Column: Not exactly a united US team at Ryder Cup
SHEYBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — The video put out by the U.S. Ryder Cup media staff tried to say one thing. The body language from Brooks Koepka told a different story.
Yes, he’s teammates for the week with Bryson DeChambeau and 10 other guys, charged with regaining the Ryder Cup on home soil. But his feud with the long hitter isn’t over by any stretch.
“We are on the same team together,” Koepka said in somewhat cryptic remarks Thursday. “We’ve had dinner almost every night as a team.”
Where they sat at the table is probably another story, and Koepka wasn’t in a mood to offer any more details. Suffice it to say no one expects them to be drinking from the Ryder Cup together should the U.S. find a way to turn back the Europeans at Whistling Straits.
That’s despite DeChambeau teasing earlier in the week that there might be “something fun” that comes out during the Ryder Cup about his relationship with Koepka.
“I have no idea,” Koepka said, hands on hips, when asked what that meant. “I didn’t listen to the comments or hear what he said, so I have no idea.”
Koepka’s dislike of DeChambeau is no secret, though he hasn’t spelled out just what irritates him most about his new teammate. It seemed to begin with DeChambeau’s penchant for slow play and spread as the two sniped at each other over the last year on social media.
Then, of course, there was Koepka famously rolling his eyes during a Golf Channel interview as DeChambeau walked behind him and said something at the PGA Championship in May.
One thing is for sure: On an American squad obsessed with team bonding as a path to defeat the Europeans, don’t expect Koepka and DeChambeau to play together or even play some pingpong in the team room.
Assuming, of course, that Koepka is in the team room at all.
Bonding with fellow players, it seems, just isn’t his thing.
“I haven’t been in the team room,” said Koepka, who is teamed with Daniel Berger against Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick in an opening foursomes match Friday. “Just chilling too much. I know the obligations are cut down, but I’ve still got long days.”
Those days have presumably been filled with practice and physical therapy for the variety of injuries Koepka always seems to be nursing. He hurt a wrist a few weeks ago and has long had issues with his knees.
Still, he got a rebuke from Paul Azinger, the NBC analyst who knows a bit about the Ryder Cup as a former winning captain.
“I’m not sure he loves the Ryder Cup that much,” Azinger said. “If he doesn’t love it, he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love it.”
Koepka insisted Thursday that he never disparaged the Ryder Cup and that the media took it the wrong way. It was typical Koepka: blunt, defiant and unafraid to say just what he thinks.
“I never said it was negative. Y’all spun it that way,” he said. “I never said it was negative. I said it was different.”
But he raised eyebrows in a Golf Digest interview when he suggested that team golf, especially alternate shot where you are dependent on a partner, isn’t really his thing. He was also the only one of 12 American players who didn’t join captain Steve Stricker in an excursion to Whistling Straits earlier this month to play the course and get to know each other better — which Koepka said was because he was rehabbing his wrist injury.
On a young U.S. team with six Ryder Cup rookies, Koepka is an elder statesman of sorts at the age of 31. He has played in two Ryder Cups and has mostly delivered, with a 4-3-1 record on one winning and one losing team.
That could have been highlighted in a video posted on social media this week by the official U.S. team account. Instead, the video showed Koepka on the driving range walking over to DeChambeau and appearing to say hello as dramatic music soared and everything seemed right in the world again.
It wasn’t just hokey but disingenuous as well. The two just don’t like each other, no matter the message the short video was attempting to send.
In the end, though, none of it really matters. Even in a team match like the Ryder Cup, golf is still the most individual of sports and both Koepka and DeChambeau have the inner fire that makes them want to win every time they set foot on a course.
If the U.S. wins, they’ll celebrate and be feted alongside their teammates. In the team picture Sunday night they’ll both have big smiles — though likely from opposite sides of the frame.
If the Americans lose, they’ll be blamed for poisoning the atmosphere and ruining Stricker’s big moment in his home state of Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the feud will continue. And golf will move on.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg