WITH the Ryder Cup a matter of weeks away, Steve Stricker has a major headache which has nothing to do with the form of his top stars.
With 11 of the last 14 Majors going to American golfers the gambling firms are sensing a home win, the USA installed as 8/13 favourites to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2016.
But team captain Stricker faces a test of his leadership skills, with team morale the key issue ahead of the first ball being struck in anger at Whistling Straits.
Two of the biggest names in golf spearheading the attempt to wrestle the trophy back from the Europeans are effectively not on speaking terms, the spat between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau threatening to overshadow the tournament.
The problem for Stricker isn’t just the sheer ridiculousness of the situation, it’s the fact that it will undoubtedly have a bearing on team morale during the three days of action in Wisconsin unless it is addressed by the skipper, reports Sportstimesdaily.
For those who’ve been hiding under a rock for two years, the rift dates back to 2019 when DeChambeau reacted badly to a perceived slight from Koepka regarding slow play, the pair discussing the issue on the practice range at the Liberty National.
To cut a long story short they both agreed not to speak of the matter publicly again, or any matter about the other player, only for Koepka to decide DeChambeau broke the agreement the following January when talking about Koepka’s abs, or lack of them. Since then, the two have become embroiled in a juvenile tit-for-tat slanging match, and while it’s great news for the media to report on, it’s not so good for the USA’s chance of Ryder Cup success.
Stricker admitted he was unhappy to see two of his most accomplished players – Koepka has four majors and DeChambeau one – bickering on social media and he would be holding talks ahead of the tournament.
The desire of the Americans in the Ryder Cup has been called into question in the past, with Europe winning seven of the last nine competitions despite regularly appearing the weaker team on paper. Included in those successes was the Miracle at Medinah in 2012 when Europe went into the singles trailing 10-6 only to produce a stunning turnaround to win 14½-13½, with Stricker’s defeat to Martin Kaymer allowing Europe to retain the trophy.
And the visitors’ odds of 2/1 to retain the trophy appear very generous, especially if the cloud of Koepka and DeChambeau hangs over Stricker’s team for the duration of the tournament, reports CNN and Illinoisgambler.com
The British media will no doubt happily focus on the feud, and when asked about it, Koepka said he was fine keeping it going because DeChambeau went back on his word about an agreement they had, so now he’s “fair game”.
On the Ryder Cup, Koepka insisted he could handle the situation and joked that he would be very surprised if Stricker paired the two together in either the fourballs or the foursomes.
The real danger for Stricker, and for the USA in general, is fellow members of the home team siding with either Koepka or DeChambeau, and so producing two teams within a team.