The world of men’s golf will have no bearing on what happens this week in the 2023 Ryder Cup at Simone Golf Club in Rome, though it may shed some light on the future.
For example, the U.S. team has Brooks Koepka (Srixon Z-Star), who is currently part of LIV Golf. Koepka won the 2023 PGA Championship because LIV golfers were not precluded from majors. He also had a decent season on the LIV Tour, so his inclusion as a captain’s pick was not necessarily a surprise purely based on performance. Conversely, Justin Thomas (Titleist Pro V1x), who has been mainstay on the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup, was a captain’s pick even though he played poorly on the PGA Tour during the 2022-2023 season. The same could be said for Collin Morikawa (TaylorMade TP5), who did not have a stellar season, certainly for him.
This will be Koepka’s fourth time playing in the Ryder Cup. The last time was in 2021 when he was part of an interesting story line because of the clash between himself and teammate Bryson DeChambeau (Titleist Pro V1x). They managed to put their differences aside and embraced after the win. DeChambeau, who bolted to LIV, is not on this year’s team.
When asked why he is the lone LIV player from the 24 playing in this year’s Ryder Cup, Koepka chalked it up to performance.
“Play better, that’s the answer.”
Europe’s Captain Luke Donald (Titleist Pro V1x) could have picked players based on previous Ryder Cup performances or gut feel, just as U.S. captain Zach Johnson (Titleist Pro V1x) did, so why didn’t he? Maybe it’s a simple case of wanting fresh blood.
The question is with the merger of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is the cash behind LIV Golf, and the PGA Tour, will there be more LIV players in future Ryder Cups and, more importantly, the PGA Tour?
The other thing is, the Ryder Cup could be a preview for future stars on both teams. Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1) made his debut in 2021, which became a preview of dominance in 2022 when he won the Masters and placed second in the U.S. Open and was subsequently named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Scheffler struggled badly in the 2022-23 season with his putting, ranked 151st on strokes gained putting, and will go into the Ryder Cup with some changes to his flatstick approach. According to the Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, Scheffler is working with a new coach, Phil Kenyon, who also works with Tommy Fleetwood (TaylorMade TP5x Pix). Golf Digest’s Luke Kerr-Dineen noted there are several changes to Scheffler’s technique.
Fleetwood is one of several players whom I feel will benefit playing in the Ryder Cup, his third in the tournament. He has an overall record of 4-2-2, thriving in Four-Ball and Foursomes. Fleetwood has perennially been a star on the European Tour but has yet to win a tournament on the PGA Tour. He had a solid season on the PGA Tour last year, notably a runnerup finish in the RBC Canadian Open won by Nick Taylor in a playoff, and a tie for fifth the next week in the U.S. Open. Overall, he posted nine top-10 finishes, and made the cut in 18 of 23 tournaments.
I believe Fleetwood will breakthrough to win his first PGA Tour event next year. He’s due.
Another player I think will post a PGA Tour win next year is Ludvig Aberg (Titleist Pro V1x), who turned pro in 2023, debuting in the Canadian Open. He played in seven events, made the cut in six, posted one top-10 finish, tying for fourth in the John Deere Classic. The lanky Swede had a superb record playing at Texas Tech University. He looks to have all the tools and just needs more experience.
RORY BACK AGAIN: This will be the seventh Ryder Cup for Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x), who may enjoy this tournament more than anyone else. He stands out by not wearing a cap because he says his head is so small he needs custom fitting by Nike. The Ryder Cup and those type of team events do not have custom-made hats.
Is it really that difficult to customize a hat for McIlroy for these team events? Then again, sometimes hats are overblown in golf. There was a time PGA Tour players didn’t wear hat and they did just fine. But with the growth of sponsorship, hats are more for purposes of displaying brands than anything else. Any PGA Tour player will wear a sponsor’s hat whenever this is a gathering of TV cameras or photographer cameras, and that includes indoors where it is customary to take off your hat.
Personally, I wish more golfers on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LPGA Tour would not wear hats because they stand out.
I also wish some players would do away with the bucket hats because they stand out for all the wrong reasons. Hello Joel Dahmen (Titleist Pro V1).
Ping unveiled special apparel for the European players in the Solheim Cup, including a bucket hat, which Madelene Sagstrom (Callaway Chrome Soft X) adorned.
THE BETTING LINE: There are various odds on who will the win the Ryder Cup. Some have the Europeans winning by a slight margin, while others have the Americans, who have not won in Europe in 30 years, as the slight favorite. A tie is anywhere from 8-1 to 11-1. Based on what happened in the Solheim Cup, which ended in a tie for the first time, I’d lean towards separate bets on the Europeans and a tie.