Christmas has come and gone, useless golf gifts have been discreetly returned, and the new year approaches. Perhaps you’re drafting your resolutions at this very moment. If so, may we suggest Brooks Koepka as a role model? The man is living his best life. Not only has he come into his own as a public figure, but also, to the surprise and delight of the golf media, he has become one of our most reliable providers of bloggable material. Koepka, the world’s No. 1 golfer, is No. 2 in our top five PGA Tour content muses of 2019.
The Year in Brooks
There was a time when everyone thought Brooks was a boring jock. But in the past year or so, he’s proven to be a pretty interesting jock!
Koepka got off to a slow start in 2019. Aside from a T2 at the Bear Trap, his PGA Tour finishes from January through March were lackluster by his standards: 24, T27, MC, T56, T56. He also looked different—noticeably thinner. Around The Players Championship, rumors began to swirl that his weight loss didn’t have to do with golf. Word was that Koepka had slimmed down for an appearance in ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue. At a Masters press conference, he seemed to admit that the diet hadn’t been awesome for his golf game.
On Golf Channel’s “Live from the Masters,” Brandel Chamblee went on the attack: “Now, for [Koepka] to change his body and his body chemistry, for vanity reasons, for a vanity shoot, is the most reckless self-sabotage that I have ever seen of an athlete in his prime.”
Possibly out of spite, Koepka made a run at the title. He was one missed eight-footer on the 72nd hole away from taking Tiger to a playoff. Afterwards, Brandel doubled down, implying that he didn’t consider Koepka one of the game’s very best. That left Brooks with no choice but to photoshop a clown nose on Chamblee’s face and hit send. The tone was set. Since then, the player and the analyst have had a few more dust-ups, one of which resulted in a solid Twitter burn.
But getting back to the Body Issue… the photos came out in August, and if nothing else, they proved that, no matter how svelte and defined your physique, it’s tough to look cool while playing golf naked.
Kids these days
Brooks’s girlfriend Becky Jena Sims is something of an Instagram star, and our man has been a regular in her feed. As extensively chronicled by Golf Digest’s millennial-baiting vertical The Loop, Koepka has appeared in Sims’s story in a thong—twice! He has also participated in a little (well-photographed) PG-13 PDA with her. But when Koepka dressed up as a “D*ck in a Box” guy for Halloween, he posted the pic on his own Twitter feed. Can’t let Jena siphon those likes.
All of this is stupid, obviously. But is there a larger meaning to the fact that Brooks has cultivated a mildly racy social media presence in a sport characterized by sanitized PR? No? Okay, let’s move on.
Not here to make friends
The main reason we put Koepka on this list is that he has become one of the best quotes in the business. He speaks his mind, and in the past year he has developed an alpha-dog tendency to call people out in the press. A few of our favorites:
- On slow play: “It is frustrating. There’s a lot of slow players, a lot of them are the very good players, too, which is kind of the problem… [Slow players are] breaking the rules but no one ever has the balls to actually penalize them.”
- On slow play, again: “I think it’s just gotten out of hand. It seems now that there are so many sports psychologists and everybody telling everybody that they can’t hit it until they’re ready, that you have to fully process everything. I mean, I take 15 seconds and go, and I’ve done all right. So I don’t understand why they’re taking a minute and a half.”
(The above comment seemed to be directed at Bryson DeChambeau, whose two-minute pre-shot routine was going viral at the time. This led to a hilarious “confrontation” on the practice green at Liberty National.)
- On Sergio García’s antics in Saudi Arabia: “Ugh, it’s frustrating as a player to see—to act like that, to disrespect everybody. To act like a child out there is not cool. It’s not setting a good example and it’s not cool to us, showing us no respect or anybody else.”
- On why majors are easier to win than other events: “There’s 156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I’m just going to beat. You figure about half of them won’t play well from there, so you’re down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just—pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you’ve just got to beat those guys.”
- On getting bored during tournaments: “I literally can’t tell you what happened during those holes. You kind of black out. Everything is so repetitive.”
- On being left out of one of Fox’s U.S. Open promos: “Just kind of shocked. They’ve had over a year to put it out. So I don’t know. Somebody probably got fired over it—or should.”
- On why he plays better in majors than in regular PGA Tour events: “I just practice before the majors. Regular tournaments I don’t practice. If you’ve seen me on TV [at a normal PGA Tour event], that’s when I play golf.”
- On losing PGA Tour Player of the Year to Rory McIlroy: “Yeah, it would’ve been great, but I think everybody in this room knows—I mean, LeBron has only won four MVPs and I’m pretty sure he’s been the best player for more than just four years.”
- On his “rivalry” with Rory: “I’ve been out here for, what, five years? Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don’t view it as a rivalry. I’m No. 1 in the world. I’ve got open road in front of me. I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry.”
Oh yeah, and Koepka played pretty well in the 2018-19 season. We’ve mentioned this several times in previous newsletters, but it bears repeating: the man was top four in all four majors! And until he went a bit wobbly down the stretch at the PGA Championship, he was utterly dominating that tournament.
Brooks Koepka’s brilliance on the biggest stages is one of the most exciting ongoing stories in golf. Let’s just hope he remains willing to share his opinions—because we suspect that the more he wins, the hotter his takes will get.
Shotgun Start: The 2019 Year in Review: Part IV
A post-Christmas Friday edition of the Shotgun Start begins with some brief stories about holiday worse-for-the-wear woe. Andy also relays some #JupScoop on a rumor about the funhouse conditioning tactics of the PGA Tour for the Presidents Cup. Then an ad read for Journeyman turns into a discussion about DVD vending machines before they get to Part IV of the comprehensive, even exhaustive, Year-in-Review. This section starts the week after the Masters at the Heritage and runs through the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. They discuss the walkup music at Zurich, the brilliance of Brooksy and his near choke-job at Bethpage, the “Power Hour,” Matt Kuchar’s double ball mark, Bryson’s slow play angst, the intrusive Pebble Beach blimp, and much more from the national championship. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.
The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America
For an introduction to this ongoing list, visit its home on our website.
Pasatiempo Golf Club (Santa Cruz, California)
Pasatiempo is the work of a great architect at the height of his powers. The terrain is severe, but Alister MacKenzie’s routing cleverly spaces out the uphill walks. The bunkers, built under the supervision of associate Robert Hunter, are among the most striking of MacKenzie’s career. But perhaps the greatest achievement of Pasatiempo’s design is how different the holes are from each other. Even the less heralded holes have features that stick in the memory: the length and narrowness of the 17th green, the way the start of the 8th fairway nestles into a gully. The surrounding houses have weakened the course’s sense of place, but two decades of consulting by Renaissance Golf Design have brought back its eccentricity. Today, Pasatiempo is a unicorn: a well-restored design by a Golden Age master, accessible to the public.
Insider tip: As California has gone upscale, many of its coastal cities have lost their charm. (Looking at you, Santa Barbara.) Santa Cruz, however, has retained some of its scruffy beach-town feel. When we lived in Monterey, my son and I took regular day trips to browse the kid’s section at Bookshop Santa Cruz and watch the surfers at Steamer Lane. -Garrett Morrison
We’re not all like Brooksy. We can’t just pass the winter months in the Maldives shooting Instagram softcore with our #influencer girlfriend. Some of us may even have to use textiles to keep warm. That’s where The Fried Egg’s comfy, fleece-lined Steamshovel Beanie comes in. Get yours!