Brooks Koepka was offended by media coverage of golf of recent comments that team sports “may not have been in his DNA”, which have snowballed into public questioning of his Commitment to Team USA and the Ryder Cup.
The four-time Major League Champion, in his first public remarks since sustaining a wrist injury at the Tour Championship three weeks ago, spent a good portion of Thursday morning’s pre-tournament press conference in Whistling Straits referring to to the flashback of a Golf Digest interview in which he described Ryder Cup week as hectic and “a little strange” because he is forced to break with his individual routine and does not have time to relax.
“I never said it was negative,” Koepka said. “I said it was different. Like I said, I have never played any of these team events. [before turning pro]. I didn’t play the Walker Cup. I never played the Junior Ryder Cup. I never played anything. I just said it’s different. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. They all spun it that way. “The 31-year-old continued to insist,” I wouldn’t be nervous at the first tee if I didn’t care.
As for the status of his cold relationship with his American teammate Bryson DeChambeau, Koepka was noticeably shorter. “We are together on the same team,” he said. “We have dinner almost every night as a team. I got here on Monday and everyone on the team is interacting, everyone engages in conversations and does everything we have to do. ”The contrast between the self-defeating individualism of the Americans and the team spirit of the Europeans remains the oldest breed in the world. this biennial event, but like most stereotypes, there is at least a grain of truth.
How else to explain why the team that routinely comes with superior players has won only two of the nine Ryder Cups this century, and five of the 17 dating back to 1985? This year’s showdown along the windy western shores of Lake Michigan, which was delayed a year due to the pandemic, is no different.
Steve Stricker’s 12-man squad includes 10 of the 13 best players in the world, while Europe only features Jon Rahm, the top ranked. As hosts, the US will enjoy the familiar advantage of being able to tailor the 7,500-yard track setup to their strengths and a magnified advantage in crowd support due to Covid-19 travel restrictions for spectators. based in Europe.
This dissonance is the essence of what makes the Ryder Cups such an absorbing theater and it seems to find a new symbol in Koepka, one of the veterans on a US team with six rookies, the most for Americans since. 2008 when they won in Valhalla. .
“It’s tough,” Koepka told Golf Digest. “There are times when I think, ‘I won my game. I did my job. What do you want of me?’ I know how to take responsibility for the shots I take every week. Now someone else made a bad shot and put me in a bad place, and I know this hole is a loss. That is new and you have to change the way you think about things. You go from an individual sport all the time to a team sport one week a year. “
Those comments caught the attention of Paul Azinger, the former US team captain turned NBC expert who openly questioned whether Koepka should be part of the team.
“I’m not sure he likes the Ryder Cup that much, if he doesn’t like it, he should quit his job and get people to like it,” Azinger said during a conference call last week. “Not everyone accepts it. But if you don’t love it and you’re not exhausted, then I think Brooks, especially if he’s hurt, should consider whether or not he really wants to be there. And if you add the Bryson [DeChambeau] dynamic for that, it would be an even easier decision for him. “
But Koepka, who has played for the last two Ryder Cup teams and competed with an ankle injury in the 2016 US PGA Championship to qualify, was clearly frustrated Thursday by the way the media communication framed those comments.
“I can only do my job and then report, or whatever, his opinion or his side,” Koepka said. “You guys spun it negatively, so it’s going to reach the fans because you are our only means of communication other than social media. So it’s how you take it and turn it around and you express it negatively.
“So what they think will be outside of what they read, whether you write an article or whatever you are doing. They read those things. So if it’s the opinion of his guys, they’ll take that side a bit more. “
The most common response to Europe’s unlikely streak of success is familiarity with the format. Alternative shooting is the game of choice on Saturday mornings on courses from Ireland to Spain. Compare that to the chest-pounding American egos that make American couples fight over whose sponsors’ ball to use in foursomes.
Koepka only gave credence to the theory on Thursday, admitting that the first time he played a foursomes match was at Hazeltine five years ago.
“I didn’t play for any team as a kid,” Keopka said. “So this is the first time that I have done some teaming other than college. I never played alternate shots until I got here. Some of the guys probably have that luxury because they played the Walker Cup and things like that, so they might have a better idea. I like it. It’s fun. Is different. It is difficult to build a rhythm.
“You make a good shot and you are going to wait 15 minutes before taking the next one. At the end of the day, it’s just who plays better. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism