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Zach Johnson says ‘connect the dots’ on LIV defectors participating in future Ryder Cups

Zach Johnson isn’t too concerned about how LIV Golf will affect his U.S. Ryder Cup squad next year. A few others, however, are more anxious about their future Ryder Cup status.

When speaking Tuesday to media at the John Deere Classic, Johnson, the 2023 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, was asked how players bolting from the PGA Tour to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series could impact his team in Italy next year, and Johnson has an idea.

“So what I know is this: In order to play on the Ryder Cup team, whether you’re top 6 or a (captain’s) 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.”

Several key players from last year’s winning U.S. Ryder Cup team — Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, along with past U.S. fixtures such as Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson — have risked the chance to be part of the biennial festivities next year.

Reed, known as “Captain America” for his heroics in Ryder and Presidents Cups, said Tuesday ahead of LIV’s next event in Portland, Oregon, that he’s aware of the ramifications joining LIV might have on his Ryder Cup future, but said it was the “right” decision for him and his family.

Full-field tee times from John Deere Classic

On Wednesday in Portland, past European Ryder Cup members Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, who could be future captain candidates, acknowledged they may face Ryder Cup “sanctions” for joining LIV. They hope that’s not the case.

“I hope that I still have the possibility, as I’m sure (Kaymer and Westwood) do, too, to be a part of a few more Ryder Cup teams,” Garcia said, “but that’s not going to depend on us now. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed.”

Westwood added: “I mean, why should it be threatened? I’ve been playing Ryder Cup golf since 1997, and the criteria has been to be a member of the European (DP World) 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 (DP World Tour) member, then you should still have the opportunity to try and qualify for the Ryder Cup team.”

Zach Johnson said the PGA Tour is “the route I’m going to go” moving forward, but added that he has many friends who went to LIV Golf and he has “the utmost respect for them individually.” And amid all the uncertainty LIV Golf brings to the sport, Johnson is bullish about the Tour’s future.

“It’s hard for anybody to say that [LIV] is going to have a massive impact here or there,” Johnson said. “My hope is that it does not and my ever-optimist brain of mine says it will not because of what’s already established here (on Tour). I think players are starting to see that, you know what, it’s pretty darn good where we are right here.”