5 testy moments that prove Ryder Cup Saturday wasn’t always a friendly exhibition

The ryder cup got testy on saturday

Justin Thomas checks the length of a putt (left) while Brooks Koepka pleads his case for free relief.


It wasn’t all high-fives and 1st-tee beer chugging on Saturday at the Ryder Cup. The U.S. won three of four points in the morning to take a stranglehold of the event, but Europe finally got things going in the afternoon, splitting the session 2-2 and now trails 11-5 heading into 12 crucial Sunday singles matches.

But let’s get real. There was a lot more that happened than just birdies and bogeys on Saturday. Things got testy, and not just between the two teams. Here’s how.

brooks koepka talks to a rules official at the ryder cup
Brooks Koepka snaps at rules officials after controversial Ryder Cup decision
By: Josh Berhow

Justin Thomas denied a concession

The concession squabbling, at least what was caught on TV, seemed to start with Justin Thomas, who made a gesture to measure the length of a putt after Bernd Wiesberger and Viktor Hovland didn’t concede him a putt from 2 feet, 10 inches on the 8th hole of morning foursomes. Thomas and Spieth were 2 down at the time, but they later won 2 up.

“Americans were way down and [Europe] made Justin Thomas putt about a one-and-a-half-footer on 8, and I can’t wonder if that was poking the bear,” on-course reporter John Wood said on the NBC broadcast. “These two are very emotional players, and I think it got them both going.”

Shane Lowry joins the fun

Lowry, surprisingly, followed Thomas’ cue in the afternoon fourball session, gesturing like Thomas after putting from 2 feet, 4 inches on the 1st hole. Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton eventually beat Tony Finau and Harris English 1 up.

Then here comes Bryson DeChambeau

One group after Lowry and Co. came DeChambeau, playing for the first time all day. Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood didn’t concede a putt of 2 feet, 7 inches to him, so DeChambeau rolled in the putt and then set down his putter to prove his point. That made it a hat trick of public non-concession complaints on the day.

“I think I understand their point of view,” DeChambeau said afterward, when asked if there was friction between the two teams regarding conceded putts. “Sometimes really early on in the match it’s like they are trying to see what, you know, how your putting is in the beginning. I understand that. But I know, for me, it was 2 1/2 feet. It was nothing. It was straight up the hill. It’s one of those things that for me I felt like it probably should have been given just as a courtesy but it wasn’t, and I knocked it in the hole and kind of made a funny gesture just in good jesting, and that got me a little heated up for the rest of the round.”

DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler won their match 3 and 1.

Brooks Koepka denied by two rules officials

Playing a tight morning foursomes match, Koepka failed to get a free-relief ruling from two different rules officials. He was playing a shot from the fescue behind a bunker and argued that a drain was in his swing path. (He was also concerned about injuring his wrist, like he did at the Tour Championship a few weeks ago when he hit a hidden tree root.)

The heated discussion lasted about 10 minutes, and it was punctuated by Koepka looking at the rules officials and saying, “If I break my wrist, this is on f—— both of you.”

Koepka pulled off the shot without any issues, but he and Berger tied the hole and later lost the match, 3 and 1, to Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm.

brooks koepka talks to a rules official at the ryder cup
Brooks Koepka wanted free relief but it wasn’t granted. NBC

Where, oh where, to drop?

The best afternoon match might have been the battle between Garcia/Rahm and Spieth/Koepka, and it even included a juicy argument regarding a drop on the par-5 5th.

According to on-course reporter Jim “Bones” Mackay, Rahm hit his tee shot into the water and, while walking off the tee, the group seemed to come to an agreement on where he should take his drop. Yet when they reached the ball there was some confusion on the exact spot, as someone told Rahm his ball went in 20 yards closer to the hole, meaning Rahm had a better chance of reaching the green with this third.

Spieth and Rahm’s caddie, Adam Hayes, were the ones doing most of the talking. Bones said “Adam was quite fired up.”

“I never raised my voice at all, buddy,” Spieth said at one point. “I came over and said what happened?”

Rahm eventually dropped where the group initially agreed he would, and they tied the hole with 4s. Spieth, Hayes and Rahm were later shown trading fist bumps, so order was restored.

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining GOLF.com in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.

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