When Brooks Koepka confirmed a growing suspicion last week that he will be unable to play for the United States in next month’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia due to a lingering knee injury, it raised another question:
How long before Koepka, the world’s top-ranked player for most of this year, is healthy enough to play competitive golf again?
That remained unclear in the announcement that Rickie Fowler will replace Koepka, who aggravated a left-knee injury when he slipped on a sidewalk last month during the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in South Korea. Koepka underwent stem-cell treatment on his knee after the Tour Championship in August and withdrew from the CJ Cup in only his second subsequent start.
U.S. Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods stayed in contact with Koepka in recent weeks until it was decided that Koepka needed more time to recover.
In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Koepka said, “Despite constant medical care and rehab, I am not able to play golf at this time. … I need more time to heal.”
Koepka has been dealing with the knee issue since March and said before the CJ Cup that his knee had responded to the stem-cell treatment and therapy. But he has not played since he re-aggravated the injury in South Korea.
It’s uncertain when Koepka will return to competition. He is eligible for the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua the first week of January.
Woods’ selection of Fowler was no surprise. He finished 11th in the Presidents Cup points race and has been a fixture on U.S. national teams in recent years. While Fowler is likely to be paired at Royal Melbourne with Justin Thomas (they went 2-0-1 together at the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National), he has not played competitive golf since the end of August.
Fowler had planned to end his extended break (during which he got married) at the recent Mayakoba Golf Classic but withdrew before the tournament when the effects of a bacterial infection lingered. He is scheduled to play the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in early December before the Presidents Cup.
Ron Green Jr.