Brooks Koepka hadn’t even made the turn at Oak Hill and his performance at the year’s first two major championships had already taken hold of the Ryder Cup narrative.
Whatever hypotheticals about this year’s U.S. team and whether players who joined LIV Golf would be welcome back became exceedingly practical following Koepka’s performance at the Masters, where he finished second, and at the PGA Championship, where he closed with a 67 for a two-stroke victory. That reality landed on this year’s U.S. captain Zach Johnson, who was asked if he would feel “comfortable” with a LIV player on the team.
“I don't know. I can't answer that,” Johnson said. “I'll say this: The guys that are on the PGA Tour that make that team, they have direct ownership in that collectively. For me to stand here and say that I would feel comfortable or uncomfortable with it would be, I would think, irresponsible on my behalf because it's not my team.”
In a spirited interview following his round at Oak Hill, Johnson largely deflected most questions about LIV’s potential impact on this year’s matches, but there was one telling exchange when he was asked if he planned to attend any LIV events prior to the Ryder Cup to scout potential players.
“Are you expecting me to go to LIV events and spectate?” Johnson asked. “I don't need to be present. I'm not in the U.S. Open, and given my travel schedule and what I have behind that and in front of that, there's no reason for me to go out there and spectate when I can watch on television.”
That answer, however, didn’t satisfy the reporter, who pressed, asking if Johnson was worried about the “perception” from the LIV players that he’s “too busy” to attend events on the breakaway circuit.
“Again, that’s your opinion. You’re making something up,” he said.
Koepka began the week 22nd on the U.S. points list and is projected to move to No. 2 with his victory at the PGA. The top 6 players on the list on Aug. 20 will automatically qualify for the matches and Johnson will have six captain’s picks.
“We'd be lying to ourselves and say that they [LIV players] don't want to be on the team, right. I've heard that narrative. I mean, I get it, too. I'm an American. I want to be on my own team. That's your goal every two years,” Johnson said.