ROCHESTER, NY — There’s an elephant in the room that’s growing by the day as the Ryder Cup approaches, and that’s whether LIV Golf players will be part of the biennial competition.
Since some of America’s top players – such as Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson – are not members of the PGA Tour and do not play on the LIV Tour, they are not eligible to accumulate points for the Ryder Cup, so they should be the captain’s picks.
And on Wednesday, when meeting with reporters ahead of this week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill, U.S. captain Zach Johnson deftly tiptoed into the subject.
“I was talking about it the other day with some of my vice-captains (and) we’re at a point right now where it’s not even a topic of discussion,” Johnson said. “When it comes to choice, it’s not even on my radar.”
When asked about Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson said, “It’s hard for me to judge that. I don’t know the golf courses they play. You’re talking about someone whose resume is extremely deep and broad. He’s certainly in my generation one of the best players I’ve ever played against, but it’s not fair for me to guess his true form or the true form of someone I can’t witness.
When asked about Koepka, Johnson said, “I haven’t really seen where he’s been since Augusta (where Koepka finished second). He played really well that week, but it only lasts a week. But there’s still plenty of golf between now and then.
For their part, Dustin Johnson and Keopka said Wednesday that they wanted to participate in the Ryder Cup, which will take place at the end of September outside Rome.
“I don’t know if I’ll be picked,” Dustin Johnson said. “Obviously, if I continue to play really well for the rest of the year, then obviously there’s a chance. I would really like to play the Ryder Cup. It’s one of my favorite events, especially after the last Ryder Cup (a US victory). I would love to be part of it.
Koepka said: “It would be great to represent the United States, but I’m not focused on that. If I manage my affairs here, everything will work out. If you take care of business, I feel like you should be fine. But that doesn’t depend on me. It’s up to Zach and what’s going on. I just do my best and see what happens from there, but I would love to play for him.
For European captain Luke Donald, the issue of LIV Golf seems simpler, with several of the European side’s stalwarts having resigned their membership of the DP World Tour due to the heavy financial sanctions imposed on them for playing with LIV without authorization .
Among the players who resigned were Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, three of the winningest players in Ryder Cup history.
Henrik Stenson, initially named 2023 Ryder Cup captain, his title was revoked when he joined LIV.
He too resigned his membership of the European tour.
Donald said there had been no captains’ agreement between him and Johnson on whether LIV players should be allowed to play.
“I think the team selections should be quite separate,” he said. “I’m in charge of the European team and what’s best for us, and he’s in charge of the American team and what’s best for him. I think that’s exactly how it should be.
“It’s a shame that there were resignations, (because) a lot of these guys built their legacy around the DP World Tour members and their involvement and everything else with the Ryder Cup. But at the end of the day , it was their decision, and unfortunately, they are no longer on the table for selection purposes for myself.
“I think in terms of what Zach does and his options, I think it’s kind of his decision. Having LIV players play on his team, again, I haven’t really talked to him about it as a captain’s deal. And let’s not forget that there are still LIV players who can still play on my team. They are still eligible if they are members of the Tour and were born in Europe. It’s still a possibility for some guys.