The emergence of the LIV Golf Invitational Series and the big names it has lured from the PGA Tour have been the talk of the golf world for weeks. It has been no different this week at the site of the U.S. Open, but at least one big name is tired of being asked about it.
“I’m trying to focus on the U.S. Open, man,” Brooks Koepka told reporters Tuesday. “I legitimately don’t get it. I’m tired of the conversations. I’m tired of all this stuff. Y’all are throwing a black cloud on the U.S. Open. I think that sucks.”
Koepka previously has been willing to share some pointed opinions on the Saudi-funded venture and those interested in signing up for it, but he hasn’t been heard from recently on the disruptive effect LIV Golf has had on the top levels of his sport. That’s in part because Koepka has been largely off the golfing grid since March while recovering from a number of injuries and preparing for his wedding to longtime girlfriend Jena Sims that was held this month. The only competitive rounds of late for the two-time U.S. Open winner and four-time major champion have come at the Masters and the PGA Championship.
“Look, golf’s great and I love it,” the 32-year-old said Tuesday, “but at the same time I’ve got other stuff I’ve got to do. The wedding was a big, big thing, but just taking care of my body, make sure I’m 100 percent right. … Now that it’s over with, we can go play golf.”
Before he plays golf later this week at The Country Club in the Boston suburbs, though, Koepka had a date with the media. As with players such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and especially Phil Mickelson, Koepka was peppered with questions about the schism between the PGA Tour, of which he is still a member, and its new, deep-pocketed rival.
Noting that “LIV’s trying to make a big push for golf,” Koepka discussed the fact that his younger brother, Chase, joined the Saudi-backed circuit while he has remained with the PGA Tour.
“Look, I love my brother, and I support him in anything he does,” Koepka said. “It’s family. I’ll always love and support him, so whatever he does, I’m cheering for him.”
On why he was staying with the PGA Tour and whether that was a “permanent decision,” Koepka replied, “There’s been no other option to this point, so where else are you going to go?”
When a reporter suggested “LIV,” he said: “I mean, as of last week, that’s it. I wasn’t playing last week, so I’m here at the U.S. Open, I’m ready to play the U.S. Open.
“I think it kind of sucks, too, you are all throwing this black cloud over the U.S. Open,” Koepka continued. “It’s one of my favorite events. I don’t know why you guys keep doing that, but the more legs you give [LIV Golf], the more you keep talking about it.”
Mickelson, who returned from his own layoff to join LIV, said Monday that the decision “allows me to do things that are off the golf course I’ve always wanted to do,” such as spending more time with his family. Whereas the PGA Tour has almost a year-round calendar, LIV Golf’s first season is composed of just eight highly lucrative events.
However, Koepka indicated Tuesday that he had issues with even that level of commitment. Asked whether being able to play relatively few events and still compete in majors seemed attractive, he pointed to his current ability to “play as little as I want.”
“I choose my own schedule,” Koepka said, “regardless what tour I play.”
Those words echoed comments he made in March 2021, when the Saudi-backed venture was in its initial stages but already generating plenty of chatter about what it might entail. “The freedom to be my own boss is nice,” he said then. “So I enjoy that.”
Koepka and some other superstars would soon be reported to have received massive offers from the Saudis, who hired golfing great Greg Norman to get their venture off the ground. In February, however, published comments from Mickelson about the new circuit caused a backlash that caused top players to pledge loyalty to the PGA Tour. That led McIlroy to proclaim LIV Golf was “dead in the water,” but Koepka offered what would prove to be a more prescient assessment.
“Everyone talks about money,” he told reporters in February. “[The Saudis have] enough of it, so I don’t see it backing down. They can just double up, and they’ll figure it out. They’ll get their guys. Somebody will sell out and go to it.”
Asked Tuesday whether there was a dollar figure that would compel him to join others on the LIV Golf series, Koepka claimed he hadn’t “given it that much thought” and chided reporters for dwelling on the topic.
Koepka wasn’t the only prominent player at the tournament to express unhappiness with the degree to which LIV Golf was dominating the conversation. Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa described it as “a big distraction.”
Recognizing that Koepka was “on to something,” Morikawa declared, “We’re here to win the U.S. Open, and we’re here to play and beat everyone else in this field, this great field, and that’s what it’s about.”
“I think when you wake up,” he continued, “and I’m texting my agent or I’m texting my friend about, ‘Hey, did you hear about this?’ or, ‘I’m getting news about this,’ it’s fun, it’s exciting, because it is gossip. Who doesn’t like gossip, right? But it also becomes a distraction, and you don’t want to be focused on this or that. You want to be focused on playing golf.”
The 25-year-old Morikawa, who also has remained with the PGA Tour, acknowledged it was “upsetting” that the state of the game had reached this point.
“All I dreamed about was playing on the PGA Tour,” he said, “making putts to win tournaments, winning majors. And for me it’s just, how do I get back to focusing on that? … It is an extra distraction on thinking about this, thinking about that and worrying about who is going to ask what.”
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