The prospect of Brooks Koepka playing on the U.S. Ryder Cup team is already causing headaches for the European side. Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm separately fielded questions at the 2023 Memorial Tournament regarding the idea of LIV Golf members playing in the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone this fall in Rome.
Serving as leaders for a European team that has successfully defended home soil for three straight decades, the two had differing opinions on the matter and what may be best for the heavy underdogs.
"I certainly think Brooks deserves to be on the United States team," McIlroy said. "I think with how he's played, I mean, he's second in the U.S. standings, only played two counting events. I don't know if there's anyone else on the, you know, on the LIV roster that would make the team on merit and how they're playing. But Brooks is definitely a guy that I think deserves to be on the U.S. team.
"But I have different feelings about the European team and the other side and sort of how that has all transpired, and yeah, I don't think any of those guys should be a part of the European team."
It is a peculiar statement from McIlroy at first glance, one some may believe is riddled with hypocrisy, but it does begin to make sense when given more thought. Koepka, along with Dustin Johnson, have maintained relationships with peers on the PGA Tour during their transition to LIV Golf. Neither have been vocal in the media nor bashed their former league, and by all accounts, it is business as usual in South Florida between the two Americans and their counterparts. And as McIlroy stated, Koepka is currently second in the U.S. standings. If he continues to play well in the major championships, he will qualify on his own.
McIlroy's statement could receive some pushback if a European LIV Golf member qualified for the team on his own accord -- similar to Koepka's current standing. But no doubt, relationships have been severed given a number of their comments regarding the PGA Tour and even McIlroy in particular.
European stalwarts Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, former captain Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia allas the league fined them for violating the tour's conflicting-event release policies when they joined LIV Golf. In order to play for the European Ryder Cup Team, one must be a member of the DP World Tour.
The ink dried on Garcia's decision to resign after a phone call with captain Luke Donald during which the Englishman told the Spaniard he had "no chance" of making the Ryder Cup team. This follows Donald stating at the 2023 PGA Championship that he would be open to the idea of LIV Golf members playing on the European side as former Ryder Cup participants Paul Casey and Thomas Pieters are still eligible.
Unlike Koepka, they have work to do if they were to qualify based on merit.
"I'm going to miss [Garcia]. We had a great partnership at Whistling Straits," said Rahm, who went 3-0-0 with Sergio in 2021. "I'm going to mention history again one more time. A Spanish duo in the Ryder Cup ... is embedded into the roots of the Ryder Cup. Look with Seve [Ballesteros] and Ollie [Jose Maria Olazabal] were able to do throughout their partnership, right? So, it's a little sad to me that politics have gotten in the way of such a beautiful event.
"Again, it's the best Europeans against the best Americans, period. And whatever is going on, who is playing LIV and who is not playing LIV to me shouldn't matter. It's whoever is best suited to represent the European side. And I have a hard time to believe that ... the most successful player Europe has had on the Ryder Cup isn't fit to be on the team. So, it's unfortunate. I will miss him. But with that said, I want to be hopeful. There's a couple of Spanish guys playing really good right now, so hopefully they can join me on the team."
In all likelihood, Garcia would have needed a captain's pick to play in his 11th Ryder Cup. While his performance on the course during the Ryder Cup is undeniable, this is ultimately a team event, and the captain's job is to balance personalities and pairings. The 43-year-old's presence on a team featuring not only McIlroy but Matt Fitzpatrick, who has been outspoken about LIV Golf, would have been tense to say the least.
Garcia extended his all-time points record to 28.5 points at Whistling Straits with his performance alongside Rahm in the team portion of the competition. The Spaniard became the all-time leader in most foursomes points won with 13.5 and joined Ian Woosnam and Olazábal for most fourball points won with 10.5.