Brooks Koepka Wins PGA Championship—Why Some Never Wanted to Let Him Compete
The issue stems back to two rival leagues, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.
The major championships are always riveting events for golf fans, and the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA) Championship is no exception. The 105th annual competition concluded on Sunday night, with Brooks Koepka clinching the victory over Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland. His win at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, earned Koepka his fifth major title—and marked the third time he's come out on top at the PGA Championship. But ahead of his latest victory, some in the golf world actually didn't want Koepka to compete at all. Read on to learn more about the controversy.
The PGA Tour banned LIV Golf players from tournaments.
Koepka is one of the many golf stars who left the PGA Tour to play in a new league, LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. The league enticed major players like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Smith, and Patrick Reed with prize money payouts and exorbitant appearance fees—reportedly paying Mickelson a whopping $200 million just to join the league, The New York Times reported.
While LIV Golf was touted as another option for professional golfers, aside from the elite PGA Tour, some dubbed it a cash grab, and others took issue with Saudi Arabia's alleged human rights violations.
In response, the PGA Tour (the premier membership for touring professional golfers) took action against LIV golfers, suspending them from tournaments, and stating that members are required to receive permission to play in events that conflict with the tour's schedule, per the NYT.
In a June 9, 2022, memo addressed to all PGA Tour players, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan explained that LIV players "made their choice for their own financial-based reasons."
"They can't demand the same PGA TOUR membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you," the letter reads. "That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners."
The DP World Tour, previously known as the European Tour, also fined and suspended players who played in LIV events, per the NYT.
LIV players can still compete in the majors.
Because the PGA Tour was vocal in opposing LIV players' participation in its events, it was assumed that the majors would follow suit, Sports Illustrated reported. However, that wasn't what happened.
Tournament organizers for the four majors—the British Open, the Masters, the U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship—haven't taken specific action to ban LIV golfers, per the NYT. It's worth noting that the PGA Championship is run by a separate organization, not the PGA Tour.
As the NYT points out, these rules are subject to change, as tournament organizers can update the entry criteria whenever they choose.
Koepka said his victory "definitely helps LIV."
While LIV players have faced criticism, with his win last weekend, Koepka became the first major champion for LIV Golf. Without going into detail, he said that his win was likely good for the league, per ESPN.
"Yeah, I definitely think it helps LIV, but I'm more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you," Koepka said during a press conference. "Yeah, it's a huge thing for LIV, but at the same time, I'm out here competing as an individual at the PGA Championship. I'm just happy to take this home for the third time."
LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman took to Twitter to congratulate Koepka—who has been dealing with a knee injury since 2021–and to celebrate LIV Golf.
"Congrats @BKoepka your comeback has been impressive. I am so proud of you. As for the @livgolf_league players they belong and the Majors and golf knows."
The situation remains somewhat contentious.
On Sunday morning, former professional golfer turned commentator Brandel Chamblee discussed the rivalry and "undercurrent of tension" between LIV and PGA Tour players at the PGA Championship. And although he conceded that the LIV competitors are still good players, he got a bit of a dig in by adding that they're "the best players money can buy."
"I think it's terrible for golf, and I think it could be terrible for the PGA Tour eventually," he said of the rivalry, conceding that it does "heighten interest" in the competition.
But other LIV players argue that Koepka's win solidifies their place in major competitions—and it's actually beneficial to the game.
"It validates everything we've said from the beginning: That we're competing at the highest level and we have the ability to win major championships," DeChambeau, who tied for fourth place, said, per ESPN. "I really hope people can see the light now that we're trying to provide the game of golf with something new and fresh. I think at the end of the day, both sides are going to have to come together at some point. It's for the good of the game."