Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka said Tuesday that he didn’t agree to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series until after playing in the U.S. Open two weeks ago.
Koepka — speaking at a news conference before the first LIV Golf tournament in the United States, which starts Thursday at Pumpkin Ridge outside Portland, Oregon — said he wanted more time to physically recover by playing in fewer events.
Koepka had previously pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour. He said in February that “somebody will sell out and go for it” when he was asked about the Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf circuit. Earlier this month, Koepka criticized reporters for asking him questions about LIV Golf, accusing them of casting a “black cloud” over the U.S. Open.
“Just my opinion, man,” Koepka said Tuesday, when asked what caused him to change his mind. “My opinion changed. That was it. You guys will never believe me, but we didn’t have the conversation ’til everything was done at the U.S. Open and figured it out and just said I was going to go one way or another. Here I am.”
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Koepka, 32, has been bothered by knee, hip and wrist injuries over the past several months. The former world No. 1 is now 19th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“What I’ve had to go through the last two years on my knees, the pain, the rehab, all this stuff, you realize, you know, I need a little bit more time off,” Koepka said. “I’ll be the first one to say it: It’s not been an easy last couple of years, and I think having a little more breaks, a little more time at home to make sure I’m 100 percent before I go play in an event and don’t feel like I’m forced to play right away [is good].”
Koepka didn’t have much to say about Rory McIlroy’s criticism of him and other players who have joined LIV Golf after previously saying they wouldn’t. McIlroy last week called them “duplicitous.”
“Look, I’ve got respect for Rory as a player,” Koepka said. “He’s good. He’s phenomenal. I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t see it. I didn’t hear about it until basically like a day ago. So, look, he’s entitled to his opinion. He can think whatever he wants. He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family; I’m going to do what’s best for me and my family; and can’t hate on anybody for that.”
While Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau said they haven’t resigned from the PGA Tour, Patrick Reed said he had. Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, said he hoped he would still be allowed to compete in major championships.
“We don’t really know where they all stand, obviously,” Reed said. “Being a past champion at Augusta and having a green jacket, I would think I’d be able to play there for the rest of my life. I mean, at the end of the day, that’s going to be up to them.”
Added Koepka about the majors, “You play anywhere around the world, you’ll be just fine. You’ll get into them. I made a decision. I’m happy with it, and whatever comes of it, I’ll live with it.”
When Koepka was asked about LIV Golf players being criticized for helping the Saudis in sportswashing their history of human rights violations, he said people are “allowed to have their opinions.”
“You know, we’ve heard it,” Koepka said. “I think everybody has. It’s been brought up. But, look, like we said, our only job is to go play golf, and that’s all we’re trying to do. We’re trying to grow the game, do all this other stuff. And we’re trying the best we can.”
DeChambeau, who reportedly received more than $100 million to sign with LIV Golf, said he hoped to use some of the money to fund youth golf and charities. Asked whether he was concerned about the source of the money, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, DeChambeau said he respected others’ decisions and comments.
The Saudis have been accused of torture, murder, kidnapping and the mistreatment of women and other groups by human rights organizations. The Saudi royal family also was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to U.S. intelligence.
“Golf is a force for good, and I think as time goes on, hopefully people will see the good that they are doing and what they are trying to accomplish rather than looking at the bad that’s happened before,” DeChambeau said. “I think moving on from that is important, and going and continuing to move forward in a positive light is something that could be a force for good for the future of the game.”
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