Brooks Koepka’s appeal appears to be stretching beyond golf circles and into the broader mainstream sports pop culture, which seems to be more fitting for one of the best players of the new generation.
The four-time major champion was the subject of a feature story in March issue of GQ Magazine in which he spoke about a myriad of topics ranging from the reasoning behind his on-course demeanor to his issues with the country club culture of golf and his actual love for the game that he so often seems to brush off in public settings.
The nearly-6,000-word feature is a fascinating read, but if you don’t have the time to dig in completely, or want a Cliff’s Notes version, here are five big takeaways from the piece.
There’s a Reason For His Dull Demeanor
The feature leads off, ironically, detailing one of the few major championships Koepka hasn’t won in recent years: the 2019 Masters. With the Sunday stage set by writer Daniel Riley, Koepka explained why he shows such little emotion on the course.
“I know it doesn’t look like it,” Koepka said, “but my mind is turning the entire time I’m out there.”
Detailing that Koepka seems to see every shot every player in his vicinity hits, he analyzes their reactions to try to gain an advantage.
“It’s part of why I don’t show emotion,” he said. “It gives the other guy an advantage.”
So when Koepka dunked his tee shot on the famous par-3 12th hole into Rae’s Creek, Koepka didn’t flinch. He handed his club back to his caddie, making sure not to give eventual winner Tiger Woods, who was on the 11th hole at the time, any indication of what went wrong to cause the shot that practically doomed his chance at the green jacket.
“My theory is if you don’t show them anything visually, they can only go off one of their senses: sound,” he explained. “How did the ball sound when it came off? They don’t know if I hit it a hundred percent or 90 percent. And they’ve gotta judge it by the strike. And so I didn’t have any reaction. I just handed it right back to my caddie. And it might’ve confused him.”
Koepka Has Enough Friends
In listing off the nearby neighbors of Koepka in Jupiter, Florida, Riley pounds home the sentiment that emanates from Justin Thomas’ quote that Koepka is the hardest guy in the area to get out for a money game or round of golf.
“This might come across the wrong way, but I already have enough friends,” Koepka said of his relationship with his fellow Tour pros. “I don’t need any more. Just cause we work together doesn’t mean we have to be friends. I’ve got enough friends. You know, I have my friends that aren’t really into golf that much, and the only reason they’re into golf is because they follow me. I like to be able to get away from the game.
“I just don’t want to be that close with everybody I compete with,” he continued. “Like, I don’t even have Rory’s phone number. I didn’t have Tiger’s phone number for the longest time. Like, I just never saved it. I’ll text guys after they win, you know, but I’m still competitive. I still get mad—I mean, I’m happy for them, but I’m still like, Man, that should’ve been me. Or: That could’ve been me. You know, you still just lost.”
He Actually Does Practice
That sort of resistance fuels one of the other things people say about Koepka, which is that he doesn’t seem to practice as much as everyone else. I love this one, because I can tell that Koepka loves it too. There doesn’t seem to be much validity to the claim, but it reminds me of when certain kids in school relished their reputation for getting top marks without studying.
Riley explained that Koepka does get out and practice, contrary to what he may cause some to believe, given his quotes in press conferences. Often, Koepka plays three balls, opting for a reverse scramble, or by playing the worst of the three shots to test himself.
“I like the fact that I learn something every time I play,” he said. “You can go mess around and find some new shot. No matter what you do, you’re never going to have the same shot again. You could have the same yardage, but it’s never going to be the same wind. Even if you put the pin location in the same hole, the exact hole location, and I went out and hit a ball and a month later came back and literally put it in the grass in the same divot and the pin was in the same spot, it’d be a different shot. And I always think that that’s just so cool.
“I love it, but I know how to break away from it. That’s where the confusion lies. Or maybe the misconception of me lies. I absolutely love the game. If I didn’t love it, I’d retire right now. Don’t take me wrong, but I could go off and nobody would ever see me again and I could live a great life. I do it because I actually love golf. I love going to practice, to compete, to tournaments, grinding it out even when you don’t have your best, trying to figure out a way to get it done—that’s fun to me. But the one thing that I’ve been very good at is breaking away from the game when I need to.”
But He Has A Few Issues With The Game
Koepka likes to portray himself as an athlete rather than just a golfer, but some of that lies from golf’s inherent “stuffiness,” to use Koepka’s word. Some of the game’s traditions and rules rub him the wrong way.
“One thing I’d change is maybe the stuffiness. Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn’t always have to be that way. That’s part of the problem. Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You’re not allowed in here unless you’re a member—or unless the member’s here.’ Really? I just never really liked the country club atmosphere. I know that drives a lot of people away from liking me. But just ’cause this golf club has such prestige and the members are all famous and have a lot of money…like, why can’t I show up and just go play the golf course? Why do I have to sit in my car and wait for the member?
“I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game. I don’t love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn’t enjoyable. When I practice, I don’t think I’ve ever tucked my shirt in. I show up to the golf course, half the time my tennis shoes are untied, I’m chippin’, puttin’, shirt’s untucked, I’ve got my hat on, and I’m not wearing a belt, because who wears a belt when it’s untucked? But a lot of clubs, if I walked up like that, it’d be: ‘Sir, you need to tuck your shirt in. You need to take your hat off when you get in here.'”
He Recently Played With President Trump
Like many of his contemporaries — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ernie Els — Koepka has teed it up with President Donald Trump. Asked about the politically-charged environment that permeates every sector of the country, Koepka balanced both sides in the prism of respect.
“I respect the office, I don’t care who it is,” he said. “Still probably the most powerful man in the entire world. It’s a respect thing. That’s what I don’t understand about the teams that don’t go to the White House. Like, if I see an older man, it’s Yes, sir or mister. I wouldn’t be like, Hey, Jack, what’s up? It’s like, Hey, Mr. Nicklaus, how are you? Out of respect. Doesn’t matter who it is.”
Koepka relayed that he, his father and his brother recently teed it up with President Trump.
“I mean, we had a blast,” Koepka said of his January round with the President. “It was nice to have my family there, my dad, my brother. Anytime it’s with a president, it’s pretty cool. I don’t care what your political beliefs are, it’s the President of the United States. It’s an honor that he even wanted to play with me.”
You can read the complete profile on GQ’s website.