Somewhere in the last few days – since telling friends he was categorically out of the LIV Golf series – Brooks Koepka found a metaphorical horse head on his bed, an offer that fans of Saudi Arabia could not refuse. split circuit. Since Koepka does not suffer pleasantly from fools and vocally despises the leading personalities of LIV Golf – Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and the CEO of Golf Saudi Majed Al Sorour – we must assume that the offer was high enough to sleep peacefully.
For those who know Koepka well, a brief look at last week’s US Open offered early and unequivocal evidence that he had drawn his lot with LIV Golf. He went to Mickelson in the area to offer him a punch and to exchange a few words. It will not be the only time he finds himself doing something that until very recently he would have found unpleasant. Saudis expect loyalty among team members, whether they are golfers or assassination teams at distant consulates.
Aside from having to work with the passion of people he dislikes now (to be fair, for good reason), the decision to join LIV Golf is a humiliation for Koepka, though he will hate to admit it. He always imagined himself more of an athlete than a golfer, but this is an admission that it is neither, that he is just a fun-doomed man to play shows against washed-up veterans and anonymous young people who have long been considered incapable of smelling the leash. of. .
There is a reason behind the tacit admission: Koepka’s body has been degraded for years and an annoying injury keeps him dangerously close to the operating room and a long dismissal. He may have made a deal with the Saudis, but they will be lucky to see him fulfill it.
There is an obvious trend among players going to LIV Golf, beyond the obvious thirst for money. In almost any case, their long-term ability to consistently compete with the world’s best on the PGA tour is questionable, either on the basis of physical longevity (Koepka, DeChambeau), impoverishment (Mickelson, Westwood, Poulter), reduced skills ( McDowell, Kaymer) or apathy (Johnson, who would rather fish). They are honorary stars, their best road performance a few miles behind younger, healthier and stronger competitors. Any suggestion that he belongs to their ranks will hurt a proud man like Koepka, but it is true.
The relevance of the competition is one of the most predictable aspects of this story, along with the name-calling credible media galloping to the gate with subtle rumors, unnecessarily helping the Saudis create a narrative that their momentum has returned relentlessly. There are other emerging trends worth noting.
The market for critical voices, for example. Goes back to Paul Casey. As UNICEF Ambassador, he participated in the first international tournament in Saudi Arabia in 2019 as an act of conscience. The following year, Casey was compensated enough to explain his presence as an engagement. It continues today. Pat Perez in public with a stubborn LIV Golf months ago – mainly because of his well-known dislike for Mickelson – but he too was bought.
And finally, Koepka, who had several brief exchanges with representatives of Saudi Arabia when he rejected their advances in 2021. Finally, they found his price.
Another obvious trend is the heat map of player management bodies. Take GSE Worldwide, which has deducted millions of dollars in fees for channeling its customers into the Saudi Arabian rat trap – DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, with many more of their assets in between of rumored and imminent. And if you want proof that Jay Monahan can not take a break: one GSE client who has not been transferred to the Saudis is Grayson Murray.
The feeling for the range at TPC River Highlands after Tuesday’s game meeting was mixed. There have been expressions of support for Monahan and belief in the changes he is proposing, even from craftsmen who will have to crack more for their skin. But that was mitigated by the frustration of not going out in public, burdening the Saudis quite often. This is a critique that cuts both directions. Monahan told the players that they had to get out of the fence and fight for their Tour.
The meeting had two frustrating moments for some of the concentrated players whose peripheral awareness may not be what it should be. Monahan was asked who would pay the lawyers if and when the players associated with Saudi Arabia or their supporters would come into dispute. Yes, the answer has come. The commissioner explained that the Round is a union, a collective of members and that a lawsuit filed by a player against the Round is a lawsuit against (and defends) any player.
He was also pressured for steps taken by the major leagues, each of which is run by an organization not controlled by Monahan. It’s a big question given the fear of legal exposure if the big companies are considered to be helping the Tour eliminate a competitor, but the answer was simple: nothing, for now. It was a reminder of the important role that will eventually fall to the adults. One side wants to act, the other relies on doing nothing. Players on both sides, however, insist that big companies can not build a credible field without their support.
Even before Monahan gathered his members in Connecticut on Tuesday morning and asked for their voices to be heard, a small group of high-profile players spoke of a clear public and united stand against LIV Golf and support for the PGA Tour.
Until this week, this team included Brooks Koepka.