GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Blunt as ever, Brooks Koepka took a dig at Jon Rahm on Friday after a bruising day for the Americans in the Ryder Cup when he accused him in a brief television interview of acting like a child. All that was missing was context.
Koepka and Scottie Scheffler were poised to earn the first American point, leading 1 up on the 18th hole with Koepka facing a 5-foot birdie putt. Rahm holed his 35-foot eagle putt with such force it banged into the back of the cup, giving Europe a halve.
It felt like a loss to the Americans, especially after they birdied the last five holes. Rahm chipped in from the rough for eagle on the 16th hole and made the eagle putt at the end.
“I mean, I want to hit a board and pout just like Jon Rahm did,” Koepka said in the television interview. “But you know, it is what it is. Act like a child. But we’re adults. We move on.”
There was no follow and no immediate access to Koepka. Neither captain was aware or knew to what he might have been referring.
“Jon is a passionate person, but I didn’t see him acting any other way,” Luke Donald of Europe said after the matches, with his team leading by five points.
Rahm is known for his passion in the Ryder Cup — anywhere, really. His reaction to the eagle putt was relatively tame, perhaps because he hit the putt so hard.
Rahm filled in the details, or what he could make of it, after he put up another point for Europe in Saturday foursomes.
“I mean, I’m not going to stand here and say I’m a perfect example on what to do on a golf course. I don’t think either of us two are,” Rahm said as he sat next to Tyrrell Hatton, another player known for expressing his feelings for all to see. “But I play and compete.”
The moment to which Koepka referred came on the 17th hole of the fourballs match. Rahm had a 10-foot putt that would have squared the match with one hole to play when he left it short.
“Going up to the tee, I let off some frustration, hitting the board sideways,” Rahm said. “I kept walking, never stopped, that was it. If Brooks thinks that’s childish, it is what it is. He’s entitled to think what he thinks. I don’t know what else to say.”
Koepka’s comments and Rahm’s response provided the only real sauce to the week. The Ryder Cup can get contentious, at times personal, because of the one-to-one nature of match play.
Rahm is known to run hot on the golf course, especially in his early days as pro. That’s part of why he was so curious that hitting a board led to Koepka’s comments.
“I’ve done much worse on a golf course,” he said. “That doesn’t even register to a low level of ‘Jon anger’ on the golf course. As far as I’m concerned, I’m very happy with who I am, and I needed to do that at that moment to let off some steam and play the hole I wanted to do. And clearly, it worked out.
“Is it right or wrong, childish or not, I don’t know,” he said. “But that’s what I needed at the moment.”
The Spaniard’s first Ryder Cup match in 2018 was fourballs against Koepka and Tony Finau. The Americans never led in that match in France until winning the last hole for a 1-up victory that was secured when Rahm missed a 10-foot putt.
Rahm and Sergio Garcia twice beat Koepka at Whistling Straits (his partners were Daniel Berger and Jordan Spieth). Koepka beat Rahm in 19 holes in the fourth round of the Match Play in Texas last year.
Most recently, Rahm overcame a two-shot deficit against Koepka in the final round of the Masters to win the green jacket. Koepka later sent him a social media message congratulating Rahm and telling him it was well-earned.