Cromwell, Connecticut – Somewhere over the past few days – since he’s been telling friends he’s definitely out on the LIV Golf Series – Brooks Koepka has found a metaphorical horse’s head in his bed, An offer he couldn’t refuse from Saudi enthusiasts to break up behind the breakaway arena. Since Koepka does not gladly suffer fools and has openly despised the leading figures of LIV Golf – Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson and CEO of Saudi Golf Majid Al-Sorour – we must assume that the width was loud enough to sleep soundly.
For those who know Koepka well, one brief moment at the US Open last week provided irrefutable early evidence that he threw a lot with LIV Golf. He walked over to Mickelson on the field to give him a bump of a fist and exchange a few words. It wouldn’t be the only time he found himself doing something that until very recently was considered unpalatable. The Saudis expect loyalty among team members, whether they are golfers or kill squads in distant consulates.
Besides now having to work at his disposal and invite people they don’t like (for good reason, to be fair), the decision to join LIV Golf is a humiliation for Koepka, though he’d hate to admit it. He’s always fancied himself more as an athlete than a golfer, but that’s an admission that he’s not, and that he’s just an entertainer doomed to play in fairs against exhausted veterans and nameless youngsters, whom he has long deemed unfit to sniff out a jockstrap. .
There’s a reason behind the tacit admission: Koepka’s body has been humiliating for years and a nagging injury keeps him dangerously close to surgery and layoffs for so long. He may have committed to the Saudis, but they would be lucky to see him make it happen.
There is a clear trend among players who go to LIV Golf, beyond the obvious thirst for money. In nearly every case, their long-term ability to consistently compete against the world’s best player on the PGA Tour is questionable, whether based on physical longevity (Koepka, DeChambeau), decline (Mickelson, Westwood, Poulter), diminishing skill ( McDowell, Kaymer) or indifference (Johnson, who prefers hunting). They’re honorary stars, the best way they’ve been made on the road going back some miles with a younger, healthier and stronger competition. Any indication that he belongs in their ranks would injure a proud man like Koepka, but it is true.
Competitive fit is one of the most predictable aspects of this story, along with reputable media flocking to the gate with little-sourced rumours, unwisely helping the Saudis create a story that momentum has shifted their way relentlessly. There are other emerging trends that are also noteworthy.
Buying critical votes, for example. Back to Paul Casey. As a UNICEF ambassador, he participated in the first Saudi international tournament in 2019 as an act of conscience. By the following year, Casey was compensated enough to explain his existence as an act of engagement. Today continues. Perez has been openly armed with LIV Golf for months – not least because of his well-known dislike for Mickelson – but he’s also been bought into.
And finally, Koepka, who had several brief exchanges with Saudi representatives when he turned down their advances in 2021. In the end, they found his price, too.
Another obvious trend is the heat map of player management agencies. Take GSE Worldwide, which has raised millions of dollars in fees to turn its customers into the Saudi mousetrap — DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, with many of their assets among the rumored and imminent ones. And if you want proof that Jay Monahan can’t get a break: One of the undischarged GSE clients for the Saudis is Grayson Murray.
Sentiment about the range at TPC River Highlands was mixed after the players’ meeting on Tuesday. There were expressions of support for Monahan and belief in the changes he was proposing, even from the rebels who would have to do more for their shell. But that was tempered with anger because he was not out there hitting the Saudis often enough. This criticism cuts both ways. Monahan told the players that they needed to get off the fence and fight for their round as well.
The meeting witnessed two real-life moments of some of the assembled players whose peripheral consciousness may not have been as it should have been. Manahan was asked who would pay the lawyers if and when players linked to Saudi Arabia or donors would sue. The answer will come. The commissioner explained that a round is a union, a group of members, and that a single player’s lawsuit against a round is a lawsuit launched against (and defended by) each player.
He has also been pressed to see what steps the major leagues are taking, each run by an organization that Monahan does not control. It’s a risky question given the fear of legal exposure if big business is seen as helping the round alienate a competitor, but the answer was simple: nothing, for now. It was a reminder of the important role that will eventually fall to the big corporations. One party wants them to act, and the other is counting on them to do nothing. However, players on both sides insist that major companies cannot bring up a credible field without their support.
Even before Monahan gathers his members Tuesday morning in Connecticut and asks them to make their voices heard, a small group of notable players were talking about taking an unequivocal and united crowd stand against LIV Golf and supporting the PGA Tour.
Until this week, that group included Brooks Koepka.