SALT LAKE CITY — Except for a skiing vacation to Park City, Zach Johnson had never been back to Utah since he won the Envirocare Utah Classic at Willow Creek Country Club in 2003 on the PGA’s Nationwide Tour.
However, the former Masters and British Open champion was in Utah earlier this month to support Tony Finau at a golf fundraiser for the Tony Finau Foundation where he talked about Finau and what he will bring to the United States team this weekend at the Ryder Cup matches in France.
Johnson knows all about the Ryder Cup as a five-time member of the United States team between 2006 and 2016. He is one of Jim Furyk’s vice captains in this year’s biennial event, which gets underway Friday at Le Golf National near Paris.
Johnson said he came to Utah because Finau asked him and because he thinks a lot of the 29-year-old Utahn, who will be part of what many are calling the strongest team in history for the U.S., with 11 of the top 17 players in the world. He was effusive in his praise of Finau’s game and inclusion on the U.S. team.
“What he brings runs the gamut,” Johnson said. “Tony brings a lot positives both on and off the golf course. Everybody talks about his prowess and all this kind of stuff, and his short game is really good. But his consistency is what stands out to me.”
Johnson said Finau has had “a slew of top-10s and top-fives on an array of different golf courses” and points to his high finishes in the majors this year.
“I’m ecstatic about that,” he said. “He’s very interchangeable as far as who he plays with. Off the golf course, you’re talking about one of the better human beings you can have, both he and his wife. He’s a great teammate and has good chemistry off the golf course. I don’t know how you measure that. It’s very important and he’ll blend right in seamlessly.”
Finau is excited to be playing with the best golfers in the world with millions around the world watching what has become one of golf’s most anticipated events in recent years.
Finau said the course near Paris fits his game well as he has already played it, being invited to play the course in early July, just before he went to Scotland to play in The Open Championship at Carnoustie. At the time, Finau was one of the top contenders for one of the Ryder Cup slots, and Furyk wanted to give him a look at the course and see how Finau played it.
As for who he might get paired up with this week, Finau said, “I’m going to meet with the captains and see, but they know I’m willing to play with whoever and whenever they need me.”
Finau said the two players he’s closest to on the team are Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, so perhaps he’ll end up getting paired with one of those two. Can you imagine a pairing of Finau and Watson, two of the longest hitters in the world?
One possible partner is Phil Mickelson, which would pair the player with the most Ryder Cup experience (this is his 12th) with the one with the least. They played together at the Northern Trust Tournament in New Jersey last month after which Mickelson said, “Not only is he a great player, he’s a solid guy, he’s one of my favorite guys to be around.”3 comments on this story
"Any one of the 11 guys I'd love to play with, Phil included," Finau told PGA.com earlier this week. "I think he's obviously shown us he shines at the biggest moments, especially at the Ryder Cup. To have that opportunity to play with him would be extremely cool for me; and to be on a team with Tiger and Phil is really cool for me."
The tournament gets underway early Friday morning with foursomes (alternate shots) in the morning and four-ball (best ball) in the afternoon Paris time. The same format will be followed on Saturday with 12 singles matches on Sunday.