This week’s golf schedule includes events in the forests of Oregon, the wine country of California, and an unassuming Dutch town. Expect things to be quieter this weekend than they will be next Friday on the 1st tee at Whistling Straits…

Love it or relinquish it

You always know a U.S. Ryder Cup team will bring the drama, and this past week, Brooks Koepka and Paul Azinger kicked things off.

Koepka said in a Golf Digest interview that he had trouble adjusting to the team aspect of the Ryder Cup. “It’s a bit odd, if I’m honest,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s a bad week. We’re just so individualized, and everybody has their routine and a different way of doing things, and now, it’s like, okay, we have to have a meeting at this time or go do this or go do that.” Koepka added, “It’s tough. There are times where I’m like, I won my match. I did my job. What do you want from me?”

Paul Azinger, the 2008 U.S. captain, wasn’t pleased. In an NBC Sports/Golf Channel conference call, he said, “I’m not sure [Koepka] loves the Ryder Cup that much. If he doesn’t love it, he should relinquish his spot and get people there who do love it.”

When you consider Europe’s recent dominance in the Ryder Cup, Koepka’s ongoing pseudo-rivalry with Bryson DeChambeau, and Koepka’s wrist injury, which forced him to withdraw from the Tour Championship two weeks ago, Azinger’s comments certainly aren’t outlandish. The U.S. team may well benefit from better camaraderie and a less selfish culture.

But if we know anything about Brooks Koepka, it’s that his takeaway will be that someone, in this case Azinger, doubts him. The four-time major champion now has something to prove. Shortly after Azinger’s comments, Koepka confirmed via text message to Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch that he was ready to play: “I’ll be there. I’m good to go…. Doing everything I need to do to be ready for the Cup.” We like to think he typed these words while growling at a print-out of Zinger’s smiling headshot.

Change of scenery

The Fortinet Championship and the 2021-22 PGA Tour season are off and running. The tournament began with a slew of birdies, calming the nerves of players who doubted whether the #LiveUnderPar lifestyle would last another season. Leaderboard

Established names like Chez Reavie, Cameron Tringale, Adam Hadwin, and Max Homa are in contention, but it’s the fresh faces we’d like to discuss.

Sahith Theegala – The 2020 Haskins Award winner had a good chance to lead Pepperdine to a national title before the pandemic shortened his senior season. His game can be streaky, but he’s an absolute machine when he gets it going. While Theegala won’t be the most consistent rookie, he may end up being the most entertaining.

Taylor Pendrith – Distance has become crucial in professional golf, and Taylor Pendrith will have no issues in that department. He ranked third in driving distance on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, averaging 323 yards, which will turn heads even on the big tour.

Nick Hardy – Another bomber, Hardy is one of the more consistent tee-to-green players in the rookie class. His consistency earned him 19 top-25 finishes in the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour mega-season. Although his putter runs hot and cold, he’ll just need the occasional good week to post some seriously low finishes.

Aaron Rai – While technically a rookie, Aaron Rai is not a new name to avid golf fans. The 26-year-old Englishman has two European Tour wins and is already in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking. He finished T-19 at the Open Championship and T-26 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude this fall, but he doesn’t have a ton of experience on the PGA Tour. (If you haven’t heard about Rai’s game, perhaps you’ve seen his iron covers.)

Dylan Wu – An ironman on the KFT over the last couple years, Wu had 16 top 25s and 18 missed cuts during the mega-season. When he’s on, he’ll rack up top 10s. When he’s not, you might hear nothing from him for a month. A strong iron player, Wu should find some kind of success on the PGA Tour.

Quick Hooks

Carlota Ciganda, Brooke Henderson, and Nasa Hataoka are near the top of the crowded leaderboard at the LPGA Tour’s Cambia Portland Classic. Leaderboard

The Euros are going low in the Netherlands this week. Two dozen players shot 68 or better in the first round of the Dutch Open. Niall Kearney’s 65 leads the pack. Leaderboard

Lara Tennant outlasted Ellen Port to win her third consecutive U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur on Thursday. Tennant is now the 12th player to win three or more consecutive titles in the same USGA event. Full Story from Ron Driscoll

Oklahoma outlasted Texas to win the Maridoe Collegiate Invitational on Wednesday. Arizona State’s Cameron Sisk earned the individual title and a sponsor exemption for the PGA Tour’s Vivint Houston Open this fall. Results

Always pay attention at PGA Tour events, especially if Jon Rahm is right behind you. Video

While its social media game needs some help, the Premier Golf League seems to be on track to launch in 2023. Golf Monthly caught up with Andrew Gardiner, the brains behind the PGL. Full Interview

The Latest from The Fried Egg

The Fried Egg Podcast: Mike Whan, the USGA’s New CEO, on the Future of Golf

After a well-regarded run as LPGA commissioner, Mike Whan started two months ago as the CEO of the USGA.  Earlier this week, he sat down with Andy Johnson at Chicago Golf Club to discuss a variety of topics. They cover Whan’s thinking about the USGA’s priorities, championship host selection, and the potential of bringing the U.S. Open back to Chicago and the Midwest. Whan also weighs in on the hottest topic of the day: the distance increases golf has seen over the past few decades, and the USGA’s role in securing the future health of the game. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

The Shotgun Start: The annual SGS over-unders episode 

This was an early mid-week recording for the Friday episode, with Andy on solo dad duty and Brendan with school golf outings to tend to and the flurry of Ryder Cup episodes coming next week. They begin with some quick news on Brooks Koepka saying he’s healthy and ready to go, potential partners for him, and Paul Azinger’s comments that he should relinquish his spot if his heart is not into it. There’s chatter about a potential cart ban for the captains and the confounding American vice-captain strategy. Then it’s on to the over-unders for the new PGA Tour season, now an annual tradition on the Shotgun Start. They pepper each other with a mix of amusing and semi-serious propositions for the season that’s to come on Tour. Included at the end are some NFL season over-unders for their beloved Browns and Bears, and general chatter about vocabulary and other life hacks. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

The #JupLyfe faithful were hit with some chilly weather at the Fortinet Championship in Northern California on Thursday. The mild temperatures are a reminder that it’s almost beanie szn. Get a TFE beanie today and keep your head warm this winter!