A journalist asked PGA Championship leader Brooks Koepka a laconic question last night and got a laconic answer.
“Is there any doubt whatsoever in your mind that you’re going to win tomorrow?”
It wasn’t a smart question, but boy did Brooks screw up the answer. We already know the outcome of tomorrow’s golf: Koepka is going to win. He has a record seven shot lead going into Championship Sunday at formerly fearsome Bethpage Black.
But you don’t say that out loud.
We knew this was going to happen. When Koepka opened with a 63 and actually left two or three shots out on the golf course, the rest of the field was done. This tournament was over at 2pm on Thursday. It’s just like what Tiger used to do all the time: Be in or tied for the lead after Thursday, achieve separation between himself and the rest of the field on Friday, build a gargantuan lead on Saturday, take a victory lap in the sun on Sunday.
Count your money on Monday.
But the burning question golf fans really want to know is, as we enter the Brooks Koepka era, what’s he really like? Brooks Koepka the person as opposed to Brooks Koepka the athlete.
Is he so exhaustedly governed by the image his handlers want that even he can’t tell between the person who is famous and the person who he really is? Like Tiger? What about this projected image of being disrespected and “playing with a chip on his shoulder” as motivation. Is that good for him? For golf?
There are many similarities to the early Tiger years, and I’m not just talking about winning majors. Koepka is also making mis-steps similar to those Woods did in his early years as well.
Koepka’s attitude this week reeked of Nike arrogance, a farmboy raised on a steady diet of Skid Row, Pantera, and KISS. It may be true that no one else has a snowball’s chance in Scottsdale to beat Brooks this week, but that’s not the answer you give in the interview. It’s unbridled hubris like that which makes you pray that the Golf Gods send all their Furies riding down on his head on their Steeds of Vengeance.
Moreover, Koepka has had some discrediting clashes with the media recently, most notably Sports Illustrated senior writer Alan Shipnuck and Golf Channel commentator Brandel Chamblee. These resulted in two unforced errors, but they do give us a window into his soul.
Last year, S.I. did a story on Koepka and Dustin Johnson’s weightlifting regimen. Shipnuck recommended the story for the cover of the magazine, but Brooks and DJ weren’t satisfied with that. They wanted their weightlifting trainer, one Joey Diovasalvi “Joey D” as he likes to be called – to be included in the picture on the cover too.
The photo shoot included shots with Joey D and without Joey D and, in the end, S.I. published the issue using a picture of Koepka and Johnson. Joey D got left on the cutting room floor. (Arguably, where he should be. It felt too close to an endorsement.)
Koepka, Johnson, and Joey D all know one thing with razor-sharp clarity: writers don’t pick what goes on the cover of the magazine.
Shipnuck can make a recommendation, even beg and plead, but the decision is way above his or any other writer’s pay grade.
Koepka’s response? He tried to have Shipnuck expelled from the champion’s interview after he won last year at Bellerive…despite knowing full well that 1) it wasn’t Shipnuck’s fault or decision and 2) there’s no way the PGA of America would ever acquiesce to such a request.
Not for nothing, but although most of us ink-stained wretches don’t take home a cool $2,000,000 for four days’ work like pro golfers do, without us, no one even hears about Brooks Koepka.
Then there was the clown nose Koepka put on a picture of Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee on Twitter. Brandel’s unpardonable sin? He didn’t pick Koepka to win this week. And the bad attitude hasn’t been just this week or this year, it’s something that’s followed Koepka ever since his European Tour days. Tour veterans trade stories of the Challenge Tour and European Tour issues Koepka’s attitude caused. It seems that the chip on Brooks’s shoulder is his true self.
Perhaps nobody explained this better than his buddy Joey D, in an interview with Golf Magazine.
“I would challenge anyone, anywhere to step into the gym with DJ and Brooks and say these guys are not hardcore jocks.”
That’s the problem! Other than hardcore jocks, who the hell likes hardcore jocks?
Despite what Nike and 24-hour sports networks tell you, ardent golf fans do NOT like swagger. Golf is about class, and grace, and altruism. We like our sports heroes humble. Koepka, on the other hand, wears his success poorly, much like early Tiger did. Judging from his behavior and his press conferences, Brooks seems to think that as long as he makes everyone around him money, he can do and say whatever he wants, treat people however he likes. That’s what got Tiger in trouble.
Regarding Koepka, Adam Scott quipped earlier this week, “let’s hope his front-running’s not 12 years, like Tiger’s lasted. After covering all four of Koepka’s major championship victories – the double back-to-back wins in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship – I have to echo that sentiment. All week Koepka’s been bragging he was going to win, boasting that he thinks he’ll win double digit majors, and telling the world everyone else has no chance. He never forgets a slight, real or imagined, and he exacts revenge when he has absolutely no need to or reason to justify it. If he’s going to keep behaving like that, he should consider switching brands. He could really put the “loudmouth” in “Loudmouth Golf.”