With the PGA Tour enjoying a rare off week on the schedule, 11 of the 12 members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team are likely practicing at home for next week’s clash with Team Europe in Rome. But not Brooks Koepka, who will be dusting off any potential rust at Rich Harvest Farms, site of the 2023 LIV Golf Chicago event, the 12th of a 14-event schedule this season.
Koepka was the only LIV golfer picked to play in the 2023 Ryder Cup. He held the sixth and final automatic qualifying spot for the American squad until the final point-counting event at the BMW Championship, which left U.S. Captain Zach Johnson with the unenviable task of deciding if he wanted to include a LIV player on his team.
Koepka slipped to seventh based on a lack of point-gathering opportunities but his PGA Championship win and tie for second at the Masters were enough to convince Johnson that he was worthy of selection to the 12-man squad.
“I’m a pick this year, a little different. Would have liked to make it on my own but it was close,” Koepka said Wednesday during a pre-tournament press conference. “Just happy to be on the team. We went over to Rome a few, what was it, maybe a week and a half ago now. Good trip. Most of the guys were there. Got to see the golf course. It’s pretty difficult, but it will be interesting to see how they set it up.”
What also presumably helped his chances of wearing the red, white and blue once again was the pending merger of the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The PGA of America runs the U.S. Ryder Cup side of things but the forthcoming merger made the presence of LIV golfers on the team more palatable. But more than anything, Koepka proved during the course of the year that he’s healthy again and a healthy Koepka is a dangerous Koepka, especially at the biggest events. The bigger the stage, the better Koepka has performed throughout his career and the Ryder Cup certainly qualifies as one of the biggest stages.
“I mean, look, I think it’s one of the top six, seven, biggest sporting events you can have. So I like it when there’s a little bit more eyeballs, a little bit more pressure,” he said.
And playing team golf on LIV is not the same as what it’ll be at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.
“It’s obviously different with the whole team thing. Sometimes you don’t play every match so you are just cheerleading from the side, which can be quite fun as well,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been great and I’m looking forward to it.”
Koepka is also learning the ropes of fatherhood. He finished tied for 38th in the LIV’s 48-man field at the last event, just after he and wife Jena welcomed their son into the world. He says being a dad “definitely” has changed him.
In what ways?
“You start to see him, and it’s more about like the hard work, about the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that no one sees. … I don’t want to him to have any example of somebody being lazy, just dragging their butt. It’s, if you put the hard work in, you will get the results eventually, doesn’t matter what you do,” Koepka said. “I think trying to set a good example. I know he’s 2 months old and has no clue about that now but it becomes a hell of a lot easier when you get older. I just want him to see what hard work is.”