WASHINGTON: Rory McIlroy said Wednesday that LIV Golf star Brooks Koepka has earned the right to a place on the United States’ Ryder Cup team following his PGA Championship triumph.
Koepka bagged his fifth major title at the PGA Championship earlier this month, just weeks after a second place finish at the Masters.
Those results have left Koepka second in the overall US standings for the Ryder Cup team, meaning he would normally be a shoo-in to make the American squad.
However, with the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit at loggerheads, it remains unclear whether LIV Golf players will be eligible for Ryder Cup spots.
McIlroy — one of the most vocal critics of LIV Golf — believes however that Koepka should be on the US team that will face Europe at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome in September.
“I certainly think Brooks deserves to be on the United States team,” McIlroy said Wednesday ahead of this week’s PGA Tour Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
“I think with how he’s played, I mean, he’s second in the US standings, only played two counting events.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone else on the LIV roster that would make the team on merit and how they’re playing.
“But Brooks is definitely a guy that I think deserves to be on the US team.”
McIlroy, however, is adamant that former European Tour players who have signed for LIV — including Ryder Cup stalwarts such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia — should not be eligible for the tournament.
“I have different feelings about the European team and the other side and sort of how that has all transpired,” McIlroy said.
“I don’t think any of those guys should be a part of the European team.”
Europe were initially due to be captained by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at this year’s Ryder Cup. Stenson was stripped of the captaincy however after joining LIV. He was subsequently replaced by Luke Donald.
Spanish star Garcia — Europe’s all-time leading Ryder Cup scorer with 28.5 points from 10 appearances — said recently that Donald had already told him he had “no chance” of making the European team as a captain’s pick.
That decision was greeted with dismay by Garcia’s fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm.
Rahm said in Ohio this week that where players choose to play should not affect Ryder Cup eligibility.
“It’s a little sad to me that politics have gotten in the way of such a beautiful event,” Rahm said on Tuesday.
“It’s the best Europeans against the best American, period. And whatever is going on, who is playing LIV and who is not playing LIV to me shouldn’t matter.”
Rahm added that Garcia’s exclusion from Ryder Cup contention was hard to stomach.
“I have a hard time to believe that the best player Europe has ever had, the most successful player Europe has had on the Ryder Cup isn’t fit to be on the team,” Rahm said.
“It’s unfortunate. I will miss him.”