Jon Rahm was called a ‘child’ by Brooks Koepka. He responded like an adult

jon rahm and brooks koepka at ryder cup

The emergence of a Brooks Koepka rivalry at the Ryder Cup is ... strange for Jon Rahm.

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ROME — Jon Rahm was surprised to learn the Ryder Cup’s newest rivalry existed late on Friday evening.

So you can imagine his shock when he realized he made up half of it.

“I’ve never had an issue with Brooks [Koepka], to be fair,” Rahm said Saturday of his newest sparring partner. “I don’t know now, but up until yesterday afternoon, I thought we had a pretty good relationship.”

Indeed, it was a surprise for Rahm to learn about Koepka’s shot across the bow in the aftermath of their slugfest four-ball match on Saturday afternoon. Rahm had figured he’d left Koepka unhappy, particularly after he’d drained two eagles in the final three holes to force an impossible halve, dunking the last one off the back rim of the 18th hole. But for Brooks to come after him like this? It felt strange.

“I mean, I want to hit a board and pout just like Jon Rahm did,” Koepka had said of his afternoon four-ball partner. “But, you know, it is what it is. Act like a child. But we’re adults. We move on.”

Rahm admits he found out about the quote the way almost everyone else did: from social media. There hadn’t been so much of an inkling of the turmoil living below Koepka’s surface during their match, let alone after it. The two golfers had dapped respectfully, exchanging a few words of praise, in the aftermath of Rahm’s eagle. It had been a dogfight, and it had ended with the gesture their battles always had.

“We’re both pretty much straight-up people that don’t like the BS — excuse my language — in between,” Rahm said. “There’s always been that mutual respect. And he’s always been an incredible player, and he’s always done amazing things.”

This is how things have been between Koepka and Rahm for years now, even after Rahm bested Koepka on Masters Sunday, and even after Koepka bested Rahm the next month at the PGA. So what made Friday different?

“Listen, had I seen somebody make the putt on 18 the way I did, I would not have been the happiest of people, either,” Rahm said with a laugh. “It’s match play. I think we saw plenty of the opposite when we were at Whistling Straits two years ago.”

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Big match-play moments bring big emotion, and Rahm is no stranger. They are what has brought a generation of American fans to know Rahm as a screaming, fist-pump-throwing heel for the Europeans. Koepka saw some of that side on Friday afternoon, when Rahm clung to he and Scheffler like a barnacle, refusing to give either American competitor room to breathe. The Americans saw it again on Saturday morning, when Rahm nearly jarred an ace on the 17th to walk off his match with Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.

“The 17th today is going to come very close [to being my favorite match play moment ever],” Rahm said, before settling on a different, slightly more memorable answer. “That putt on 17 against Tiger to win the match and get my first Ryder Cup point [in 2018] is always going to be up there. That one was very, very special. It’s probably the biggest overreaction you’ll see to a 4-footer in your life, but it’s what I felt like I needed to do at the moment to let it out.”

The media saw none of that side on Saturday afternoon, when Rahm faced the press for the first time all tournament week. He was faced with an opportunity to turn his spat with Koepka into a spectacle, to twist the knife into the side of the Americans. But then something funny happened: he didn’t.

“I think it could be attributed to it being a long day and seeing what happened on the last three holes that we did,” Rahm said in an unusual display of mid-Ryder Cup empathy. “I really don’t know what else to say about it. It was a heck of a match. I think they played 10 under par, and Nicolai and I had a great day. It was really, really fun to be a part of it and experience that.”

It was a striking answer from Rahm, whose reputation as an on-course hothead hasn’t often lent itself to perspective like this. As he spoke from the press room at Marco Simone on Saturday, he seemed to understand that. In fact, it was some of his on-course frustration — a board he’d hit adjacent to the 18th tee box after missing a makeable birdie putt on the 17th — that led to Koepka’s “pouting” comments in the first place.

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“I’m not going to stand here and say I’m a perfect example on what to do on a golf course,” he said. “I don’t think either of us two are. But I play and compete.”

This, it seems, is the perspective added by a Ryder Cup villain who has become a Ryder Cup adult. The massive lead helps matters, to be sure, as does the current gravitational pull of Rahm’s golf game, which has made him easily the European side’s most terrifying competitor at 2-0-1. But it would have been just as easy for Rahm to hide his empathy from the light of day; to let Koepka drown in the wake of clearly ill-spoken comments.

It is not a stretch to say that it is the sort of perspective the Jon Rahm of six years ago — or maybe even six months ago — might not have had the wherewithal to reveal.

“I’m very comfortable with who I am and what I do,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve done much worse on a golf course than that. That doesn’t even register to a low level of Jon anger on the golf course. Is it right or wrong, childish or not? I don’t know, but that’s what I needed at the moment.”

Rahm needed a different gear on Saturday afternoon, and he found it. Not that of the screaming, fist-pump-throwing apex predator we’ve seen on the course — but that of the human being we don’t often see off of it.

We love the Ryder Cup because it has a way of revealing the soul.

Sometimes those lessons come in shouts, but much more often they come in silence.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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