BROOKLINE, Mass. — Justin Thomas said he “tossed and turned and lost a lot of sleep last week” thinking about the future of the PGA Tour as it faces a challenge from the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series. Rory McIlroy addressed the geopolitical tensions that make the startup so controversial. Jon Rahm mused about what exactly makes a top golf tournament a top golf tournament.
Would you like to know what their peer Brooks Koepka thinks of all this? Too bad, and also, how dare you? Over eight and a half bristly minutes on Tuesday, he blamed the media for “throwing a black cloud on the US Open,” declined to say whether he would jump to LIV and added, “I haven’t given it that much thought.”
He would be the only one. Over the past two weeks, stars including Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau have defected to the rival tour, which played its first event last week, and begun depositing checks amid questions about the Saudi government’s abysmal human-rights record and pleas from families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. LIV has said it will continue to add players, and both sides are lobbying the undecided. Seemingly every conversation here this week includes those three letters.
“It’s obviously the talk of the tour at the minute,” Matt Fitzpatrick said on Monday. “Everyone wants to know what’s going on and who’s going and who’s not going. … It’s like everyone was fed up with hearing about it and they were like, ‘All right, just start already,’ and now they’ve started, and everyone is like, ‘Oh, actually this is quite interesting; what’s going to happen now?’”
Koepka would prefer a different set of letters: STFU. “The more legs you give it, the more you keep talking about it,” he said. One way to end the conversation would be to declare his allegiance to the PGA Tour. Koepka did not.
“There’s been no other option at this point, so where else are you going to go?” he said.
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Well, LIV, for one.
“As of last week. That’s it. I wasn’t playing last week. I’m here. I’m here at the US Open.”
With clear answers like that, it’s hard to believe reporters and fans don’t feel satisfied!
Koepka especially seems like a prime target for the Saudis. His younger brother, Chase, has signed with LIV, as has his onetime best friend, Johnson. Their money buys just as many private Ludacris concerts as the PGA Tour’s does. And in many ways, what LIV offers appeals to a man like Koepka: He is largely uninterested in golf history — he did not learn that he was the second man in three decades to win consecutive US Opens until he looked at his trophy — so the PGA Tour itself holds little value for him. He often says he cares only about the majors, of which he has won four, and the PGA Tour has not yet figured out how to bar LIV members from those.
When this was pointed out to him on Tuesday, he demurred. “I can come out here and play as little weeks as I want,” he said. “I choose my own schedule regardless of what tour I play. I’ve played, what, Match Play, Augusta, [the PGA Championship] and this one [this year]so I can play as little as I want.”
Asked how it could possibly be true that he hasn’t given any of this much thought, he all but exploded.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on the US Open, man. I legitimately don’t get it. I’m tired of the conversations. I’m tired of all this stuff. Like I said, y’all are throwing a black cloud on the US Open. I think that sucks. I actually do feel bad for them for once because it’s a s—– situation. We’re here to play, and you are talking about an event that happened last week.”
LIV will keep playing events, though. The next one is scheduled for two weeks from now, in Oregon. And if Koepka thinks this is distracting, just wait for a month after that, when LIV tees off at Trump Bedminster, the course from which the PGA of America moved the 2022 PGA Championship in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Until he makes and announces a decision, people will keep wondering where Koepka’s loyalties lie. He can’t live in the moment forever.