Brooks Koepka claimed his fifth major championship last week with an impressive showing at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
Koepka avenged his loss at last month’s Masters Tournament with a stellar performance, beating runners-up Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler by two shots to win his third PGA Championship.
As it always seems to do with professional golf, the conversation quickly turned to the LIV Golf series. Koepka was one of LIV’s most notable signings, and the performance of Koepka and other LIV standouts in the year’s first two majors gave the Saudi-backed league some big talking points.
Bryson DeChambeau – another one of LIV’s biggest signings – said that Koepka’s win gave legitimacy to the breakaway league.
“It validates everything we’ve said from the beginning: That we’re competing at the highest level and we have the ability to win major championships,” DeChambeau said. “I really hope people can see the light now that we’re trying to provide the game of golf with something new and fresh.”
Koepka deflected a bit when asked about how his win impacts the perception of his new league. He focused more on his accomplishment.
“Yeah, I definitely think it helps LIV, but I’m more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “Yeah, 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.”
LIV has had a strong performance through the year’s first two major championships. On top of Koepka’s PGA Championship win, LIV also saw two other players in the top 10, and four total players in the top 20. They also had Koepka and Phil Mickelson tie for 2nd at The Masters, with Patrick Reed notching a top 10, as well.
All of this led to some back-and-forth between Koepka’s coach Claude Harmon III and Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. Harmon also felt like the win validated what LIV is.
“(Koepka’s win) goes a long way to debunking the LIV myth, which is ‘everybody got paid, you’re not going to care, and if you get paid, you’re going to phone it in.,’” Harmon told Golfweek.com. “Nobody thinks that way with Lamar Jackson, with Dak Prescott, with the NBA. Why is golf different? Why do we want golf to be not like everything else? That’s what I fundamentally don’t get.”
He then took aim at Chamblee, calling him a “paid actor” who criticizes LIV Golf because of his association with Golf Channel.
“All he’s trying to do is get his lines and shows for the Golf Channel. He’s just trying to get lines for Brandel,” he said. “And I mean, I love him, I think Eamon is a fantastic writer, but for Eamon Lynch and Brandel Chamblee, who worked for NBC Golf Channel, to utter the words ‘sports washing’ when the company they work for televised the last two Winter Olympics in Russia and China with the same leaders that they’ve had. It’s not like they were good leaders back then. It’s not like Putin was a good guy, right?”
Chamblee responded with a lengthy tweet, laying out in 538 words why he felt Harmon was wrong.
The farrago of whataboutisms that inevitably accompanies any discussion on sportswashing, attempts, in answering a condemnation with an accusation, to impugn the credibility of the accuser and to distract from having to deal with the complexities of the question. Much like…
— Brandel Chamblee (@chambleebrandel) May 24, 2023
“The accusation that I am just a proxy for the opinion of my employer is curious to me,” Chamblee wrote. “And while the natural back and forth with my colleagues certainly informs my opinion, no one for whom I work with or for has ever tried to influence what I say.”
Chamblee then went on to commend Koepka’s performance, but noted that he didn’t think it should take attention away from the record of injustices in Saudi Arabia. He also cited the joy of watching the PGA Championship’s breakout star, Michael Block, enjoy his incredible week in Rochester.
“While Brooks Koepka’s win at the PGA Championship was impressive, it should not distract us from the simple fact that LIV players are being used for the benefit of some very bad people and to the detriment of a great many more good people,” he said. “That LIV Golf, with its inability to develop stars and seeking to buy them like high performance cars, is undermining the dignity intrinsic in golf.
“Dignity that was most profound in watching the play of Michael Block, the club professional who stole the show at the PGA Championship with his gratitude and joy and of course with his incredibly sharp game. He was a stark reminder of what is missing in LIV Golf and even what will be missing in the PGA Tour’s no cut, small field, designated events next year. Because golf has always been and hopefully will always be, more about hope than heroes.”
Chamblee’s opinions on Koepka were also a point of conversation during his post-championship time on “Live From the PGA Championship” on Golf Channel. Koepka’s win at Oak Hill vaulted him into second place on Team USA’s Ryder Cup points list. The top six players automatically get a spot on the team in the October matches at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome.
There has been plenty of talk and speculation about whether or not LIV golfers would be allowed to participate in the event later this year. USA captain Zach Johnson felt like it was a little too early for the Koepka/Ryder Cup talk.
“I just think it’s too premature and, frankly, irresponsible to even have any sort of opinion about that,” he said.
Even with Johnson’s quotes, one has to think he will be faced with a difficult decision if Koepka keeps up this level of performance in majors. Chamblee and guest analyst Brad Faxon discussed the dilemma on Sunday night. Chamblee stood firm that he didn’t think LIV players should be allowed to play, while Faxon countered that the players would be representing their country, and not a specific tour. The back-and-forth led to an awkward pause in the broadcast.
Things got a little awkward on Golf Channel Sunday night as Brandel Chamblee and Brad Faxon entered a “stand-off” debating Brooks Koepka being on the US Ryder Cup team. pic.twitter.com/iIapWiooDk
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 22, 2023
Chamblee has been very consistent with his anti-LIV stance. It’s earned him plenty of critics, including Harmon. If history is any indication, the debate and criticism isn’t likely to stop any time soon.
LIV is back in action this week at Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C. Koepka will be captaining Smash GC after a big week celebrating his major championship win.