In 2019, the week Brooks Koepka led the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black and won a fourth major title in 23 months, he opened up about why he believes he’s become the most dominant player on golf’s biggest stages.
“(There are) 156 in the field,” he said, “so you think there’s at least 80 that I’m just going to beat. From there, you think about the half of them won’t play well. So you’re down at about 35. And then from 35 some of them just… the pressure will get to them. You only have a few left -a few more, and you just have to beat those guys.”
Koepka, a Palm Beach County native and resident of Jupiter, has recently become one of those guys that others believe, “I’m just gonna beat.” A non-factor in this year’s majors and rarely in contention last year, Koepka, whether through injury, distraction from planning a wedding or perhaps just being past his prime, is leaving the PGA Tour to join Greg Norman’s LIV golf series. .
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Announcement of Brooks Koepka to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf
The announcement came on Wednesday, after Koepka withdrew from the Travelers Championship on Tuesday night.
Koepka, 32, is a big boon to the Saudi-backed series seeking credibility and attention, whose events are streamed on YouTube because she doesn’t have a TV deal. LIV’s first event two weeks ago in London featured just two needle-moving golfers, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Add Bryson DeChambeau and Koepka for next week’s event at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, Oregon, and now he has four.
But none of that matters to the twenty or so players who have left the PGA Tour and others who are struggling to find their place in the world of professional golf.
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All that matters are the checks that hit their accounts. Everyone from Charl Schwartzel of Palm Beach Gardens, who took home $4.75 million for winning the individual title and was part of the winning team in London; to Andy Ogletree, who won $120,000 in prize money for shooting 24 times and finishing last in the field of 48, is in LIV for a reason.
In two decades as a professional, Schwartzel has never made $3 million in a year, including in 2011 when he won the Masters. Ogeltree’s career earnings in four years of tournaments are $38,186.
Koepka’s decision certainly has to do with adding $38 million he’s earned in prize money, along with millions more off course, over his career. It also gives us a glimpse into the mind of a golfer who was once considered golfing royalty, held the No. 1 ranking in the world for 47 weeks and was as feared as anyone. wasn’t called Tiger Woods in recent history. to the majors.
Now Koepka has done something completely opposite to what he’s become known for on golf’s biggest stages – a steely, laser-focused, ultra-competitive champion.
He fled the competition.
Injuries have certainly played a part in his struggles, but he’s dealt with them – whether wrist, knee, hip – for several years now. Maybe Koepka just can’t handle his body, which doesn’t allow him to be a constant threat on the PGA Tour.
Or perhaps he saw a group of talented players in their twenties – all around five years younger than Koepka – making their mark in the sport. Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris all passed Koepka in the world rankings.
What happened to Brooks Koepka who said just four months ago that it was “embarrassing” to be ranked world No. 20? He is currently No. 19.
The former Brooks Koepka would have risen to that challenge, released the disrespect card he used so well during his run of four major championships in eight starts, and restored his status as one of the best in the world.
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Now Koepka is taking the easy money – he’s probably getting around $100 million to join the series – to play eight LIV events (the series hopes to expand next year) and any other tournaments that will host golfers LIV.
All of this, of course, is his right, but he is the one who must accept the backlash for joining a league backed by Saudi money. And knowing Koepka like many of us, he certainly doesn’t care about the blowback.
But Koepka won’t be playing against the best in the world anymore, except maybe a few majors every year, and even that could be cut. This, too, he must accept.
For sure, Koepka wouldn’t have taken this route two or three years ago when there was a mystique in his game.
And no one outside of Mickelson has handled that decision worse than Koepka. He will always be remembered for calling out Mickelson for his “greed” comment, saying that LIV would have her guys because “somebody’s gonna sell out and go”, and insisting the money didn’t matter. doesn’t matter and “I just want to play against the best.”
On Wednesday, Rory McIlroy, who has spoken like anyone else in his loyalty to the PGA Tour, said he was surprised at Koepka’s decision, calling it “duplicity” because of “what he previously said”.
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But now he can’t compete in PGA Tour events, including his hometown Honda Classic, which, to Koepka’s credit, was on his schedule every year. The best golfer ever born and raised in Palm Beach County leaves the best and most competitive league in his sport. Of course, his four majors were historic, something he will be — and should be — proud of for the rest of his life.
These trophies still shine sitting on Koepka’s shelves. It was his reputation that was tarnished.
Tom D’Angelo is a reporter for the Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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