Saturday, October 23

Smug Brooks Koepka storms the Ryder Cup as Europe fades away | Ryder Cup


This was much more similar. Just as the Ryder Cup lurched into dominance of the boring procession, the controversy reached the Whistling Straits across Lake Michigan. It came in multiple forms and while it doesn’t mask the simple fact that this event is for America to lose spectacularly, weird fights always add up to a Ryder Cup show. Cozy, welcoming isn’t of particular use to anyone.

The protagonists were largely American, strange given their dominance. Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were involved in incidents that drew disapproving looks. Sportsmanship will not prove to be the winner here, however both teams perform during the closing ceremony. Life is full of winners; not all are good winners.

The United States’ lead, 11-5, leaves them three and a half points away from glory. Europe, who need nine to retain the trophy, have had moments, but not enough. Barring something extraordinary, the United States will win the cup for only the second time in six attempts.

Koepka’s conduct was the most egregious. Failing to get the free relief when he was near a drain on the 15th hole of a foursome loss to Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, Koepka targeted two umpires. “If I break my wrist, this is for fucking both of me,” he barked as he gestured towards the officers. Koepka seemed to believe that his recent injury history somehow supported his case, with his response to a perfectly mundane decision, that of a child with rights. Koepka’s playmate Daniel Berger was presumably trying to impress the four-time main winner with his audible claim that the decision was “bullshit.” After this unseemly rampage, Koepka hit the green with an iron shot without any apparent discomfort. Garcia and Rahm were going to enjoy the last laugh.

The pity was that the umpires did not punish American petulance with the immediate loss of a hole. Interestingly, Whistling Straits spectators have received routine warnings that “verbal abuse by players, captains, caddies or officials” will lead to their expulsion from the facility. Players are clearly protected but exempt from the mandate. If Koepka had a genuine concern about the type of damage he referenced in his outburst, he would have received a penalty drop. It wasn’t like America was absolutely desperate for his point. “Yeah, we didn’t get it,” was Koepka’s unimpressive response when asked on stage later that day.

Dustin Johnson lines up his putt on the 11th in Saturday's fourballs
Dustin Johnson lines up his putt on the 11th on all four balls Saturday. He has been the outstanding player of the contest. Photograph: Tannen Maury / EPA

The United States won that foursome session by the same score as the previous two, 3-1. Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa combined to eliminate Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, 2 & 1. Thomas and Spieth finished two ahead of Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger. Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick paired for the second time and lost for the second time, this time 2 and 1 to Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Westwood’s 11th Ryder Cup appearance has not been a happy one, with Fitzpatrick’s struggles coming as a major surprise.

This 9-3 lead was the trigger for Thomas, rested for the fourballs, to launch cans of beer into the already dizzying galleries of the first tee before the fourballs. The world number 6 even joined Berger for a drink. These are not heinous crimes, but the European contingent would have easily interpreted them as disrespectful. The shouts of the crowd towards the European players have regularly crossed the line.

DeChambeau used just one hole from his afternoon game to create a scene. The Californian, so apparently offended by being made by Tommy Fleetwood and Hovland to hole out from 3 feet, placed his putter in the hole as to show that the putt had a concession length. DeChambeau shouldn’t have had a problem hitting the ball into the hole, if the distance was really that trivial.

There was more to come. Spieth got caught up in an argument with Adam Hayes, Rahm’s caddy, in the middle of an argument over where the Spaniard should fall on the 5th. “I didn’t raise my voice, buddy,” Spieth said. Hayes, not known as a shrinking violet, seemed ready to continue the feud before Rahm stepped in to cool things down.

Beyond the kind of episodes that have caused laughter at the clubs in St Andrews and Muirfield, Saturday afternoon featured the best golf of the 43rd Ryder Cup. Europe was very competitive in every game except perhaps Game 4 when Rory McIlroy, restored to the lineup after a morning break, and Ian Poulter worked hard against Johnson and Morikawa.

Johnson has been the outstanding player of this contest, a point that he endorses for being the only American who will participate in the five sessions. McIlroy’s talent is such that a good performance in singles cannot be ruled out. However, he seems like a totally lacking confidence golfer. A third loss in the same number of starts was by 4 and 3.

Hatton and Shane Lowry participated in the best game of the four balls, against Tony Finau and Harris English. The Europeans were two up after the 11th, but led by just one hole after the 13th. Hatton and Lowry admirably resisted the challenge from the US, Lowry celebrated wildly after holeing from 12 feet for a four at the last.

Rahm and Garcia, Europe’s strongest pair, beat Spieth and Koepka 2 & 1. Hovland and Fleetwood wanted to cut the deficit to 10-6, the same score as Saturday and Sunday in Medinah nine years ago.

DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler closed that door, 3 & 1. Everywhere, no doubt, except for the considerable screaming.


www.theguardian.com

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