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Friday, March 1, 2024

Koepka gets major-level Ryder thrill playing for US

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Chicago—Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka says playing for the United States in next week’s Ryder Cup will bring the same thrill as battling for top individual titles.

The 33-year-old American, who captured his third PGA Championship in May at Oak Hill, will compete in this week’s LIV Golf Chicago tournament before joining the US squad next week in Italy for the Ryder Cup.

Koepka, who has a history of playing his best at majors, has been preparing for weeks to face holders Europe as the Americans seek their first victory on European soil in 30 years.

He sees the Cup as an equal test to a major in those terms.

“I think it is,” Koepka said Wednesday. “My whole mindset has been to practice for that the last few weeks.

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“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.

“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.

“I’ve enjoyed it. It has been great and I’m looking forward to it.”

Brooks Koepka

Koepka was a selection by US captain Zach Johnson after barely missing out on an automatic qualifying spot despite being banned from the PGA Tour after defecting to LIV Golf last year.

Being on the opposite side of the PGA-LIV divide did not give Koepka any problem on a trip two weeks ago to Rome to see the host course before next week’s showdown.

“Good trip,” he said. “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.”

When it comes to legacy, Koepka sees the Ryder Cup as much about record. He played on triumphant US sides in 2016 and 2021 and was also on the American squad that lost in France in 2018.

“Everybody remembers their record, or that’s kind of what you’re known by, wins, losses,” he said. “(Ian) Poulter has pretty much made a career on that.”

Koepka isn’t sure that knowing how it feels to lose in Europe will provide extra incentive this time around.

“I’m not sure how many guys have been part of losing teams in Europe. But yeah, it’s definitely a different feeling,” Koepka said. “Losing is no fun but somebody has got to do it. Hopefully it’s not us this year.”

Koepka didn’t approach the Marco Simone course any differently than any other layout he was analyzing ahead of a future event.

“I just treat it like any other course. Just figure out those two days, figure out where I want to put the ball in the fairway. Then it comes pretty easy,” Koepka said.

“Just figure out the wind and the distance that you’re trying to hit it, and you calculate that all in and that’s the club you hit off the tee.

“I’ll worry about it when we get there next week, but more the green complexes, where things will be and stuff like that. Usually when I go scout a golf course, it’s for lines off the tee.”

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