Golf

Stricker plays down DeChambeau-Koepka feud

Koepka & DeChambeau's bickering won't affect Ryder Cup hopes, says US captain

A frosty relationship between fellow golfers Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka threatens to be a distraction to the United States' bid to reclaim the Ryder Cup this weekend.

But US team captain Steve Stricker has downplayed any anticipated trouble between the rivals, saying the two had agreed to shelve their open disdain for each other ahead of the biennial team event against Europe at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

"They have assured me it's not going to be an issue," said Stricker. "I have no worries whatsoever."

In the last few months, Koepka, 31, has dinged DeChambeau over his perceived slow pace of play, while DeChambeau, 28, once poked fun at Koepka's body type.

But DeChambeau's coach Mike Schy said his charge has offered an olive branch.

In an interview published on Monday by The Irish Times, Schy said that DeChambeau, the brash 2020 US Open winner, wants his public feud with four-time Major champion Koepka to be put to bed once and for all.

"Whether or not they are both doing it to maximise their global profile, Bryson wants it over," Schy said.

"Move on. The bottom line is - two big egos."

Schy conceded to the Irish newspaper that DeChambeau can come off as overbearing. But he added that his player will not be a distraction to the Americans' push for victory.

"He loves team play. At times, when he's struggling, it can look a little selfish, but the reality is he is doing his best to contribute," said Schy.

Harnessing negative energy and turning it into a positive force has been tried before and failed miserably when US captain Hal Sutton partnered bickering Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the 2004 Ryder Cup. They flopped, failing to win a point.

But Stricker would not completely rule out the possibility of sending DeChambeau and Koepka out together.

"Will we pair them together? I don't think so at this point but things could change. Could always happen," he said.

Before Stricker decides who might partner Koepka, he will have to determine if the world No. 10 is fit to play after injuring his wrist earlier this month during the Tour Championship.

Stricker said Koepka had assured him he was good to go but he will be keeping a close eye on practice.

The Americans will have six Ryder Cup rookies on their 12-man team. The six will strive to reclaim the trophy against a close-knit and battle-tested European side that have mostly dominated the biennial match-play competition over the last four decades.

The US squad are headlined by world No. 2 Dustin Johnson, who is playing in a team-high fifth Ryder Cup.

Their rookies include British Open winner Collin Morikawa, Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay.

Europe's squad, who comprise veterans such as world No. 1 Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, have an average world ranking of 30 compared to nine for the US.

But, with seven players back from their 2018 team that lifted the title in Paris, British golfer Tommy Fleetwood believes they have what it takes to win.

"It doesn't make a difference to us whether we are favourites or underdogs," he said.

"We just turn up, gel and, more often than not over the last few years, we have come out and won it." - AFP, REUTERS

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