The PGA Championship at Bellerive heralded some real game-changing events as we head towards the FedEx Cup playoffs, Ryder Cup, and to 2019.
Brooks Koepka claimed his third major championship, having fended off stars like Justin Thomas and Adam Scott. The presence of Tiger Woods in second proved to be a bigger talking point despite the remarkable achievement of the winner. Being able to see the drama on this side of the pond proved to be an issue throughout the week, leaving us with a lot to take in after a dramatic farewell to ‘Glory’s Last Shot’.
Brooks Koepka is already a legitimate contender for legendary status
In just 15 months, Brooks Koepka has won three major championships. His 2017 U.S. Open win at Erin Hills has been followed by a title defence at the brutal Shinnecock Hills, and the Wanamaker Trophy at the expense of the world’s best over the weekend.
All this despite an injury that kept him out of action for almost the first four months of the year, and a single regulation PGA Tour win (2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open).
Man, totally forgot Koepka missed the Masters with injury. That means he's won 3 of the last 6 majors he's played in, and finished in the top 5 in 6 of the 20 majors he's suited up for. Now the 2nd ranked player in the world.
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) August 13, 2018
Dustin Johnson has 19 PGA Tour wins, has won every level of event, holds a bevy of records that place him alongside the legendary names of the 20th centry, but has just the one major to his name thus far. This contrast saw fierce debate as to whose career people would prefer to have, and despite the disparity in wins and prize money earned over a longer period of time, the results were fairly evenly split.
If Koepka and DJ both retire tomorrow who has the better career?
— Phillip Johnson (@PhillipJohnson7) August 12, 2018
The description ‘ice-cold’ gets thrown around a lot, but Koepka is more like liquid nitrogen.
With a ball-striking game to match anyone, and a touch on and around the green that belies his hulking nature, the American is certainly here to stay.
But is he good for the game?
While the polar opposite of the Masters champion, Koepka has certainly been the focus of some dislike from both golfing fans and media, much like Patrick Reed. Everyone was in awe of his dismantling of Bellerive, but the win wasn’t met with similar positive unity.
His emotionless nature wasn’t conducive to garnering support, and this extended to his winning putt on the 18th green. He tapped it in mutely before Adam Scott was set to clear the stage for the triumphant moment.
— Sam Weinman (@samweinman) August 13, 2018
As someone who finds the game ‘boring‘ and isn’t overly keen on it, stating that he would have preferred to play baseball, Koepka hasn’t endeared himself to some of the purists and pundits (one of which he had a dispute with), who have asked how someone with only one PGA Tour win can claim three majors.
I had this exact convo via text with a good buddy yesterday as the @PGAChampionship concluded. How are we supposed to care about Brooks Koepka when he doesn't appear to care about what he's doing or the game of golf itself? As great as he is, I find him difficult to root for. https://t.co/Ye3Op8lUOX
— Mark Button ⛳️🏌️ (@MarkAButton) August 13, 2018
This is despite his experience of the world less travelled, cutting his teeth on the second-tier European Challenge Tour.
He's now a three-time Major Champion
— Challenge Tour (@Challenge_Tour) August 13, 2018
Question in presser which began ‘Brooks, a far cry from the Turkish Open’ really annoyed me. Don’t recall ‘Jordan, a far cry from the Valspar’ or ‘Justin, a far cry from the Sony’. Jingoistic claptrap.
— Ben Coley (@BenColeyGolf) August 13, 2018
He played with a chip on his shoulder this week, with a USA Today piece detailing how he was “pissed off” at his lack of coverage despite winning the U.S. Open and shooting 69 this past Thursday.
“I’m going to shoot low today and you watch, everyone will want to talk to me.”
Despite his superb win, the Tiger Woods revival means that his spotlight is far dimmer than it deserves to be.
Koepka has been working out at a local gym this week. Today he was there same time as Dustin Johnson. A woman said to Koepka, “Did you see that? It’s the number one player in the world.”
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) August 12, 2018
For his own part, Koepka doesn’t mind the Tiger factor in the slightest.
Wow–well said Brooks–"Other than me and my team, I think everybody was rooting for Tiger,"Koepka said. "As they should. He's the greatest player to ever to play the game. [Woods] is the whole reason people of my generation are even playing golf.
— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) August 13, 2018
He seems a thoroughly decent guy, but perhaps needs to come out of his shell (much like Tiger has in his comeback), in order to win over those who are loathe to warm to him.
Tiger Woods is well and truly back
It’s hard to believe after all he has achieved and having his spine fused together just last year, but Tiger’s scoring total of 266 is his lowest ever in a major.
Aged 42, it's Tiger's lowest ever 72-hole score in a Major. pic.twitter.com/G0iMKtcSUt
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) August 12, 2018
It’s worth revisiting the journey he took to get back here.
After a twin disaster of knee injuries and personal strife before the turn of the decade, Woods has gone over ten years without winning a major. Injuries to his legs and elbow dogged him in the following years, but it was his chronic back trouble that led to some worrying scenes and debate as to whether he could even play again.
“I didn’t know if retirement was the word, but I didn’t know if I could play golf with my friends again,” Woods said after a fourth back surgery in 2017.
His fleeting appearances over the past few years have frustrated some fans, as coverage overwhelmingly turned to a man who was either propping up the weekend field or missing the cut.
A second place finish at the Valspar Championship was followed by sixth at the Open Championship, and a sensational runner-up place at Bellerive. His non-faltering on the back nine in comparison to Carnoustie shows that he’s now firing both physically and mentally. If he maintains his health heading into 2019, Woods will once again captivate the golfing world and perhaps renew his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ magic 18 major wins.
The coverage situation in the UK and Ireland is alarming
This was the second year in a row that Sky Sports did not show the final major of the year. Despite having a channel dedicated to golf, all one could see on ‘Sky Sports Golf’ while Tiger and Brooks were wowing the rest of us, were repeats of the U.S Open and Players Championship, book-ended by those relentless Nick Faldo – Open monologues.
While the BBC provided rather imperfect coverage last year for free on terrestrial television, it was broadcast this year by Eleven Sports, established worldwide but now entering the Irish and UK markets.
Their online-only platform meant that the event was not available on television, and how to watch it wasn’t very well advertised – hardly ideal for this sport and it’s demographic in particular. With that also came the pitfalls of streaming, with widespread complaints from those who watched both on Facebook (for the first two days), and others who signed up for Eleven’s free trial on their website.
Shocking that @PGAChampionship isn’t on tv 👎⛳️
— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) August 12, 2018
Shane Lowry is in contention so it would be great to see him in the coverage.
Irish Golf Fans
— Tom Kennedy (@TomKGolf) August 12, 2018
Some even missed out on Koepka’s winning putt.
“After delivering almost 40 hours of comprehensive live coverage across four days of the PGA Championship, we are aware of a technical issue which briefly affected a small minority of customers at the end of the final round,” said a spokesperson for Eleven Sports via The Guardian. “We apologise for the inconvenience caused and we are working to ensure these issues do not occur in future.”
With the broadcaster already having a string of LPGA events lined up to show live, the rumoured TV channel needs to be made available soon.