Brooks Koepka adamant there was no fight with Dustin Johnson after Ryder Cup

Phil Casey 13:25 03/10/2018
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Brooks Koepka insists there was no fight between himself and team-mate Dustin Johnson in the aftermath of Europe’s convincing Ryder Cup victory over the United States in Paris.

Koepka and Johnson are regarded as good friends and live close to each other in Florida, but were reported to have clashed after being invited into the European team room following the biennial contest at Le Golf National.

“This Dustin thing I don’t get,” Koepka said at a press conference ahead of his appearance in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. “There was no fight, no argument.

“He’s one of my best friends. I love the kid to death. We talked on the phone Monday and yesterday so you tell me how we fought. People like to make a story and run with it. It’s not the first time there’s been a news story that isn’t true that’s gone out.”

The reported fall-out between Koepka and Johnson was not the only sign of disharmony in the US team, with Masters champion Patrick Reed blaming

Jordan Spieth for the end of their successful Ryder Cup partnership and claiming it was “not smart” for captain Jim Furyk to leave him out of two sessions.

“As far as camaraderie, it was fine, it was perfect,” Koepka added. “The problem is you guys (the media) try to find a reason why we lost and the simple reason is we just didn’t play good enough.

“We didn’t make the putts, hit the fairways, especially me. I lost two matches and halved another one. If I won those, if Tiger (Woods) wins his; Dustin lost one with me and then I think lost in the singles.

“If we play how we’re supposed to play we win, it’s simple as, but there’s nothing wrong with our team. Our team was great, Jim was great.”

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Europe's impressive performance, not US divisions, key to Ryder Cup victory

Declan Warrington 17:28 02/10/2018
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Europe’s captain Thomas Bjorn is adamant it was his team’s impressive performance – and not the divisions that have since emerged among the Americans – that was the key to their success in winning the Ryder Cup.

Bjorn oversaw a convincing 17.5-10.5 victory in Paris, but Patrick Reed has since been critical of Jordan Spieth and Jim Furyk and there have been reports of a fall-out between Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.

The US team featuring 11 of the world’s top 17 players had been the favourites to win in Europe for the first time in 25 years, but even amid the dysfunction they have gradually demonstrated they were confronted by a team that excelled.

The 47-year-old Bjorn has praised the team spirit among his players, and he said: “Sometimes you’ve got to go with one team played better than another; somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose.

“This time it was our turn; I don’t want to put too much on if anything went wrong in their team room. I don’t believe in that. Obviously when you lose sometimes it can be hard and difficult to deal with, when you have expectations of yourself.

“From what I saw from the outside I thought Jim (Furyk, the US captain) did a good job.

“It just didn’t work out for them this way but I would like to put it down to our 12 players just playing really, really well.”

Reed said there were divisions among the US team.

Reed said there were divisions among the US team.

Europe’s seventh success from the past nine Ryder Cups came amid home advantage, which they will not have in two years’ time at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

There had also been some European supporters booing the Americans on the first tee at Le Golf National, but even with the benefits that come through being the hosts, Bjorn believes Europe can retain their trophy.

“Home advantage is great,” he said. “Obviously you get your fans; I don’t think there’s anything that says you can’t win away from home, but it’s tougher away from home, it certainly is.

“It’s easy to think that it’s an easy thing to keep winning Ryder Cups. You’ve got to want it – you’ve got to want it bad – this team wanted it very much. They went out and really worked hard, and from the day they set foot in Paris they wanted it probably a little bit more.

“I don’t think me trying to stop them (booing) was going to stop those things, and initially it was there. I heard a bit of it early on, and it’s not something that we particularly want or like, but when you get a big sporting occasion these things happen.

“It’s fans being over-passionate about supporting their own team, but for me it happened on the first tee and that was about it.”

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Tommy Fleetwood and Europe stars can conquer America before Ryder Cup 2020

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Europe's leading light: Tommy Fleetwood.

Sunday’s win over the United States at Le Golf National was the latest installment in the storied battle, but for all their dominance, European players need to step up and conquer America with Whistling Straits in mind in two years’ time.

Traditionally, European golfers have struggled on American courses due to the soft fairways, smooth bunkers, thin rough and flat greens.

Of the 12 players who competed on Europe’s Ryder Cup team, only eight of them have recorded wins on the PGA Tour this season, in contrast to America’s 18 victories. But, in truth, this figure is a vast improvement from the three wins against America’s 14 in 2016-17.

But, for all the signs of progression, the form has not transferred to major events where American players continue to have the edge with five victories in the past eight events.

Success breeds success and Sunday’s Ryder Cup win should be a fitting point for European players to finally step up and realise they have the skill set, the confidence and the overall class to compete with the world’s elite across the Atlantic ocean.

Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy have all tasted major victories stateside in recent years, but on the PGA Tour, they have struggled with the flatter and faster greens.

Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson are all lethal operators on home soil, but if the form of Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood in America this year is anything to go by, then Europe should have plenty of hope for future years.

World No12 Fleetwood, aged 27, is an engaging personality who dramatically turned around a faltering career at World No188 in 2016 to become Europe’s number one.

His final round 63 at the US Open in June to finish one shot behind Koepka was among his stand-out displays of the season, adding to six top-10 finishes in his 19 PGA Tour events played.

Four years younger, Spain’s Rahm emphasised his class with victory in the DP World Tour Championship last November and also recorded top-four finishes at the Masters and PGA Championship.

Then there is Hatton, who at 26, is continuing to show improvements year on year. Although beaten comfortably in the singles to Patrick Reed on Sunday, the High Wycombe man finished sixth in the US Open and 10th in the PGA Championship this season.

Two years is a long time until Whistling Straits and a lot can change, but these fearless players are all capable of generating serious interest in the game as a result of their consistent and amicable displays in – not just the Ryder Cup – but over the course of the past 12 months.

Sadly from a European Tour point of view, these players – and many others – will opt to compete in PGA Tour events going forward because of the competition and the world ranking points on offer. Rahm is already based in the US, Henrik Stenson, McIlroy and Rose have lived there for the past few years and Fleetwood said recently that he wants to play across the Atlantic Ocean a lot more.

As it stands, Stenson tops the charts in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation on the PGA Tour. The 42-year-old Swede hit 74.25 per cent of greens from his 936 holes played, while also making 74.79 per cent of fairways from his 60 rounds played.

The advantages of a home from home set-up are clear.

And while eight of America’s 12 Ryder Cup players are ranked inside the top 50 for greens in regulation, only four European players make the cut.

This is in stark contrast to the PGA Tour driving accuracy stats, where Rickie Fowler – at No54 – is the only American Ryder Cup player ranked inside the top-60, while five European players occupy various positions inside the top-60. Such was the Europeans’ advantage when dealing with the less forgiving fairways in France.

Stats are only a small portion of the overall picture, with winning and positive results of course being more important. However, the steady rise of European golfers hitting form in America is sure to add optimism.

Although the European Tour events may suffer as a result of players opting to spend more time playing in America, it will no doubt be to the organisation’s gain in future years with the hope of securing more major wins on US soil.

For now, Ryder Cup bragging rights is enough for European golf but enthusiasts of the sport cannot rest on their laurels, with attention now turning to the tough greens of Whistling Straits in the not-too-distant future.

Consistency is key from here on in but Team Europe can be more than satisfied that they are in a serious sweet spot and can rival those across the Atlantic Ocean.

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