Column: Blunt talk means saying LIV Golf is all about money
Brooks Koepka likes to boast about his honesty. He takes as much pride in being bold and blunt as he does in his remarkable record in the major championships.
He does not shy from criticism if he feels it is warranted. Koepka once accused Patrick Reed of cheating by “building sand castles” in a waste area in the Bahamas. He left no doubt about his feelings for Bryson DeChambeau, a long list.
“I’m always going to speak my mind and tell you what I think, and I think everybody in this room knows that,” he said at a PGA Championship preview day in 2020.
And now he has a chance to speak the truth about his decision to go back on his word and join the Saudi-funded rebel league known as LIV Golf.
It’s about the money. It’s that simple.
This is not a “force for good,” the message Greg Norman has been trying to preach and too many of his puppets have been repeating. The 22 former or soon-to-be-suspended PGA Tour members in Oregon for the LIV Golf Invitational are not there for the innovative format, or to test themselves against the best, or even to win tournaments.
They are getting paid an obscene amount of money.
Of course, money never came up when Koepka spoke to the media on Tuesday for the first time since his decision was revealed. He simply spoke his mind, just like always, only he was of a different mind.
“My opinion changed,” he said, a phrase he used no fewer than six times.
Koepka was the latest example that everyone has a price. He actually said that himself four months ago at the Honda Classic.
This was one week after Phil Mickelson went into hiding after his inflammatory remarks about the Saudis and the PGA Tour, after Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau said they were sticking with the PGA Tour, after Rory McIlroy declared the rebel league “dead in the water.”
“I think there will still be talk,” Koepka said in February. “Everyone talks about money. They’ve got enough of it. 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.”
And that somebody turned out to be him.
Mickelson showed his hand months ago in a couple of interviews when he accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” and said he and a few other top players had hired lawyers to write the new league’s operating agreement. Joining LIV Golf was not a surprise.
Johnson was the biggest fish the Shark landed. The temptation had been strong all along, and then he got an offer he couldn’t ignore. The Daily Telegraph reported his signing fee at $150 million. That’s twice as much as Johnson’s career earnings after 15 years on the tour.
In some respects, Koepka went back on his word twice.
He was the second player, behind McIlroy, to speak out against the “Premier Golf League” concept that had Saudi financing and promised big riches, a team format, limited fields — everything Norman has now delivered.
“I have a hard time believing golf should be about just 48 players,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press, right before golf was paused for three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Money isn’t going to change my life,” he said. “There’s something to be said about freedom of playing. I get to choose. To me, it’s not worth it. I’m happy with how things are.”
That was more than two years ago.
And then Koepka said in Phoenix this year: “It’s been pretty clear for a long time now that I’m with the PGA Tour, it’s where I’m staying. I’m very happy. I think they do things the right way, people I want to do business with.”
But that’s not what led McIlroy to say Koepka was being “duplicitous” by saying one thing and doing another.
McIlroy was not part of the Rolex gathering at the U.S. Open, but he heard about it. The roster of stars that day included Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler and Koepka. They talked about being on the same page in support of the PGA Tour and speaking in one voice against the Saudi-funded league.
Koepka was said to be leading the charge. And then he wasn’t.
Everyone has a price.
“I was at a function with him last week and definitely wasn’t what he had in mind,” Scheffler said last week at the Travelers Championship. “We were focused on building the PGA Tour and getting the guys that are staying here together and kind of just having talks and figuring out what how we can help benefit the tour.”
Scheffler was to quick to add he was not going to criticize Koepka or anyone else for leaving for guaranteed money. Scheffler has gone over $13 million this season, already a PGA Tour record, thanks to an amazing run.
Players who wouldn’t be recognized in a restaurant outside their hometown are getting more than that for signing up with LIV Golf. It’s up to them to reconcile the source of the money and if they are taking the easy way out, as McIlroy suggested.
Golf is still hard. It’s the money that’s easy. There’s nothing wrong with saying that.