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Europe suffered a seismic blow to hopes of retaining the Ryder Cup on a morning when tensions threatened to boil over between players, officials and fans, as Brooks Koepka became embroiled in a furious row with his match referees.
Koepka witheringly rebuked two officials who told him he had to play his approach to the 15th from within inches of a drainage channel, telling them: “If I break my wrist, this is on f------ both of you.”
During a compelling, see-sawing duel with Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, Koepka’s patience finally snapped when foursomes partner Daniel Berger left him in a fiendish position in wasteland to the right of the 15th fairway, with the US pair one down. The four-time major champion is continuing to recover from a wrist injury sustained at this month’s Tour Championship and demanded that he be given relief, insisting that he would hit the hazard on his downswing. When referees David Price and Mark Litton refused to allow it, he swore at them both.
Both the PGA of America and the European Tour are likely to take the dimmest view of Koepka’s abuse of their officials, as well as Berger’s remark that the ruling was “bulls---”. The drama, which lasted over 10 minutes, began when the Americans took issue with the channel that he argued was impeding his line. “That’s the most unnatural thing I’ve seen,” Berger said, before Koepka told Price, a PGA rules expert: “You go over there to your buddy and ask.”
Asked for a second opinion, Litton, the European Tour’s chief referee, backed up Price’s view that Koepka should not be granted a free drop. “I’m looking at the swing, at how far the club has to go, and I still can’t see you hitting that,” he said to the American, much to his chagrin. “You’re going to tell me it’s not a washout either?” Koepka asked, claiming that the channel did not represent a natural impediment. “No, sorry Brooks,” Litton replied. “I can’t help you with that.”
Koepka, muttering “it’s on f------ both of you”, proceeded to hit without any recourse to the paramedics, arrowing his shot to 20 feet. But his fit of pique ultimately could do nothing to arrest the European momentum. Two holes later, Rahm and Garcia, who had been three down after three, wrapped up a remarkable 3&1 victory.
But it proved the only success in another dismal morning for the defending champions, where a third consecutive 3-1 defeat took the American team to within four-and-a-half points of overall victory ahead of the afternoon fourballs.
Garcia was also involved in a flashpoint with an American fan shortly before chipping in on the par-five 16th, which he could not help but celebrate. “It was a good shot and at the right moment, too. Obviously someone in the crowd shouted, ‘Come on, you're going to choke’, and it was nice to prove him wrong I guess.”