As Brooks Koepka led the PGA Championship on Sunday at Oak Hill Country Club, United States Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson said it was too early to discuss his place — or the place of any LIV Golf member — on Team USA this fall in Rome.
Before the championship began, Johnson told reporters scouting LIV players for the Ryder Cup was “not even a discussion item” yet, but with Koepka contending for the second straight major, questions were brought to him again Sunday afternoon.
“I just think it’s too premature, frankly irresponsible, to even have any sort of opinion about that,” Johnson said. “I think given where we’re at right now, there’s a lot of points out, No. 1. No. 2, you’ve got a bunch of elevated events (coming up), and No. 3, if you go back in history, there’s names right now that probably on both tours that we’re not even mentioning that could have a chance given what’s in front of us.”
Koepka, already a four-time major champion, led the Masters after 54 holes before tying for second. He held a one-stroke lead at the PGA Championship in Pittsford, N.Y., after Saturday’s action and was defending the lead during the front nine Sunday afternoon.
Koepka and Dustin Johnson are two LIV players who remain eligible for the Ryder Cup because they were granted PGA of America membership — a requirement to be selected for the team — through 2024.
If Koepka continues to place high in majors, he might make discussion of a captain’s pick a moot point. The top six American players in Ryder Cup qualifying points automatically make the team. Zach Johnson then will fill out his team with six captain’s picks.
Koepka entered the week ranked 22nd in qualifying points but will vault up the standings with a high finish at Oak Hill.
Zach Johnson said he would confer with his leadership council and the top six qualifiers about his captain’s picks. Asked if that includes a LIV player like Koepka should he make the top six, Johnson said, “Yeah, he’s on the team. He’s got direct ownership in that, absolutely.”
But Johnson, an active PGA Tour player, scoffed at the idea that he would spend time scouting players at LIV Golf events.
“I think the luxury of me being captain (is) I’m still relevant and prevalent out on the PGA Tour and that’s where my status holds,” he said. “So for me to abandon that on a week where I could be out there and go where the bulk of my players are certainly going to come from there, I don’t know what time will tell, but the bulk are going to come from there (and it) would be irresponsible on my behalf and inappropriate if I were to leave what I am trying to do as a competitor and as a leader.”
Phil Mickelson also spoke to reporters after his final round at the PGA and admitted he knew he would no longer be considered for a future Ryder Cup captaincy due to his decision to join LIV.
But he hopes LIV players won’t be shut out from the team this fall, saying the competition should remain the best Americans against the best Europeans.
“I don’t see the benefit of changing that. I don’t see how it’s any concern of the PGA of America what tour we play,” Mickelson said. “That’s just my opinion.”
–Field Level Media
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