Brooks Koepka, the only LIV golfer playing in this year’s Ryder Cup at Marco Simone, Rome admitted that when he joined the Saudi backed tour last year, qualifying for the biennial contest was not in his thoughts.
Koepka defected from the PGA Tour to LIV after battling injuries and a loss of form but in 2023 he regained his mojo, winning his third PGA Championship and fifth major in total.
The American entered the season without a major championship top-10 since 2021 but a runner-up finish at the Masters (won by Jon Rahm) prompted him to cast his eye towards an unlikely Ryder Cup place on Zach Johnson’s USA team. He cemented his credentials with a thrilling win at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill before becoming the only LIV golfer to be selected for either Ryder Cup team earlier this month.
“I had a lot of other things going on in my mind (when I joined LIV). I don’t think Ryder Cup was one of them at that particular moment, but I think the closer this got, the more it was definitely in the front of my mind.
“I knew it would be tougher (to make the team because I was on LIV), but I think after Augusta I kind of had my eyes on it. I realised, I think, after Augusta I went to maybe 20th, somewhere around there on the points list, and then from there it was just motivation to get on the team.”
For fans of the Saudi backed tour, having a LIV representative at the Ryder Cup could be viewed as a ‘one up’ on one of golf’s proudest traditional contests but Koepka insists he is representing team USA this week and not LIV Golf.
“I feel like I’m representing the USA. That’s what I’ve got on the front of my hat this week, so that’s what I’m representing. It’s not a group of individuals in that locker room. We’re just all one team, and that’s the way we think. That’s what I believe, and I’m pretty sure everybody else there thinks that.”
A massive onus is placed upon team golf on the LIV circuit but the 33-year-old doesn’t believe familiarity in a team environment will help improve his 6-5-1 record in his fourth appearance.
“I mean, you’re just going to play a round of golf and then the team scores add up at the end. I don’t see how that has really any translation to this format. Yeah, you’re in a group setting or like a team setting, but other than that, I don’t see how it’s — we’re not playing alternate shot or best ball I think until Miami in three weeks, and that’s just a match play. You can only take care of yourself, so I guess it would be like a Sunday out here.”
While European skipper Luke Donald opted not to select any LIV golfer it is fair to say that US players on that tour made a more compelling case for selection such as Dustin Johnson and particularly Bryson DeChambeau who admitted after his win in Chicago last weekend that he was disappointed not to at least receive a call from Zach Johnson.
In typical Koepka fashion he showed no sympathy: “I had the same opportunity as every other LIV player, and I’m here. Play better. That’s always the answer.”
Koepka also revealed he would love to take a big name scalp this week, including close friend Rory McIlroy.
“You want to play a good player, and you want to, some guys want to play certain people. Yeah, I’d love to play Jon, Rory, Vik. I’ll play anybody.”