US captain Zach Johnson blamed a flu bug which has swept through his team for their calamitous opening day showing at the Ryder Cup. Johnson claimed several of his players have been laid low this week at Marco Simone and their performances have suffered on the back of it.
“The bottom line is there’s been some unforeseen things that we’ve had to navigate around in the sense of health. It’s not an excuse, because we have depth, but I’ll just say I’m grateful we have a team doctor,” said Johnson.
“We have got some congestion and some just signs of things that are unfortunate. It has spread through my team. We’re just fighting things internally. It’s kind of passed around a little bit – caddies, players.
“It’s one of those where sometimes the energy is probably a little low, but the ability and desire to go out and play is still there. Every one of them still wants to play every match, which is encouraging. Guys are fighting and playing regardless. I mean I’m proud of those boys the way they came out.”
However, former European captain Paul McGinley put the USA’s no-show down to their slack preparation for the contest.
“You’re going into the cauldron. This is about character and it’s about performing under a huge amount of stress and being prepared. Nine of the American players have not played since the FedExCup. Would any of those nine players go into a major championship without playing the four weeks before?” said McGinley.
Meanwhile, Johnson insisted rustiness was not a factor. “I don’t know if it’s fair to go one way or the other on that,” he said. “We’ve seen success when you do play into big tournaments, whether it’s a major or a Ryder Cup or whatever. We’ve also looked at and found success with a lot of rest off. There’s something to be said about rest and recovery and preparation, too.”
But ex-Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart dismissed his defence. “I have a massive question, and Zach Johnson is going to get hit with this,” Coltart told Sky Sports.
“Who on earth in their right mind thinks the best way to prepare for a Ryder Cup is to take five weeks off? Nine of the 12 American players took five weeks off. That’s disgraceful.
“We thought, two years ago, that they were going to be in this for the long haul – 10 years of domination. But their team has been a little bit depleted… and our top players didn’t pitch up at Whistling Straits. Today that’s exactly what they did do.”