With a fifth major win in the form of his third PGA Championship triumph, $3.1million in prize money and adoring fans, five days ago Brooks Koepka was flying high. How far and how quickly he must now feel he has fallen.
For all the furore and controversy, the tit for tat and digs between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, just as at The Masters, the supposed bitterness between the two warring sides did not spill out from the media mouthpieces and the courthouse onto the course at the PGA Championship.
Koepka was welcomed back with open arms. A champion embraced by the hundreds of thousands of fans at Oak Hill as the respectful spectators, despite the stray call of ‘sellout,’ showered him with the praise he rightfully deserved on the 18th green.
But after a week of parading the Wanamaker trophy around south Florida, it was back to reality for Koepka.
The 2023 PGA Championship winner was not battling it out against the likes of World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm again. Instead, he was at Trump National Golf Club in Washington, DC, back with his rebellious cohort of brother Chase, Jason Kokrak and Matt Wolff on the LIV Golf series.
Brooks Koepka won his fifth major with his third PGA Championship victory just last week
Five days later, it was back to reality for the American as he returned to the LIV Golf circuit
Yet there seemed to be more excitement about Donald Trump from the fans at the LIV event
And while the fans were just as enthusiastic to see him play, they had significantly shrunk – a far cry from the thousands gathered last week.
The majority of the spectators did naturally gravitate to Koepka on the driving range to get a glimpse of the 2023 US PGA winner warming up.
Similarly, Koepka’s group featuring himself, Open champion Cam Smith and Dustin Johnson had attracted the largest crowd around their tee box on the first for the controversial breakaway’s shotgun start.
But again this could hardly constitute a crowd compared to last week’s hordes. Barely two rows deep and only just stretching past the tee box, around just 100 people watched Koepka start his campaign to carry his major-winning form into another week.
Most claimed they had always intended to come to LIV this weekend for the standard reasons; they happened to live close, or it was an excuse to see professionals up close and personal. They certainly didn’t have to battle any crowds in order to fight their way to the front of the ropes this week.
In fact, many spectators said they weren’t even there for Koepka. Some listed Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, or better yet, Donald Trump, as the names luring them to the outskirts of the nation’s capital.
The LIV Golf spectacle seemingly had attracted its usual numbers, for the usual reasons. And what a spectacle or, perhaps more appropriately, a fanfare it was.
The 33-year-old greeted a group of children wearing Smash GC – his team – t-shirts
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman had greeted Kopeka with a No. 5 balloon before the tournament
Trump unsurprisingly worked his way into the center of attention, waving to his loyal subjects from his golf cart, with more chasing after the former President and his motorcade of around 15 golf carts as he exited the range than those following Koepka on his way to the first tee.
And while Koepka, Smith and Johnson stood waiting on the tee box, the string of patrons oohed and ahhed at the Frog-X Parachute Team descending with the Star-Spangled Banner and LIV Golf flag in tandem.
All the while the music pounded across the course, a continuous thud of heavy beats and even an upbeat remix of Oasis’s Don’t Look Back In Anger – a message Greg Norman needs to take note of.
But perhaps LIV felt the need to blare the tunes as the cheers certainly weren’t generating an atmosphere. Ian Poulter’s effort to rile the crowd up when he took to the practice ground was met with one lackluster jeer and the announcer on the tee also failed in his attempt to ‘get some noise in the capital.’
It didn’t hold a light to the raucous crowds of New York state who had celebrated Koepka just five days ago and even high-fived and fist-pumped club pro Michael Block, who ironically was the one making an appearance on the PGA Tour this week rather than the major winner.
While Block was on the television screens again, Koepka was not. The week after getting a freshly crowned major winner – a five-time major winner no less – on its books, the breakaway couldn’t even show him off on national television.
Former President Donald Trump found himself at the center of attention once again
The 45th president of the United States was followed by a motorcade of around 15 golf carts
The morning of Round One in DC, LIV announced that it was reverting to its YouTube coverage. The Saudi-backed breakaway attempted to sell it as a bid to bring even more coverage to its fans but it smacked of a regression with the PGA Tour’s rival returning to where it began in 2022.
LIV’s multi-year revenue-sharing deal with the CW Network, which it struck back in January, is still in place, meaning viewers in the US, Canada, Mexico and South Korea will need to pay $3 per day to see the tournament on YouTube to protect the circuit’s existing broadcast deals.
But the CW’s coverage, which has seen ratings drop but 24 percent week-over-week, was restricted to its app for Friday’s round, while Saturday and Sunday would be fortunate enough to make it on to both the network’s linear and digital platforms.
What Norman and his band of merry men undoubtedly had hoped to be a watershed moment for the LIV revolution, turned out to be nothing but another flop, with even a 2023 major champion not a big enough magnet.