Fri, 22 Sep 2023

Rory McIlroy backs Brooks Koepka for Ryder Cup, but no Europeans

Field Level Media
01 Jun 2023, 04:40 GMT+10

Jon Rahm lamented that he won't be able to play with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia in this year's Ryder Cup.

But it's clear Rory McIlroy doesn't share the same view of the "politics" Rahm said Tuesday is keeping Team Europe's all-time leading Ryder Cup points scorer out of this year's event.

Whether players who have left for LIV Golf will be considered by their respective team captains remains an open debate, but those who have resigned their DP World Tour memberships aren't eligible to be selected by European team captain Luke Donald. That includes Garcia and fellow European Ryder Cup stalwarts Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson, who was stripped of the captaincy when he joined LIV last year.

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka sits second in the United States Ryder Cup standings, courtesy of his win at the PGA Championship that followed a runner-up finish at the Masters. That he plays for LIV and poses a big threat to the Europeans should Koepka be selected by U.S. captain Zach Johnson isn't of concern to McIlroy.

"I certainly think Brooks deserves to be on the United States team. I think with how he's played, I mean, he's second in the U.S. standings, only played two counting events," he said Wednesday ahead of the Memorial Tournament. "I don't know if there's anyone else 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."

Having spent the past year as the most outspoken LIV Golf critic among the PGA Tour membership, McIlroy's stance on Koepka represented the first sign of the ice thawing from McIlroy toward those who bolted for the Saudi-backed start-up. However, his issues with how his European counterparts have handled the move clearly remain.

McIlroy has admitted that being the de facto spokesperson among the PGA Tour membership has been an emotional drain over the past year. And whether that has contributed to the Northern Irishman's relative struggles on the golf course remains a debate.

After winning the Tour Championship and reclaiming No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking last year, McIlroy has been wildly inconsistent in 2023. Through his first nine events, he has a T2 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished third at the Match Play, but missed the cut at the The Players and the Masters and admitted his ball-striking was well off at the PGA Championship, despite scrambling for a T7.

"I can't remember a time where I felt so uncomfortable over the ball for four days," McIlroy said of his most recent start at Oak Hill. "So, I needed to go back home and work on some things and, yeah, feeling a lot better about it, not fighting the club face quite as much.

"Feel a little bit more free, which is obviously a nice feeling."

The Memorial is one of the few marquee events that McIlroy has yet to win, but he has long held Jack Nicklaus' signature course at Muirfield Village in Ohio in high regard. The world's third-ranked player hopes this week springboards into a positive stretch that will include the U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

"I would love to be able to put my name on the trophy and walk up that hill and get that handshake from Jack," he said. "That would be pretty nice to do."

--Field Level Media

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