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'interesting' pairing

British Open 2023: Brooks Koepka had a very interesting playing partner at Royal Liverpool

July 18, 2023
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Stuart Franklin/R&A

HOYLAKE, England — The Ryder Cup is less than three months away and it’s still unclear if LIV Golf members will be allowed to compete for the United States team. Which is why eyebrows were raised Monday when discovering Brooks Koepka was practicing at Royal Liverpool with a certain influential person on the matter.

The person in question was American Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson. The two-time major winner has said as recently as May that “no decisions have been made” regarding what to do with LIV Golf players. “As far as personally making decisions, no,” Johnson said at the time.

But Koepka is currently third on the United States team rankings, with the top six automatically qualifying for the team. Speaking to the media Tuesday ahead of this week’s Open Championship, the reigning PGA champ explained his Monday round with Johnson was unplanned.

“Walked on the first tee right behind Scottie [Scheffler]. He didn't have a tee time, neither did I and neither did Zach and neither did Cam [Smith],” Koepka said. “There was a good little wait, so we all played.” When asked if the Ryder Cup came up at all, Koepka replied in the affirmative. “Yeah, it was fun. We got to talk about it a little bit, just what's going on, I guess how the team is shaping up. It's kind of interesting.

"Yeah, it was just hearing his perspective and all the stuff he's got to do," Koepka later added. "The PGA of America does a really good job in easing it for him, and just kind of talking about the preparation for it, what our team is going to do, where are we going to be, and just a little bit more about the shuffle of guys and the stuff they have kind of behind the scenes stats, stuff like that. It's quite interesting just hearing about it all.”

There’s currently an odd LIV dynamic heading into the Ryder Cup. Most LIV members with European ties surrendered their DP World Tour memberships, thus disqualifying them from playing in the biennial event. However, American LIV players have a separate prerequisite for United States Ryder Cup eligibility, with their PGA of America membership allowing them to compete despite being suspended by the PGA Tour. At least, that’s the current belief, as the U.S. Ryder Cup team has not stated with authority that LIV members will definitely be allowed to compete.

Complicating matters is the recently announced joint venture between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (LIV Golf’s financial backer), which has ended the litigious battles between the entities and hopes to return unification to the sport. Somewhat complicating the plot is the PGA of America’s presence in a Department of Justice antitrust probe spurred by LIV Golf’s accusations that golf’s governing bodies and decision makers were working with the PGA Tour.

Though he’s third in the U.S. rankings, this will be Koepka’s last chance to earn automatic points, while his PGA Tour counterparts have until the end of the second FedEx Cup playoff event, the BMW Championship, to qualify. Johnson will then have six captain's picks at his disposal, which he will name following the Tour Championship. Three U.S. players from the 2021 Ryder Cup—Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau—are current LIV Golf members, as is former U.S. assistant captain Phil Mickelson. Five players from the 2021 European squad left for LIV Golf in Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Bernd Wiesberger.

Koepka has been a part of three Ryder Cups, including wins in 2016 and 2021. He is 6-5-1 in 12 matches.

The 44th Ryder Cup begins Sept. 29 in Rome. The Americans are the defending champs, but have not won the cup on foreign soil since 1993.

​​Is it the British Open or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilize both names in its coverage.

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