When the 44th Ryder Cup begins this Friday morning at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, only one professional will compete on the three days for the two teams of twelve from Europe and the United States, who will be part of the controversial Saudi-led Arabia financed, LIV Golf League changed: the American Brooks Koepka. And yet: In the run-up to and in the press conferences on the three days of training, there was one main topic: the absence of some players who had been among the most successful players in the past, especially two of the mainstays of the European team, the Spaniard Sergio Garcia and the Englishman Ian Poulter.
Garcia, who had won the most points for the “Euros” with 28.5 in ten participations since 1999, had recently tried everything to be able to compete in Italy. The 43-year-old Spaniard had even offered the DP World Tour to pay the 700,000 pounds (around 809,000 euros) fine for his appearance in the “Saudi League” in order to reverse his withdrawal from this tournament series. Because in the Ryder Cup, only members of the former European Tour are allowed to play in the European selection.
PGA and DP World Tour make peace with LIV
But the request was rejected; after payment, a new admission would only be possible next year. In addition, Luke Donald, the England captain of the European team, spoke clearly on the topic. Based on his performance this year – his best result was a second place at the LIV tournament in Singapore – Garcia would not have been considered as one of the six “Captain’s Picks” that he can choose at his own discretion.
Although Poulter also didn’t shine in tournaments this year, the Spaniard Jon Rahm regrets having to do without these two long-standing cornerstones in Rome, if not as an active player, then perhaps as one of the five “vice captains”. The third in the world rankings and his compatriot Garcia scored three points in the foursomes in the Americans’ record win (19:9) in Whistling Straits. On Monday of this week he telephoned his former partner and, as he had done the previous week, got advice from Poulter on how to defeat the favored Americans.
These players compete for Team USA in the Ryder Cup. : Image: AP
Rory McIlroy, number two in the Official Golf World Ranking, also misses the figureheads of past Ryder Cups: “It’s certainly a little strange not having them here,” said the 34-year-old Northern Irishman, who has always played for Europe since 2010. “But I think that this week in particular it will be very painful for them that they are not here. They will regret not being here more than we will miss them. This week they have to realize that their decision has meant that they cannot be in Rome – and that is hard.”
These are the twelve chosen ones for Team Europe. : Image: AP
It seems unlikely that players like Garcia (43 years old) and Poulter (47) will be active again in two years, when the Ryder Cup is played on the public Bethpage Black Course in Farmingdale, near New York City. On the other hand, the Swede Stenson (47), who was immediately stripped of his captaincy for Rome after moving to LIV last year, hopes to be able to take on this highest honorary position in European golf again. The American PGA Tour and the DP World Tour had made peace with the financier of LIV Golf, the Saudi Arabian private investment fund, at the beginning of June this year. But when and what the joint for-profit company between these three will look like is still unknown.
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In contrast to European captain Donald, his American counterpart Zach Johnson was also allowed to call LIV players into his team. But he did without two stars from the previous record victory. Dustin Johnson was named the most avid points collector at Whistling Straits with five wins in his five matches. The 39-year-old professional from South Carolina has won the Saudi League twice in the past two years and earns the most money there with 46.5 million dollars (44.08 million euros).
Bryson DeChambau had thrilled the American fans in Whistling Straits with huge tee shots and had become a crowd favorite. “That hurts a bit. The way I played this week, I definitely could have scored some points for Team USA. It would have been nice if they had taken us into account because we are damn good out here,” said the 30-year-old Californian DeChambeau after recording his second LIV win of the season in Chicago last Sunday.
But the only LIV professional in Rome has no understanding of his statement: “Everyone had the opportunity to qualify for Rome. I had the same opportunity as any other LIV player and I’m here,” said Koepka, who was selected as one of the Captain’s Picks after his fifth major win at the PGA Championship and second place at the Masters.