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Paul Azinger calls for Brooks Koepka to ‘relinquish’ Ryder Cup spot in new controversy

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Brooks Koepka has declared himself healthy for the Ryder Cup. That might not be a good thing, according to a former captain.

Former pro golfer and current NBC analyst Paul Azinger told reporters that he is not sure Koepka should be part of the American squad after the No. 9 player in the world questioned the setup of the event in a recent interview.

“After reading that, I’m not sure that Brooks loves the Ryder Cup that much and if he doesn’t love it he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love the Ryder Cup,” Azinger said. “Not everybody embraces it. But if you don’t love it, and you’re not sold out, then I think Brooks – especially being hurt – should consider whether or not he really wants to be there.”

Koepka told Golf Digest in a lengthy interview that the Ryder Cup format, which often forces you to depend on your teammates, is “tough” for him.

“There are times where I’m like, I won my match. I did my job. What do you want from me? I know how to take responsibility for the shots I hit every week,” Koepka said. “Now, somebody else hit a bad shot and left me in a bad spot, and I know this hole is a loss. That’s new, and you have to change the way you think about things. You go from an individual sport all the time to a team sport one week a year. It’s so far from my normal routine.

Brooks Koepka at the Tour Championship on Sept. 2, 2021.
Brooks Koepka at the Tour Championship on Sept. 2, 2021.
Getty Images

“I can barely see my [personal] team. It’s hard to even go to the gym. At the Presidents Cup in New York, we had to go to the gym at 5 a.m. to get it in. We went to the Equinox, and it was me, Dustin [Johnson] and Tiger [Woods], and we come back and go to a team meeting. Under regular conditions, I take naps a lot. I might take an hour, hour-and-a-half nap, or just chill on the couch and watch ‘SportsCenter,’ before rounds, after rounds, whatever. There’s no time to do that at the Ryder Cup. There’s no time to decompress.”

That did not sit well with Azinger, who was the captain of the 2008 team, as some consider the Ryder Cup a sacred event. The pressure is on the US team, as they have lost nine of the past 12 events to the upstart Europeans.

Paul Azinger at the 2001 Ryder Cup.
Paul Azinger at the 2001 Ryder Cup.
AFP via Getty Images

Koepka was one of the six automatic qualifiers for the team based on his success on the PGA Tour. He has made constant headlines for his ongoing feud with DeChambeau, who will be his teammate when the event tees off next week at Whistling Straits.

“And if you add the Bryson [DeChambeau] dynamic to that, that would be an even easier decision for him. Look, Brooks is one of the most honest, candid guys and if he is blatantly honest with himself and if he doesn’t want to be there, he should come out and say it,” Azinger said.

“Is Brooks deep down thinking, ‘Is this my reward – for playing so well I have to go and play in the Ryder Cup?’. It’s possible. I know there have been players who felt that way. The Ryder Cup is a different animal.”

Koepka was the only player missing from a team gathering and prep session last weekend at Whistling Straits as he recovers from a wrist injury. He did tell GolfWeek on Wednesday that he plans on playing.

“I’ll be there. I’m good to go,” Koepka, who has a 4-3-1 record in the Ryder Cup, told the magazine in a text message. “I’m feeling good. Been doing my rehab, doing everything I need to do to be ready for the Cup. I’ll be there ready to play.”



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