The American pair's bizarre decisions in recent days are in stark contrast to that of Team Europe. Alex Perry explains in The Slam
Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam and, after 12 long, painful months, it’s time for the Ryder Cup. And the last few days have been rather spicy. Let’s dig in…
What is it with the American team? Even when captain Steve Stricker sorts himself out with a frankly ludicrous six wildcard picks and is afforded the opportunity to leave out Patrick Reed and create an almost likeable team, he still ends up on the end of a couple of PR disasters thanks to two automatic qualifiers.
We already knew it was going to be difficult for Stricker having Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau on his team. They clearly don’t like each other, and never will.
No real drama, of course. It’s not like they’re the first athletes on the same team to not get on.
And both have addressed it in the past few months. Brooks says he can put his disliking for someone aside “for business”, while Bryson said it doesn’t matter because they wouldn’t be paired together in a million years. (Be fun though, wouldn’t it?)
But in an interview with Golf Digest that media cliche dictates I must describe as “explosive”, Koepka has gone in two-footed on not his team-mates but the tournament itself.
When GD’s Matthew Rudy asked him it’s “strange being on a team”, Koepka didn’t hold back.
“It’s different,” he said. “It’s hectic. It’s a bit odd, if I’m honest.”
Please tell us why, Brooks.
“I don’t want to say it’s a bad week. We’re just so individualised, and everybody has their routine and a different way of doing things, and now, it’s like, OK, we have to have a meeting at this time or go do this or go do that.”
Koepka explains that during a regular tournament week, he’s in charge of his routine. He can relax when he wants to relax, he can practice when he wants to practice. At team events, he has to use the gym at 5am, and there is no time for his regular naps. Poor thing.
And we haven’t even got on the course yet.
“There are times where I’m like, I won my match,” he explains. “I did my job. What do you want from me? I know how to take responsibility for the shots I hit every week. Now, somebody else hit a bad shot and left me in a bad spot, and I know this hole is a loss.
“That’s 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. It’s so far from my normal routine.
“It’s more demanding than I’m used to, and there’s a lot of emotion there, so by Sunday, you’re just dead.”
Which is bad news for DeChambeau, who this week admitted he “wrecked” his hands preparing for his entry in the World Long Drive Championship which begins – oh you’ve already guessed it – the day after the Ryder Cup ends.
So why is he doing it?
“It’s more of an arena environment with massive speakers pumping music and energy drinks to get you amped up,” DeChambeau told Golf.com. “It’s not necessarily playing against the golf course. It’s a head-to-head competition – I’m trying to be faster than that guy – which I personally like and enjoy.”
DeChambeau will become the first full-time PGA Tour member to compete in the long drive contest, and he doesn’t plan on it being a one-off.
“People don’t realise how difficult long drive really is,” he added. “In golf, it’s the one thing where you can judge your accomplishments by a number. On Flightscope, you can see the ball speed number. And when you obtain a ball speed number, it’s so different and unique.”
You know what else is “different” and “unique” in men’s golf, Bryson? The Ryder Cup. Give it your full attention. You never know, you might like it.
Meanwhile in the Euro camp…
We were at the glorious Sunningdale last week where we attended an audience with Tommy Fleetwood thanks to one of his sponsors, Tag Heuer. But while there will be no Moliwood this year after unbeaten Paris partner Francesco Molinari failed to make the team, Fleetwood explained why he’ll be OK without his right-hand man.
“One of the best places you can find yourself in golf is the European team room. The family you become, the bond you have, the way you play for each other. It’s a beautiful place to be.
“We have such a connection. We all love the Ryder Cup and the chance to play as a team. America has a team full of amazing champions. But as long as we go in with the belief we can win and focus on that aspect, that’s all we need.
“We have amazing players too. I don’t think anyone in that team room is expecting to lose when they go out. They might have the higher ranking players over all, but in Paris we had the World No 1 [Rory McIlroy] and we do here [Jon Rahm]. Shane Lowry is a rookie but has won an Open. Viktor [Hovland] is an amazing world player and Bernd [Wiesberger] has won a ton. These days, rookies don’t seem to be rookies anymore.”
It’s always nice when you can start to piece together why Europe have dominated the Ryder Cup for the past couple of decades.
Before you go…
I’ve recorded a few podcasts in recent months and two of them heavily involve the Ryder Cup and are equally fascinating for very different reasons.
You can listen to my chat with Graeme McDowell in the player below or wherever you get your podcasts…
…and I also spent 40 minutes on the phone with Peter Dawson, the first left-hander to play in a Ryder Cup, who has some wonderful insight into what it was like to play in that tournament in the 70s. You know what to do.
Right, that’s enough from me. Make sure you head to our dedicated Ryder Cup website for loads more news, views and insight into golf’s finest event.
Enjoy the tournament and I’ll see you on the other side.