t help but interject.

“I think it’s inevitable,” Cink said, “that whatever Max and JT do this week will be overstated to the good or to the bad. I hope they both win. I don’t think that’s possible, but I hope they both win. That would be great for their confidence alone.

“Just for us, internally, we hope that they have confidence coming out of this week and that would be a great thing. Other than that, we just don’t look at results from one week. You just can’t do that; it’s not a good enough sample size. You’re not going to take somebody out of a pairing or put somebody in a pairing based on one tournament 7,000 miles away from Rome.”

Homa is the two-time defending champion while there will be much attention on the play of Thomas, who missed qualifying for the FedExCup playoffs for the first time in his career. Still, Thomas was selected by Johnson with one of his six captain’s picks, and he’s tuning up in Napa in his first competitive action in a month. Prior to this break, Thomas had just one finish better than 60th, with three missed cuts, in his last five appearances. Thomas is scheduled to meet with the media on Wednesday.

“Hopefully, they show some signs of great form,” Johnson said. “I’m not overly worried about that, concerned about that. It makes sense that JT is playing because he hasn’t played much.

“Again, I’m not going to give their scorecard a whole lot of merit when it comes to what we’re trying to do two weeks from now.”

The U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams have largely different approaches heading into arguably the biggest event of the year.

Many of the Americans are taking time off following a grueling summer stretch that culminated late last month with the Tour Championship. Homa and Thomas are the only U.S. team members who will have had any tournament reps between Aug. 27 and Sept. 29, when the matches begin. That’s one of the reasons why Johnson organized the team scouting trip to Rome last week, when nine of the 12 players played Marco Simone.

“That was part of the joy and the purpose of our practice-round trip,” Johnson said, “is to let those guys see the course so that way, when we get there that week, they don’t have to force it and push themselves to get their feet on the ground that much because they already know what to expect so they can prepare accordingly.”

All 12 members of the European Ryder Cup team, meanwhile, flew to Rome on Monday to play the host course, and they’re all in the field this week at the BMW PGA Championship. Several others played in the weeks preceding the DP World Tour’s flagship event, in either the European Masters or the Irish Open.

“Sounds like the European team might be playing a little bit more because of their schedule and the way it lays out, which is fine,” Johnson said. “Our guys will be rested.”

And Thomas and Homa, at least, will have a chance to assess the state of their games with the matches now just two weeks away.

“Ideally, they get some momentum,” Johnson said. “There’s something to be said about having control of the golf ball for a period of time that shows results, but you never know when that’s going to happen, and you never know when that’s going to leave either. I’m not giving a whole lot of merit in that regard.”