There’s a video of Brooks Koepka that has been trolling for the past week.
He’s a big fan of ice hockey, Koepka, and the Florida Panthers are his team, so he goes to watch an NHL game against the New York Rangers. This is where phone footage captures one of the greatest golfers of the era calling from his hospitality box to Aaron Ekblad, player of the Panthers.
Koepka later confirmed that it was “wet”, which may explain his yelling “You’re a traffic cone” at the defenseman while waving a real one in his direction.
It was a dig at Ekblad’s apparent lack of movement, you see, and Koepka wasn’t impressed, so he grabbed the cone in front of his crotch before making his feelings even more clear: “Ekblad, you suck.”
The video has been viewed more than a million times, which means it may just be Koepka’s most visible impact on the public consciousness since he announced last year that he was leaving to become a Saudi-branded towel.
Brooks Koepka has been pretty much invisible for the past year after joining the LIV golf tour
The same is true of a number of huge sports names, including Cameron Smith (pictured)
Confession at this point: I absolutely love Koepka, who has walked a rough road on both sides of his time as the golfer’s deadliest hunter. In that sweet spot of four major league wins in eight games, and before his injury, he was a giant.
But even as a huge name in his sport, he’s been largely invisible over the past year. Same goes for Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith, and all of those LIV group giants, except for the occasions one might run into a traffic cone or throw a tee at Rory McIlroy.
We hear a lot about them, and we regularly discuss their reasons and the miserable purposes they and Greg Norman serve for their paychecks. But we don’t see much. We listen to them, but we don’t watch their chips and blows. We are fascinated by their context, but how many of us care about their mathematical content? They made themselves richer and much less important as athletes.
But this coming week at the Masters will be very different. Even with so much else going on — the fight between McIlroy, Scotty Scheffler, and John Rahm is compelling, as is the return of Tiger Woods — there’s an unavoidable curiosity about 18 Leaf Golfers’ reintegration into the traditional golf community.
This gathering holds the potential for the most inappropriate brawl in Augusta since shepherd Clayton Baker tried to nab some stash sand in 2012. He ended up in a jail cell.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those dynamics and the loathing that exists, mostly between tank commanders, but also between some players, McIlroy in particular.
In its entirety, this was among the most toxic classes in the history of the sport, yet time and time again I was drawn into a pair of odd questions: Does the old system of golf need to embrace LIV? Does LIV need to embrace the old system?
Riyad Al-Samarrai welcomes back LIV golfers to the next Masters
The likes of Rory McIlroy will benefit from playing a course as 18 of golf’s top players return to the fray
Or in slightly different words, can either of them thrive on their own right now? The idea came up strongly while watching Koepka’s video, and it’s clear that LIV is a project withering in the shadows at the moment.
But those earlier questions also started when I was at the Players Championship in March. It’s the fifth major, which we’ve been hearing about for a long time, and with its rating is the strongest course in golf. It is also the main event of the PGA Tour. However, she felt deprived and flat, because she was missing something.
Defending world champion and world No. 5 Gouda Smith was one piece. Ditto for a transcendent figure like Johnson and knowing that this is no longer the strongest field possible.
But it also lacks the flavor you get from heels. This is what they call a wrestling villain, and Golf lost his main heel to Liv. Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Reid, Koepka and Mickelson are a good selection of heels.
And that doesn’t mean that a tournament without them is bad, because to admit it is just as much to admit that you don’t like golf at all. But it’s not uncommon to love a dose of soap opera in your sport, even within golf, and it makes me think of a different tournament I attended this year: the Dubai Desert Classic.
It was a nice, well-organized rally, but it wasn’t a fifth major. It’s the start of the DP World Tour season, but it featured McIlroy and, most importantly, her heel, Reid.
We know what happened next, and here’s the point: McIlroy snubbed Reid, Reed threw a tee at McIlroy, things were said, and based on a rough estimate of how much global coverage the storm generated, it’s reasonable to assume that the Desert Classic caught the imagination more than Players Championship.
Those heels went all over the place, which speaks to the theory that it’s hard to tell a good story without a bad guy.
LIV golfers can also provide super villains that can make for a great tournament
Of course, over time, another batch of stilettos will enter the old circle bar and replenish what has been lost. But nowadays there is no shame in enjoying the side show that may be played at the Masters, while also acknowledging the fairness of the competition actually depends on the presence of LIV golfers. The same goes for all major tournaments – if they are going to be considered the best, they need the best golfers.
In LIV’s absence, would a Rory McIlroy win, and thus the completion of the Grand Slam, be a disclaimer in 20 years that it has been a weak field? unlikely. But will he defeat the best? He knew the answer to that question, so it matters more when the Rebels are there.
Nothing changes what we might think about LIV. For my money, it is an institution whose existence can be summed up as an attempt to cleanse the journalist’s blood from the reputation of Saudi Arabia. An institution that has taken a sport with domestic squabbles and petty grievances and disintegrated it beyond recognition.
The instability of their existence is at present the subject of almost constant rumors. Norman, I’m told, has been seriously sidelined, his audience is minuscule, his latest batch of recruits is uninspiring, and countermeasures on the PGA Tour mean that Saudi Arabia will have to spend big money (nine figures) on top of insanity to get anyone else out of the top. 20.
More is the goal, if they do not fix their political issues and obtain global ranking points, their appearance in these disciplines will decrease with the passage of the year, and how long until the Saudis swing the sword?
The LIV Tour needs momentum and speed and nothing will do that like a win in Augusta. Without something big and close, their lack of mobility will become ever more apparent.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has criticized Britain for wanting to maintain the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes
People will wave traffic cones before long, so they need their time next to those they’ve given up on to stay relevant. The double-edged saw is that the abandoned would benefit almost as much from having it.
Buffon Bach will never listen
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said it was “unfortunate” that Britain and other countries wanted to maintain bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes.
Others might say it was unfortunate that he hosted Vladimir Putin at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, three weeks before he arrived in Ukraine. They might say it, they said then, but the jester didn’t listen.
Tottenham lost their manager and chief football executive within a week. Even in the context of Tottenham, it’s a pretty amazing collapse.