2023 Ryder Cup: PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka may force United States captain’s hand for spot on team
Brooks Koepka is now a five-time major champion following his victory Sunday at the 2023 PGA Championship. Brooks Koepka is playing some of the best golf in the world at the moment. Brooks Koepka belongs on the United States team for the 2023 Ryder Cup this fall outside Rome at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.
These are all facts.
Rapidly ascending to second in the team rankings following his runner-up performance at the 2023 Masters and his triumph at the PGA Championship, the 33-year-old now has the inside track to qualify on his own for an American side that is looking to end a three-decade drought on European soil. Behind only world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Koepka’s name checks in ahead of U.S. staples like Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas with the top six ultimately earning a spot on the team.
“Yeah, he’s on the team,” U.S. captain Zach Johnson said regarding the prospect of a player from LIV Golf qualifying for the team on his own. “He’s got direct ownership in that, absolutely.”
Still four months out from the competition — with plenty of movement to come in the player rankings — Koepka’s standing will be something to follow. He will only have two more opportunities, the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, to gain Ryder Cup points and solidify his position with the Americans as LIV Golf does not award Ryder Cup points for its events.
It is likely his name drops between now and September as his counterparts on the PGA Tour will have ample chances to climb inside the coveted top six before qualifying ends after the 2023 BMW Championship, the penultimate event of the season.
Johnson will announce his six captain’s selections a week later after the 2023 Tour Championship. Reiterating the need for chemistry in the team room, unknowing that LIV Golf is broadcasted on The CW and unwilling to travel to their events to follow Koepka (should he even need it) and five-time Ryder Cup participant Dustin Johnson (5-0-0 in 2021 at Whistling Straits), the U.S. headman does not seem keen on the prospect of utilizing one of his picks on a member of LIV Golf.
“It’s too premature, frankly irresponsible, to even have any sort of opinion about that,” Johnson said at the PGA Championship. “Given where we are at right now, there’s a lot of points out, No. 1. No. 2, you have a bunch of elevated events. Shoot, No. 3, if you go back on history, there’s names right now that [are] probably on both tours that we’re not even mentioning that could have a chance given what’s from us. So, I haven’t even begun to discuss picks with anybody that I trust in my circle, specifically the vice captains. I feel like it’s irrelevant to even discuss.”
What is relevant is Koepka’s current heater. Finishing behind just one player, world No. 2 Jon Rahm, through 144 holes of major championship golf this season, the Koepka that ran through the world of golf from 2017-19 appears to be back and here to stay. He has been a member of the last three U.S. Ryder Cup teams and was influential in American triumphs in 2016 and 2021 with a record of 6-5-1.
While Johnson appears content on waiting things out, his hand may ultimately be forced by the five-time major champ.
“If you go second, first, first, first [in the four majors], it would be kind of tough not to pick, right?” Koepka said ahead of the PGA Championship. “If you go handle business, I feel like I should be fine. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to Zach and what goes on. I just play my best and see what happens from there, but I would love to play for him …
“It’s tough to be in Zach’s mind or where he is at, but I would love to make it hard on him. That would be cool. The only thing I can do is go play good. If I play good, everything takes care of itself.”