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HAVEN, Wis. – Brooks Koepka said his commitment to Team USA and the Ryder Cup should not be called into question.
“I enjoy it. I think it’s a lot of fun to play,” Koepka said Thursday at Whistling Straits, home to the 43rd Ryder Cup. “I wouldn’t be nervous on that first tee if I didn’t care.”
A recent wide-ranging Q and A with Golf Digest, however, cast doubt in some circles. So much so that Paul Azinger, who bleeds red, white and blue and has played in four editions of the Ryder Cup in addition to captaining the U.S. to victory in 2008, suggested if Koepka doesn’t love the Ryder Cup, he should have relinquished his spot in the team.
But Koepka, who has played on the last two teams and is 4-3-1 in eight matches, never said he didn’t like the Ryder Cup in his interview with Golf Digest. He said the Ryder Cup is different, especially for someone who grew up playing an individual sport.
“I don’t want to say it’s a bad week,” the four-time major winner and world No. 10 told Golf Digest. “We’re just so individualized, 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. It’s the opposite of what happens during a major week.
“It’s tough. There are times where I’m like, ‘I won my match. 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.”
This led Azinger, who is the lead golf analyst this week, to say in a conference call that he wasn’t sure if Koepka loves the Ryder Cup.
“If he doesn’t love it, he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup,” Azinger said. “Not everybody embraces it. But if you don’t love it and you’re not sold out, then I think Brooks – especially being hurt – should consider whether or not he really wants to be there.”
Azinger wasn’t alone in his take on the Koepka interview. But Koepka has worked hard to recover from a wrist injury that forced him to withdraw from the Tour Championship in the third round earlier this month. And he answered his critics in his meeting with the media on Thursday.
“I never said (the Ryder Cup) was negative. Y’all spun it that way,” Koepka said, referring to the media. “I never said it was negative. I said it was different. Like I said, I’ve never played any of these team events. I didn’t play Walker Cup. Never played Junior Ryder Cup. Never played anything. I just said it’s different.
“That doesn’t mean it’s bad. Y’all spun it that way.
“It takes a little bit of adjusting but once you get out there, it’s the same thing; it’s competition. It’s, go put the ball in the hole as quickly as possible, and hit the best shot you can. It takes a little bit of adjusting but it’s tough. I mean, my whole life, I just played an individual sport and go to a team, so it is different.
“But I enjoy it. I think it’s fun.”
When asked if he thought some of the expected 45,000 fans per day might think he doesn’t love the Ryder Cup, Koepka said he “can only do my job.”
“And then y’all report whatever your opinion or side might be,” he said. “So you guys have kind of already spun it negatively, so it kind of is going to trickle to the fans because you guys are kind of our only outlet besides social media. So it’s how you guys take it and spin it, and you guys spun it negatively. Whatever they think is kind of off what they read, whether you write an article, whatever you’re doing. They read that stuff. So it’s all kind of your guys’ opinion, they are going to take that side a little bit more.”
As for his injured wrist, Koepka said he’s all good.
“I’m like glass, so I wouldn’t say I am 100 percent,” he said. “I feel fine. I feel as good as I’ve felt in a long time. Over the past week and a half, I did a lot of work on it with Derek Samuel, my trainer. He was down with me for about eight days, so able to kind of work everything out and make sure it’s fine. But I feel good and I’m ready to go as much or as little as they want.”
Even if he’s asked to play 36 holes per day on Friday and Saturday?
“I’m good,” he said.
And there have been no dustups with Bryson DeChambeau. The two have quarreled on social media that past four months, which led some to wonder if there’d be problems in the team room this week. There haven’t been. In a video posted by the USA’s Ryder Cup social media account, the two had a brief conversation on the driving range and all seemed civil.
“We are on the same team together,” Koepka said when asked what his relationship was with DeChambeau. “We’ve had dinner almost every night as a team. I got here on Monday. Everyone who is on our team is interacting and everybody is participating in conversations and doing everything we need to do.”
Which is to win back the four-pound, 17-inch tall gold cup.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brooks Koepka sets record straight about Ryder Cup commitment