Apparently the only thing Brooks Koepka holds better than a lead at a major is a grudge.
The 28-year-old, whose win at the PGA Championship over the weekend gave him three major titles in the past 14 months, is holding a Golf Magazine reporter’s feet to the fire for the strangest of reasons — because the publication didn’t include Koepka’s trainer in a cover photo promoting the golfer’s story.
Here’s how golf writer Alan Shipnuck details their icy exchange after Koepka’s 2018 U.S. Open victory:
At one of the most triumphant moments of his life — the champion’s press conference at Shinnecock — he tried to boot me out of the room. It was a weird and deeply enlightening moment.
It’s a long story, but after lobbying hard to get Koepka on the cover of SI following his breakthrough at Erin Hills, I brokered another cover story for him, for GOLF Magazine, focusing on his and Johnson’s tight relationship with their shared trainer, Joey Diovisalvi. All three were supposed to be on the cover but the photos didn’t work out and the June 2018 cover of GOLF wound up being just the U.S. Open champions. Koepka was upset that Joey D. didn’t get his due and it was telling that he cared so deeply about honoring a member of his team who toils in the shadows. I called Diovisalvi to apologize and GOLF’s top editor had a long chat with the management company that reps Koepka and Johnson, taking responsibility for the decision.
I didn’t realize Koepka was still sizzling about this until Sunday night in Shinnecock. As I walked into the champion’s conference his agent got in my face and said, “Don’t even think about asking him a question.” I was so surprised I couldn’t formulate a reply. We were blocking the walkway and reporters were streaming in, so I just kept moving forward to find an open seat. Koepka was up at the dais, seated with his glittering trophy. When I looked up he pointed at me and said, “You, out.”
When Shipnuck did not heed Koepka’s warning, the golfer whispered to a USGA official before beginning his press conference, according to Shipnuck. Koepka, of course, had no authority to throw a reporter out of his media session, and Shipnuck did not leave, although he did not pose a question.
Shipnuck portrayed this as just another example of Koepka inventing slights to serve as further motivation, citing a number of examples, including the golfer taking exception to both his name not appearing among the Golf Channel’s “notables” earlier in the week and reporters showing little interest in interviewing him after his tournament-opening round of 69 left him far off the lead.
Shipnuck believes Koepka still carries the grudge months later. The reporter says he asked Koepka if Sunday’s PGA Championship victory will earn him the respect he feels he deserves, and the golfer offered only a two-word response: “Hope so.” Hey, at least the two are on speaking terms, I guess.
Plenty of athletes find motivation in the strangest of places, and to some degree, it’s admirable that Koepka felt so strongly his trainer deserved recognition for helping his success. But to freeze out a respected golf writer after he and his magazine apologized for what was a simple misunderstanding is no way to court the admiration that is customarily bestowed on most three-time major champions.
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