DORAL, Fla. – For all the bells and whistles of LIV Golf – the gun starts, the first DJ and the great sound of “golf, but loud” – is part of the golf club that separates and defines the second- league of the year.
Promotions, relegations and trades and free agency that will begin following Sunday’s final round of the regional team competition will prompt the league to do something that has been lacking in golf – trading. But there is another aspect of the golf community, albeit an unexpected one, that has created a new revolution in the most selfish sport.
For the first time in his career, the success or failure of Brooks Koepka depends on others and the driver of Smash GC found this season special challenges of leadership.
Apart from a last-place finish at the LIV event in Orlando, Florida, last spring – which was mainly motivated by Koepka’s victory – Smash GC struggled in 2023 and started the group tournament this week in Doral in the eighth place out of 12 groups. It is the type of race that troubles players like Koepka and in July his frustration deepened when he told Sports Illustrated that he had “dropped” his teammate Matthew Wolff, a criticism Wolff later said was “disappointing”. The verbal spat continued last week at the LIV event in Saudi Arabia when Koepka told reporters, “There are only three of us on our team. [four-man] team.”
There have been times when it felt like Koepka was falling, as when he answered questions about his decision to pair Wolff with Chase Koepka, Brooks’ brother who has also struggled this season, in the Day 1 foursomes at the end. .
“Wolff, going to the foursomes, I think he probably knew this was coming. It will be interesting to see what happens,” said Brooks Koepka.
But even in an age of racing mentality, any criticism of the captain ignores the team’s problems and Koepka said this week that he would try to help Wolff.
Koepka has been a strong opponent of his Smash teammate GC Wolff.
“I spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year trying to help and try to figure that out. But I think it’s over. I have tried. I’ve been comfortable with it, and sometimes you can’t help people who don’t need help,” Koepka said.
The conflict between Koepka and Wolff is the most visible example of how LIV Golf has changed the nature of the players, and although every player who was interviewed on this issue could feel Wolff’s problems, there was a real understanding of the driver’s frustration.
“I think Brooks did a great job of putting it on the public, which I don’t think is the way you do it, but what’s interesting is that there are some real sports that make a lot of money and that’s how they do it,” Harold Varner III, a member of the RangeGoats team, said.
“Think about what happens when other players get angry. He gets angry and goes to the media. [Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver] Ja’Marr Chase he might have the best quarterback on his team (Joe Burrow), his best friend, and he said, ‘I’m always open.’ It’s the same energy, it’s just golf. I think golfers are too soft. It’s amazing to hear someone say they disagree with something. They always objected, but they didn’t have the balls to speak up or work together. In real team games this happens every day.”
For LIV players who have apparently bought into the idea of team golf, the mid-range challenge on the team is just one part of the mystery as trades and free agency await this season. If the goal is to drag golf into the world of popular sports, the Koepka-Wolff division is the worst thing.
“It goes to the games with the teams. “Every game has fights between teammates,” said Charles Howell III, a member of Crushers GC. It adds another element of team sports.”
It is that factor and the potential for conflict that has dominated the second season of LIV Golf and enlightened club managers. Accomplished players who are accustomed to a singular and selfish interest are now faced with the uncertainty of a different personality.
“I think it’s hard for someone who’s played golf at the highest level for 20 years to be complaining about someone else,” Varner said.
Wolff refused to comment on his relationship with Koepka and it remains to be seen where he will play next season. He has a contract to play LIV Golf for one year but his contract with Smash GC was only for one season.
Can another captain overtake Wolff, who was one of the most overlooked players in the league last season?
RangeGoats GC captain Bubba Watson is one of Wolff’s biggest supporters and is one of the few players who has spoken publicly about his mental health issues.
“I love Brooks to death. He has tried everything he could to help [Wolff] and [Wolff] he didn’t accept that help,” said Watson. “If this approach doesn’t work, we need to find another way to help Matt, as a person and not a golf professional, to avoid going down that path. I went down that road. Brooks tried both. “
Watson said he contacted Wolff last week for a chat and “just loves him” and the captain was not the only one watching the row with interest.
“You have to read people differently and do things differently. I have a lot of respect for Brooks, he’s an amazing golfer and I believe he’s a good leader, but the way Brooks is, he’s like old fashioned, like a soldier, go get down and give me a 20 [pushups]said Kevin Na, head of Iron Heads GC.
“This does not work for Matt. Matt is a guy you encourage by talking to him, getting to know him better and why he’s going through this. He is very insecure about what he has, he is a world class golfer, he is good looking, he has money. They shouldn’t be, but that’s the way they are. “
LIV Golf has not started human conflicts. The PGA Tour has players who wouldn’t be friends if they didn’t share time, but the golf community that has changed is that the animosity hasn’t been relegated to the shadows.