Everyone can afford to be courteous on the Monday of Ryder Cup week. The two team captains, Luke Donald and Zach Johnson, were all charm and laughter at their opening press conference, but part of the fun of it is knowing that only one will be Sunday evening. You could pick up hints of the storylines that will shape the week of whichever of them loses in the questions about the captain’s picks, the pairings, the order of play, and, in particular, all the talk about players from the LIV tour who aren’t here this year.
Brooks Koepka is the only one who made it on either side, and it turns out he flew to Rome alone, while the rest of the US team travelled together. “Given time constraints and, I don’t know, the slots for taking off and landing, time-wise, it seemed it was best that Brooks meet us here,” Zach Johnson said. “But for him to fly from Chicago to Atlanta and for us to wait for him and go, we would have got in a lot later. I don’t think it was even feasible. So he met us here.” Odd thing was, Koepka got here before the rest of them.
Koepka was coming from the LIV event in Chicago, where he finished tied 24th, eight shots back from the winner, Bryson DeChambeau. It was DeChambeau’s second win in the last three LIV events, and he spoke afterwards about how hurt he was that Johnson hadn’t even made the effort to speak to him about selection. “It would have been nice to at least just have a call,” DeChambeau said, “There’s numerous people that I think Zach should have called out here, and we didn’t get that. It definitely does sting a little bit.”
Koepka, of course, has major form this season. He finished T2 in the Masters earlier this year, and won the PGA Championship. But that isn’t the only difference between them. DeChambeau also signed up to the antitrust suit against the PGA tour, Koepka never did. Johnson insisted that had nothing to do with it. “We have a points system within The PGA of America, within the Ryder Cup USA. It’s pretty evident how you garner points and which tournaments you can accumulate points in,” he explained. “It was the top 25 guys in that point system that had my full attention.”
Donald had his own version of this. John Rahm recently spoke about how disappointed he was that Sergio García wasn’t involved this week, and said it would be “stupid” not to use him. “Obviously we know the situation with Sergio,” Donald said. “He resigned his situation five months ago, and once that happened he was ineligible. I know there were some stories about him trying to pay off some fines and stuff. But we know what the DP World Tour rules are, and once you resign, you can’t reapply for membership until the following year.”
At least one of them can expect to have to answer the question about whether they’ve any regrets about it all over again come Sunday.