Brooks Koepka likes to brag about his honesty. He is just as proud of his boldness and bluntness as he is of his remarkable track record in the major championships.
He does not shy away from criticism if he thinks it is justified. Koepka ever accused Patrick Reed of cheating by “building sandcastles” in a wasteland in the Bahamas. He left no doubt about his feelings for Bryson DeChambeau, a long list.
“I will always speak my mind and tell you what I think, and I think everyone in this room knows that,” he said at a PGA Championship preview day in 2020.
And now he has the chance to speak the truth about his decision to go back on his word and… join the Saudi-funded rebel league known as LIV Golf.
It’s about the money. It’s that simple.
This is not a “force for good,” the message that Greg Norman has been trying to preach and too many of his puppets have repeated. The 22 former or soon-to-be-banned PGA Tour members in Oregon for the LIV Golf Invitational aren’t there for the innovative format, or to test themselves against the best, or even win tournaments.
They get paid an obscene amount.
Koepka was the latest example that everyone has a price. He actually said that himself four months ago at the… Honda Classic†
This was a week after Phil Mickelson went into hiding over his inflammatory comments about the Saudis and the PGA Tour, after Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau said they were staying with the PGA Tour after Rory McIlroy declared the Rebel league “dead in the water.” †
“I think there will still be talk.” said Koepka. “Everyone is talking about money. They’ve had enough. I don’t see it going backwards. They can just double up and they’ll figure it out. They get their men. Someone will sell out and go there.”
And that someone turned out to be him.
Mickelson showed his hand in a couple of interviews months ago when he… accused the PGA Tour of “unpleasant greed” and said he and a few other top players had hired lawyers to write the operational agreement of the new league. Joining LIV Golf was no surprise.
Johnson was the biggest fish the shark landed. The temptation had been strong all along, and then he got an offer he couldn’t ignore. The Daily Telegraph reported his signing cost at $150 million. That’s twice as much as Johnson’s career earnings after 15 years on the tour.
In some ways, Koepka went back on his word twice.
He was the second player, behind McIlroy, to speak out against the ‘Premier Golf League’ concept that had Saudi funding and promised great wealth, a team layout, limited fields – everything Norman has now delivered.
“I find it hard to believe that golf should only have 48 players,” he said in a… interview with The Associated Press, just before golf was paused for three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Money is not going to change my life,” he said. “There is something to be said about the freedom to play. I get to choose. It’s not worth it to me. I’m happy with how things are going.”
That was more than two years ago.
And then Koepka said in Phoenix this year: “It’s been clear for a long time that I’m on the PGA Tour, that’s where I’ll stay. I’m very happy. I think they do things the right way, people I want to do business with.”
But that’s not what led McIlroy to say that Koepka was “ambiguous” in saying one thing and doing another.
McIlroy was not part of the Rolex meeting at the US Open, but he heard about it. The roster of stars that day included Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler and Koepka. They talked about being on the same page in support of the PGA Tour and speaking with one voice against the Saudi Arabia-funded league.
Koepka would be in charge. And then it wasn’t him.
Everyone has a price.
“I was at a function with him last week and was definitely not what he had in mind,” Scheffler said at the Travelers Championship last week. “We were focused on building the PGA Tour and bringing together the guys who will stay here and just talk and figure out how we can benefit the tour.”
Scheffler was too quick to add that he would not criticize Koepka or anyone else for leaving for guaranteed money. Scheffler has made over $13 million this season, already a PGA Tour record, thanks to a stellar run.
Players who wouldn’t be recognized at a restaurant outside their hometown will get more when they sign up with LIV Golf. It’s up to them to reconcile the source of the money and whether they choose the easy way outas McIlroy suggested.
Golf is difficult. It’s the money that’s easy. There’s nothing wrong with saying that.
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