The chaos in pro golf? Brooks Koepka is wired to shut it out

brooks koepka

Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open at Los Angeles CC this week.

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LOS ANGELES — About 10 minutes before Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, appeared on CNBC last Tuesday with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to announce his organization’s partnership with the Tour, al-Rumayyan called Cameron Smith, one of LIV Golf’s star players, to tip off Smith about the soon-to-be-announced pact.

Brooks Koepka, one of LIV’s other biggest stars, received no such advance notice. As he was easing into his day at Grove XXIII, Michael Jordan’s exclusive club in Hobe Sound, Fla., the reigning PGA Championship winner learned of the stunning news along with the rest the world.  

“I was sitting at Grove at the bar there having breakfast and I saw it on TV,” Koepka said Tuesday morning at the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. “Watched a little bit of the interview, and that was it. Just went out and practiced.”

Of course, for the vast majority of the rest of the golf world, that was decidedly not just it. As Monahan and al-Rumayyan’s kumbaya moment was beamed around the world, confusion, incredulousness and some degree of panic lit up social media. Players, agents, reporters, fans, even watchdog politicians all scrambled to learn more about the unexpected union. What had just happened? How had it happened? Why had it happened?

A week later, most of those questions remain unanswered. Which brings us to the third major of the year, here in the City of Angels, where the queries and speculation about LIV’s stunning investment in the PGA Tour have not ceased.

“I literally know as much as you,” Matt Fitzpatrick, the defending U.S. Open champion, said Monday. “The whole thing is confusing.”

To players on the other side of the LIV-PGA Tour aisle, too.  

“I haven’t been told much at all,” Smith said. “I’m just taking it as it goes along.”

It’s chaos — there’s no other word for it — as if the world of men’s professional golf has been dumped on its head, with no clear timetable for when it might be picked back up, dusted off and reassembled. You can’t blame the players if they’re feeling distracted, dazed and even a little irritable.

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But you know who might hold up just fine in these times of unprecedented uncertainty?

Yep, Brooks Koepka.

“I enjoy the chaos,” he said Wednesday.

Koepka wasn’t talking about the LIV-PGA Tour news; he was discussing the frenetic nature of majors and other big-time events. But it doesn’t feel like much of a leap to suggest that Koepka might also find a way to thrive — or at least keep his head down — in the state of mayhem in which the men’s pro game now finds itself.

“The more chaotic things get, the easier it gets for me,” he said of major-championship pressure. “Everything starts to slow down, and I am able to focus on whatever I need to focus on while everybody else is dealing with distractions, worried about other things.”

Of the LIV-PGA Tour bombshell, he added: “I haven’t paid too much attention to it, honestly. I’ve been trying to prep for this week. I’m just trying to make sure I come into a major championship — there’s four weeks a year I really care about and this is one of them, and I want to play well. So I wasn’t going to waste any time on news that happened last week.”

That’s because he has, in his mind, unequivocally more important business to accomplish: winning more majors, a job he has done more efficiently than any player since Tiger Woods. There are endless ways to splice Koepka’s greatness in golf’s biggest events. Here are a few: He is one of only 20 players in history to win five or more men’s majors. He is one of only seven players since 1950 to have won five or more men’s majors before turning 34. He has won five of his last 22 major starts and finished in the top 10 in nine others.

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That’s not to say that it has always been easy for Koepka, because it hasn’t. On Wednesday, he recalled the first time he was near the top of a major leaderboard, as an amateur at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club. “I think I had the lead after nine holes and then saw my name on the leaderboard and just gagged it up on the back nine,” he said. “It was like Augusta all over again.”

You remember that Sunday. Heck, it was a just two months ago — when Koepka kicked away a two-stroke 54-hole lead to lose to Jon Rahm by four. Koepka later characterized his final-round 74 as a “choke.” But that choke had takeaways.

“I’m really good at learning from mistakes or what goes on, and I’ll sit back and reflect for like two, three days, whether it be right after, give it a few days and be really truthful, honest with myself of why things happened the way they did,” Koepka said Wednesday, echoing similar remarks to those he shared before winning at Oak Hill in May. “What was my thinking? What was my thought process? Did I execute how I wanted to? Was it just kind of unlucky? All that goes into it, but if you’re truly honest with yourself, I think you’ll figure out why.”

Ultimately that’s what makes Koepka so dangerous. He might sulk in the wake of disappointment, but not for long — he assesses his weaknesses, addresses them and comes back stronger than ever.

“Double digits, that’s what I’m trying to get to,” he said of the career major haul he has in his crosshairs. “I don’t think it’s out of the question for me. I think the way I’ve prepared, the way I’ve kind of suited my game for these things is going to help me.”

Before getting to 10, he must first get to six. That quest begins at 1:54 p.m. local time Thursday.

Alan Bastable Editor

As’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.

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