It’s happened. A LIV Golf player has won a major title – and it probably didn’t take as long as many people thought.
Brooks Koepka righted the wrongs of the final round at the Masters, when he was overtaken by Jon Rahm, and ground down Viktor Hovland at Oak Hill.
The young Norwegian pushed him all the way before succumbing to a critical error on the 16th and allowing the American to claim his third Wanamaker Trophy.
What that victory might mean for LIV Golf loomed large in the post-round media circles, but Koepka wasn’t biting.
“I definitely think it helps LIV, but I’m more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you,” he said.
“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.”
Koepka may have been somewhat dismissive of what his week in Rochester, New York, meant for the Saudi-financed tour, but could the general image of LIV Golf now change in the eyes of the public?
It’s not just the man from West Palm Beach who has proven his credentials in the first two majors of 2023.
At Augusta National, Phil Mickelson joined the party to finish tied for second, while Patrick Reed was tied for fourth and Joaquin Niemann came tied for 16th.
At the PGA Championship, we saw Bryson DeChambeau prove his doubters wrong with a tied-fourth finish and the Open champion Cameron Smith was tied for ninth – not to mention Reed sneaking into the top 20 too.
LIV Golf often has to field accusations of recruiting players who have supposedly traded future success on the PGA Tour for a huge Saudi-shaped pay-check.
Their motivation and will to compete has been called into question. With huge up-front contract offers, did they still have the same desire to win and improve?
Some would interpret accepting a LIV offer as an open admittance that your time as an active competitor in the game’s biggest events was up.
But the likes of Koepka, DeChambeau, Mickelson, and Reed have made clear their hunger, and more significantly their quality, when competing for the biggest trophies.
On the PGA Tour, there are a handful of players who have emerged as major contenders and proven winners in the last 12 months – Max Homa, Sam Burns, and Tom Kim come to mind.
These players have more days in the sun to come, but while they largely haven’t featured on the leaderboard in recent major tournaments, a host of LIV players have proven their threat on the sport’s biggest stages.
Many golf fans will have likely cast the recent victories of Charles Howell III and Danny Lee in the LIV Golf League to the back of their minds – but should these performances now be re-assessed?
Both players finished above Koepka, Reed, DeChambeau, Smith, and all in these instances, and their subsequent performances at the Masters and the PGA would suggest Howell and Lee’s victories garner more respect.
Respect is the keyword here.
If LIV Golf’s biggest stars continue to feature on major leaderboards, golf fans will become interested in them again. Will they be willing to log into their LIV Golf+ App more often on the weekends?
Koepka and his LIV colleagues have shown, in fact, they aren’t done by any stretch of the imagination.
Perhaps LIV events aren’t as weak as we first thought, and perhaps the rebels haven’t been as quick to turn their back on glory as we first thought.
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