With Viktor Hovland’s £15million victory in the FedEx Cup on Sunday, a European has conquered the PGA Tour for the fifth time in eight seasons, but the mystery is how the Americans will go about planting their flag on this side of the water for the first time since 1993.
It is quite the puzzle, such are the deliberations facing US captain Zach Johnson as he prepares to unveil his picks on Tuesday for the Ryder Cup in little over a month.
If the blessing of his job is the vastness of the American talent pool, then it will also be the source of some difficulty.
His six automatic qualifiers are already known and are formidable in a manner of ways — between Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele, Johnson will call on the world No 1, reigning major champions in Clark and Harman, and numbers four, six and seven in the global standings.
If tongue-and-groove partnerships are worth their weight in gold, then Johnson is blessed — in the alternate shot format of foursomes, Schauffele and Cantlay have a perfect record of five wins from five across Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches.
They will surely go out together again in Rome, but whereas a year ago a similar pairing between Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas seemed certain, now it is the greatest area of doubt.
Spieth will get a pick, as per the slightly unusual public pronouncement of Johnson’s vice-captain Fred Couples, who has already said the three-time major winner, and world No 17 Cameron Young will get a wildcard, but Thomas’s form stinks.
An ever-present on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams since 2017, and a brilliant match-player to boot, he has five cuts and a tie for 60th in his past eight starts.
It will be controversial whichever way Johnson swings on the Thomas conundrum, though it is worth noting they are friendly off the course and shared a house at the Open this summer.
There is far less doubt about Brooks Koepka. He fell out of automatic qualifying in the final week of the process, but his USPGA Championship victory, close shave at the Masters, and that he was so near to qualification despite being unable to earn points on the LIV circuit, should make selection a formality.
If Koepka, Young and Spieth are locks, then that leaves three from Collin Morikawa, who is arguably the finest iron player in golf and impressed in the FedEx, where he was sixth after initially leading, as well as Cup-obsessive Keegan Bradley, Sam Burns, Rickie Fowler, in-form Lucas Glover, Tony Finau and Thomas.
It seems inconceivable that Morikawa will not be included, and many informed insiders also expect Johnson to wager on the ‘class is permanent’ theory about Thomas. A strong argument of those remaining would also be made for Burns, who triumphed at the WGC-Dell Match Play this year, including victories over Cantlay, Scheffler and Young.
Burns, who was ninth in the FedEx Cup, is a great putter, so he has a compelling case, and one which could shift the balance away from Bradley and Fowler, who is an asset in the team room and in July ended a four-year wait for a title on the PGA Tour.
It is necessary to return to the LIV issue, because Johnson has been seemingly indifferent to the breakaway tour, which might well leave Talor Gooch out, despite three LIV wins in 2023, along with the resurgent Bryson Dechambeau and out-of-sorts Dustin Johnson. It would rank as a surprise if any of that three made the 12.