US captain Steve Stricker insists Brooks Koepka’s feud with teammate Bryson DeChambeau won’t be an issue at the 43rd Ryder Cup.
But don’t expect the Major champions to be paired when the Americans face holders Europe in the biennial team golf showdown that starts on Friday at Whistling Straits, postponed from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s a non-issue, really, for me and the team,” Stricker said of the spat. “I’ve had conversations with them both. They have assured me it’s not going to be an issue. I have no worries whatsoever.
“We had great conversation, great talks. So, I’m not seeing it as an issue at all and they are completely on board.
“Will we pair them together? I don’t think so at this point. It could always happen, but probably not.”
The feud began at the PGA Championship in May and expanded over social media, with taunts of “Brooksy” being shouted to DeChambeau at tournaments.
Koepka’s injured left wrist and comments to Golf Digest about how the Cup is “hectic” and “a bit odd” also caused some concerns, but Stricker says the four-time Major winner’s health and attitude are both fine.
“He tells me everything is 100% and everything is ready and raring to go,” Stricker said of the wrist injury. “From what I understand, he’s fully healed and ready for everything.”
Stricker has also spoken to Koepka about his Ryder Cup comments, which had former US captain Paul Azinger saying Koepka should step aside for someone who cared more for the event.
“I’ve had experiences with Brooks over many of these teams,” Stricker said. “The conversations I’ve had with him and what I have personally seen in the team room do not jive up to what I was reading in those articles.
“I’m not worried about Brooks. He assures me he’s healthy. He assures me that he is 100% all-in on this team and whatever he needs to do for this team to become the winner at the end of the week.”
The fact talks are needed at this stage is something of a worry, with Stricker also planning to advise his players to stay off social media.
“We are going to pay attention to that and we are going to talk about it,” Stricker said. “They have been good and, knock on wood, they won’t say anything they shouldn’t say.
“We don’t have any mandates … but they will be smart about it. They do this on a daily basis and they know they need to be careful and cautious on what they put out there.”
Stricker disputes a long-held notion that Europe has found success through superior team spirit, with European squads winning nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups, including the most recent in France in 2018.
“That’s a misconception amongst our team,” he said. “When you’re getting beat, it’s hard to look like you’re bonded and they have done a really good job of beating us.
“But I’ve been part of plenty of these team rooms where the chemistry inside is nothing but great. Sure, we’ve had occasional hiccups along the way but, for the most part, it has always been very good. Guys are anxious to play.”
Tiger Woods has been available to advise Stricker, his players and assistant captains, but is not expected to interrupt his recovery from severe leg injuries in a February car crash to attend the event, texting and calling to deliver his thoughts.
“He has been in my ear a lot and I call him pretty regularly,” Stricker said. “He’s part of our Ryder Cup team. He has been part of so many of these teams.
“But I think it’s just not a good time for him to be here physically because of where he’s at in his rehabilitation and it’s a tough course to walk.
“So, he probably won’t show up. But he’s getting better and his focus and mine is on making a comeback to play again. We don’t want to get in the way of that because we would all love to see him come back and play.”
© Agence France-Presse