What was behind Brooks Koepka’s decision to leave the PGA Tour for LIV?

In 2019, the week Brooks would lead Koepka wire-to-wire at the PGA Championship in Bethpage Black and capture a fourth major title in 23 months, he understood why he believes he would become the most dominant player on the biggest golf 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 half of them aren’t going to play well. So you’re down to about 35. And then from 35, some of them will just… put pressure on them. You only have a few more, and you just have to beat those guys.”

Koepka, the Palm Beach County resident and Jupiter resident, has recently become one of those guys that others think, “I’m just going to beat.” A non-factor in this year’s majors and rarely in combat last year, Koepka, whether due to injuries, the distraction of planning a wedding, or maybe just past his prime, leaving the PGA Tour to compete in Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Series.

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May 17, 2022;  Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA;  Brooks Koepka during his PGA Championship golf tournament press conference at Southern Hills Country Club.  Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

May 17, 2022; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA; Brooks Koepka during his PGA Championship golf tournament press conference at Southern Hills Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

The announcement came on Wednesday, after Koepka withdrew from the Travelers Championship Tuesday late.

Koepka, aged 32, is a big hit for the Saudi-backed series seeking credibility and attention, whose events are being shown on YouTube as there is no television deal. At LIV’s first event two weeks ago in London, only two golfers moving the needle were 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 it has four.

But none of that matters to the twenty or so players who have defected from the PGA Tour and others who are struggling to find their way into the world of professional golf.

All that matters is the checks that come into their accounts. Everyone from Charl Schwartzel of Palm Beach Gardens, who won $4.75 million for winning the individual title and being part of the winning team in London; Andy Ogletree, who took home $120,000 in prize money for shooting 24-over and finishing last in the 48-man field, is in LIV for one reason.

In two decades as a pro, Schwartzel never made $3 million in a year, including 2011 when he won the Masters. Ogeltree’s career earnings in four years of touring events is $38,186.

Koepka’s decision certainly has to do with adding the $38 million he’s earned in prize money, plus millions more off the track, into his career. It also gives us a glimpse into the mind of a golfer who was once regarded as one of golf’s royalty, was ranked No. 1 in the world for 47 weeks, and was as feared as anyone who was not called Tiger Woods in recent memory. to the main subjects.

Now Koepka has done something completely different from what he had become known for on golf’s biggest stages: a steel, laser-focused, ultra-competitive champion.

He has run away from the competition.

Injuries have certainly played a part in his struggle, but he has been dealing with them for a number of years – be it his wrist, knee or hip. Perhaps Koepka just can’t handle his body, which prevents him from being a constant threat on the PGA Tour.

Or maybe he’s seen a group of talented players in their twenties—all about five years younger than Koepka—make their mark in the sport. Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris have all surpassed Koepka in the world rankings.

What happened to the Brooks Koepka who just four months ago said it was “embarrassing” to be number 20 in the world? He is currently No. 19.

May 20, 2022;  Tulsa, OK, USA;  Brooks Koepka plays his shot from the 10th tee during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Southern Hills Country Club.  Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

May 20, 2022; Tulsa, OK, USA; Brooks Koepka plays his shot from the 10th tee during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Southern Hills Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Old Brooks Koepka would have taken on that challenge, drawn the irreverent card he used so well during his run of four major championships in eight starts, and restored his status among the best in the world.

Now Koepka is taking the easy money — he will likely receive about $100 million to participate in the series — to play eight LIV events (the series hopes to expand next year) and see what other tournaments will welcome LIV golfers.

All this is of course his right, but he is the one who has to accept the resistance for entering a competition supported by Saudi money. And knowing Koepka like many of us, he certainly doesn’t care about the backlash.

But Koepka will no longer be playing against the best in the world, except for a few majors a year possibly, and even that could be taken away. He has to accept that too.

That much is certain, Koepka would not have walked this road two or three years ago when there was a mystique at play.

And no one outside of Mickelson has handled this decision worse than Koepka. He will be forever remembered for calling out Mickelson for his “greed” comment, saying that LIV would get their boys because “somebody will sell it and go there”, insisting money doesn’t matter and “I just want play against the best.”

On Wednesday, Rory McIlroy, who has been as vocal as anyone in his loyalty to the PGA Tour, said he was surprised by Koepka’s decision, calling it “ambiguous” because of “what he said earlier”.

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But now he can’t play PGA Tour events, including his hometown Honda Classic, which, to Koepka’s credit, was on his schedule every year. The greatest golfer ever born and raised in Palm Beach County exits the best, most competitive league in his sport. Of course, his four majors were historic, something he will and should be proud of for the rest of his life.

Those trophies still shine on Koepka’s bookshelves. It is his reputation that has been tarnished.

Tom D’Angelo is a journalist at the Palm Beach Post† You can reach him at [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Brooks Koepka Walks Away From Golf’s Top League For LIV Money

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