Paul Azinger, one of only two US captains to have won the Ryder Cup this century, has told Brooks Koepka that he should pull out of next week’s match and “give up his place to someone who would love to play”.
Koepka, the four-time major winner, shocked the golf world earlier the week by saying he finds the biennial bust-up “tough, hectic and a bit odd” and expressed his frustration that he “can’t take naps” during the week.
Steve Stricker, the US captain, has yet to comment on the article in Golf Digest, but Azinger believes Koepka should make a choice. “After reading that, I’m not sure that Brooks loves the Ryder Cup that much and if he doesn’t love it he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup,” Azinger, the 2008 victor, said. “Not everyone embraces it, but if you aren’t sold on it then I think Brooks should consider whether or not he really wants to be there, especially as he is hurt.”
The US squad has been at Whistling Straits on a two-day reconnaissance mission, but Koepka is the only one of the 12-strong team not to have travelled to Wisconsin, instead electing to remain home in Florida to continue his recovery from a wrist injury that caused him to withdraw from the Tour Championship two weeks’ ago. Stricker says the ball is in the 31-year-old’s court concerning his fitness.
“I’m leaving it up to him,” Stricker said. “It sounds positive. He’s working hard to be there.I haven’t talked to him for a couple of days. I’ll give him a jingle tomorrow.”
However, Azinger thinks it may be more complicated that just his injury and his desire. There is also Koepka’s long-running spat with Bryson DeChambeau, another headache for Stricker.
“When you add the Bryson dynamic to that [Koepka’s indifference to the Ryder Cup], that would make the decision easier for him,” Azinger said. “Look, Brooks is one of the most honest, candid guys and if he is blatantly honest with himself and if he doesn’t want to be there, he should come out and say it.
“Is Brooks deep down thinking ‘is this my reward – for playing so well I have to go and play in the Ryder Cup?’. It’s possible. I know there have been players who felt that way. The Ryder Cup is a different animal.”
Even if Koepka does turn out for his third appearance, Azinger is adamant that he and DeChambeau have to “put their differences aside for the week”.
“I am a fan of both players, but I think it’s going to go one way or the other,” Azinger, the NBC analyst, said. “They’re either going to put the weight of this US team on their shoulders – or they’re going to be a pain in the neck.”