Home » What Zach Johnson got wrong on reality TV – Australian Golf Digest

What Zach Johnson got wrong on reality TV – Australian Golf Digest

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Undercover Pro newsletter. Sign up here to become a Golf Digest+ member to receive it regularly. Here a former Ryder Cupper speaks with Contributing Editor Dave Shedloski.

I’ve been a member of multiple U.S. Ryder Cup teams, both winning and losing. The other day I watched season two of the Netflix series, “Full Swing,” for the first time. Right off the bat, I’ll just say that Zach Johnson made a huge mistake allowing Netflix to have all that access to what he was doing as Ryder Cup captain. If he had had a better plan, maybe it would have been a good idea. As it was, it enabled everyone to see that his picks were totally about having all his buddies on the team instead of picking the hottest players.

Zach got exposed in a way that was telling in hindsight. He should have put himself above the fray and separated himself from his pals. It was a bad look.

From what I saw, the Americans went to Europe looking like they were most interested in being stars on a reality show. I didn’t notice much superior messaging or planning. The team knew Netflix was documenting them, and instead of showing how they had this great plan for winning the Ryder Cup, they tried to be part of a show. It was embarrassing. So they showed up in Rome completely unprepared. It wasn’t just Zach’s fault. But he’s the captain.

Mike Ehrmann

Team USA obviously was a close-knit bunch of guys. They wanted to win. But you never saw Zach doing much of anything specific to accomplish the goal.

Early in the Ryder Cup episode you saw Jordan Spieth putting the pressure on Zach, asking basically, “Who in this room is most likely for you to leave off the team?” Also in that room are Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas. They’re all staying together at the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, and you just know Zach isn’t leaving any of those guys behind.

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Zach calling his wife, Lisa, the “Captainness,” also hit wrong. I hadn’t heard that term since Corey Pavin was captain in 2010, and his captaincy was chaos. Your wife is incredibly important; you never want to minimize her support. But she isn’t on the team.

Maybe the most revealing moment is when Zach makes that call to Keegan Bradley to tell him that he isn’t going to make the team, and Zach has this big smile on his face after he hangs up because he’s so glad that it’s over with. A lot of guys have been there and had to swallow that disappointment. Instead of feeling genuinely bad—you know, recognizing how awful Keegan must be feeling and that he probably deserved to be on the team—it’s hard to detect much empathy from Zach and Netflix got it all on camera. To be happy that it’s over with? Sure, you can be relieved, but don’t be smiling.


Keegan and Jillian Bradley receive disappointing news. Courtesy of Full Swing, episode 6, Season 2.

Keegan being left off made the 2023 U.S. Team look like the clique that it was.

I thought Keegan was the one guy who manned up. He wasn’t doing the show to be a star. He was in it to be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and to me he was the only guy that was real, that wanted to be there the most. And he didn’t get picked.

Some say the Ryder Cup was lost on the first day of competition. Or maybe it was lost five weeks earlier when the six picks were not asked to go out and play some tournaments. (Only one of the six, Brooks Koepka, played prior to the Ryder Cup, and that was only because LIV Golf had an event scheduled in Chicago the week before.)

Once Netflix showed up, Zach should have been the most disciplined captain preparing in the most disciplined way. Going over to Italy, it was always going to be a monumental task. And to let all the fans see that you are not prepared, that’s pretty short-sighted. You’re thinking about a show. A lot of those guys were thinking about being in a show. They gave them a show, but they lost the Ryder Cup. Maybe that sounds cynical, but that is how it looked to me.

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com