OWINGS MILLS, Md. — United States Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker said that he’s spoken individually to Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka about putting their running feud to rest for the good of American golf, and each has agreed it won’t be an issue at Whistling Straits.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Stricker said he’d spoken with each of them on the phone and gotten some assurance that their mutual disdain won’t be a distraction for an American squad that’s won just two Ryder Cups in the last 20 years.
Both golfers, according to the 54-year-old captain, agreed to stop publicly sniping at one another. Or at least agreed to press pause.
“They assured me that the team and the country and everything else that goes into this is their [top priority],” Stricker told Sports Illustrated. “They said it’s not going to be an issue, and I believe them. I trust them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s been put to bed.”
After his opening-round 70 in the BMW Championship at Caves Valley on Thursday, Koepka acknowledged to ESPN that he and Stricker had spoken, and that he had no issue dialing back whatever their feud has evolved into.
“I talked to Strick and he said they don’t want it,” Koepka said Thursday. “I told him: ‘That’s easy enough.’ For one week, we’ll put everything aside. It’s not a big deal.”
Stricker noted that the squabbling between the two, most of which played out on various social media platforms after the PGA Championship at Kiawah, has already cooled considerably.
“We haven’t heard Brooks say anything about Bryson lately,” Stricker said. “The Ryder Cup means a lot to these guys. Neither wants to be the root of the problem. They both understand.”
Koepka has been forthright when asked about DeChambeau — he readily admits he doesn’t like him, and he has enjoyed needling him in various ways — but he has also said he didn’t believe that would be an issue for Team USA from Sept. 24 to 26 in Wisconsin.
Golf, in Koepka’s eyes, is an individual sport, and a frequent obsession with camaraderie — particularly in Ryder Cups — is overblown.
“It’s an individual sport and you play a team thing for one week,” Koepka said. “To be honest, it’s more of a fun week than anything. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. There is always going to be a winner and there is always going to be a loser. Somebody has to lose, whether it’s us or Europe. Everyone makes [camaraderie] a big deal when you lose, but that’s part of sport.”
What does a harmonious locker room look like to Koepka? One that makes a lot of birdies. It’s not, in his mind, much more complicated than that.
“If everyone is winning, guys are a little bit more excited and everything is easy,” Koepka said. “It’s like you see in any other sport. If a season isn’t going well, if you have a tough loss, guys freak out. You see fights, a lot of anger, guys down on themselves. The same thing goes with [the Ryder Cup]. We don’t usually do that in an individual sport, but it’s a team thing for one week. So that’s how it goes.”
DeChambeau has said little over the last month, boycotting all post-round interviews with print reporters since he was widely criticized for saying, after testing positive for COVID-19 prior to the Tokyo Olympics, that he wasn’t going to get vaccinated for the virus because he wanted to save the shot for someone who needed it more than he did.
Asked whether there was any chance he might go against conventional thinking and actually pair Koepka and DeChambeau together at the Ryder Cup — reminiscent of Hal Sutton’s decision to pair Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson together in 2004 at the height of their uneasiness toward each other — Stricker essentially shot down the idea.
“I’m not going to tell you there’s no chance,” Stricker told SI. “But I don’t see it happening, no. I don’t think they want to play together.”